The Afghan government's own statements following the Saturday airstrikes in Kunduz that killed at least 22 people are the "admission of a war crime," Doctors Without Borders said Monday. The Afghan statements were an attempt to justify the attacks, which were carried out by U.S.-led NATO forces and forced the charitable group to remove its operations from the smoldering hospital after 12 of its staff were killed alongside 10 patients.
The Afghan government initially justified the airstrikes, saying their forces had information indicating that "armed terrorists" were in the hospital. "These statements imply that Afghan and U.S. forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital -- with more than 180 staff and patients inside --because they claim that members of the Taliban were present," Doctors Without Borders wrote in its statement.
Initial official reports also indicated that the NATO coalition forces were receiving fire from the building when the decision to fire was made.
The U.S. military has indicated that it will investigate the matter, after initially indicating that it viewed the deaths as collateral damage. Pentagon officials declined to speculate on exactly what transpired, but promised that people would be held accountable if wrongdoing was discovered.
"We do know that American air assets ... were engaged in the Kunduz vicinity, and we do know that the structures that you see in the news were destroyed," U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Sunday. "I just can't tell you what the connection is at this time."
Kunduz is in northeast Afghanistan, almost directly north of Kabul and just south of the border with Tajikistan.
This is not the first time U.S. airstrikes have killed large numbers of civilians in Afghanistan. In 2009, 74 civilians were killed when two tanker trucks were bombed and a fireball was ignited. In 2002, 35 people attending a wedding were killed when the grounds were mistakenly bombed.