Afghanistan: Kunduz Trauma Center Bombing

MSF medical staff treat wounded colleagues and patients in the immedaite aftermath of the 03 October aerial bombing of the hospital in Kunduz. MSF was later made the difficult decision to cease all activities and evacuate the damaged hospital 04 October following the targetted attack on its staff, patients and the medical facility.
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October 3, 2015

From 2:08 AM until 3:15 AM local time on October 3, 2015, the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma hospital in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan, was hit by a series of aerial bombing raids at approximately 15 minute intervals. The main central hospital building, housing the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward, was repeatedly hit very precisely during each aerial raid, while surrounding buildings were left mostly untouched.

“The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round,” said Heman Nagarathnam, MSF head of programs in northern Afghanistan. “There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again. When I made it out from the office, the main hospital building was engulfed in flames. Those people that could had moved quickly to the building’s two bunkers to seek safety. But patients who were unable to escape burned to death as they lay in their beds.”

The bombing took place despite the fact that MSF had provided the GPS coordinates of the trauma hospital to Coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials as recently as Tuesday, September 29, to avoid that the hospital be hit. As is routine practice for MSF in conflict areas, MSF had communicated the exact location of the hospital to all parties to the conflict.

In the aftermath of the attack, the MSF team desperately tried to save the lives of wounded colleagues and patients, setting up a makeshift operating theater in an undamaged room. Some of the most critically injured patients were transferred to a hospital in Puli Khumri, a two hour drive away.

 

Emergency surgery and medical activities continue in one of the remaining parts of MSF's hospital in Kunduz in the immediate aftermath of the bombing yesterday morning. “Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body," says Christopher Stokes, General Director, Médecins Sans Frontières. "Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient. Not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the MSF hospital compound prior to the US airstrike on Saturday morning. The hospital was full of MSF staff, patients and their caretakers. It is 12 MSF staff members and ten patients, including three children, who were killed in the attack. We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched. We condemn this attack, which constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.” #MSF #DoctorsWithoutBorders #Kunduz #Afghanistan

A photo posted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) (@doctorswithoutborders) on

October 4, 2015

MSF issued the following statement from Christopher Stokes, MSF General Director:

"Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body. Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.

"Not a single member of our staff reported any fighting inside the MSF hospital compound prior to the U.S. airstrike on Saturday morning. The hospital was full of MSF staff, patients and their caretakers. It is 12 MSF staff members and 10 patients, including three children, who were killed in the attack.

"We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched.We condemn this attack, which constitutes a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law."

Photo Essay: A Trauma Center in Kunduz, Afghanistan

October 5, 2015

MSF Response to Pentagon Claim That Afghan Forces Called For Kunduz Airstrike:

"Today the US government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff. Their description of the attack keeps changing—from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government. The reality is the US dropped those bombs. The US hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The US military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the US and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical."

—Christopher Stokes, General Director, Médecins Sans Frontières

October 7, 2015

"Today we announce that we are seeking an investigation into the Kunduz attack by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission.

"This Commission was established in the Additional Protocols of the Geneva Conventions and is the only permanent body set up specifically to investigate violations of international humanitarian law.

"We ask signatory States to activate the Commission to establish the truth and to reassert the protected status of hospitals in conflict.

"Though this body has existed since 1991, the Commission has not yet been used. It requires one of the 76 signatory States to sponsor an inquiry.Governments up to now have been too polite or afraid to set a precedent. The tool exists and it is time it is activated."

-Dr Joanne Liu, MSF International President Read the full statement

MSF staff in shock in one of the remaining parts of MSF's hospital in Kunduz, in the aftermath of sustained bombing 03 October 2015. Photo: ©MSF
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