KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — International medical charity Doctors Without Borders has withdrawn from the northern Afghan city of Kunduz after a deadly airstrike destroyed its hospital.
Kate Stegeman, the group’s communications manager, said Sunday some staff are working in other health facilities in the city, where troops have been battling Taliban insurgents.
Investigations are continuing into the bombing of the hospital on Saturday, which killed at least 19 people, including 12 of the group’s staffers.
The group blames a U.S. airstrike, though Afghan officials have said helicopter gunships returned fire from Taliban fighters who were hiding in the facility.
The Taliban seized Kunduz last Monday but have since withdrawn from much of the city in the face of a government counterattack. Sporadic battles continue as troops attempt to clear remaining pockets of militants.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “strongly” condemned the airstrikes in Kunduz and said hospitals and medical personnel are “explicitly protected” under international humanitarian law, his spokesman’s office said in a statement Saturday.
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan says the military is opening an investigation into the deadly bombing of a Doctors Without Borders facility in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.
“While we work to thoroughly examine the incident and determine what happened, my thoughts and prayers are with those affected,” said Gen. John F. Campbell in a statement.
U.S. forces conducted an airstrike “in the vicinity” of the hospital around 2:15 a.m. local time, targeting insurgents who were firing upon U.S. service members “advising and assisting” Afghan security forces, the statement said
The charity reports that the hospital was repeatedly bombed at approximately 15-minute intervals between 2:08 a.m. and 3:15 a.m. Saturday morning.
“We continue to advise and assist our Afghan partners as they clear the city of Kunduz and surrounding areas of insurgents. As always, we will take all reasonable steps to protect civilians from harm.”