Doctors Without Borders has described the attack on the clearly marked medical facility as a likely war crime. The incident generated an outcry from international aid groups, some of which demanded criminal prosecution.“The gravity of harm caused by the reported failures to follow protocol in Kunduz appears to constitute gross negligence that warrants active pursuit of criminal liability,” Donna McKay, executive director of the nonprofit Physicians for Human Rights, wrote in a letter to the White House and Pentagon on Monday. In a statement Thursday, Amnesty International said it had “serious concerns” about the Pentagon’s “questionable track record of policing itself.” It called for an independent investigation to determine what happened and “to assess potential criminal wrongdoing.”
The Pentagon has acknowledged that Doctors Without Borders representatives had reminded U.S. and Afghan officials of the hospital’s precise location repeatedly before the airstrike because of fighting in the area. The facility was on the military’s list of prohibited targets.
Officials said last fall that the AC-130 gunship crew believed they were targeting a building about 300 yards away where several Taliban fighters were supposedly hiding. Less clear is why they continued to strafe the hospital for nearly an hour while aid officials in Kabul and Washington made frantic attempts to call them off.
At least 15 calls and text messages were exchanged with U.S., Afghan, United Nations and Red Cross officials, records show.
The attack destroyed the hospital’s main building, including an emergency room, intensive care unit and operating theater. The dead consisted of 24 patients, 14 staff members and four caretakers.
Survivors described earth-shaking explosions that engulfed the building in flames. Some patients burned to death in their beds.