The medical charity Doctors Without Borders has published a report on the US airstrike on their Kunduz facility, based on eyewitness accounts. There was no fighting and no armed militants at the site, the group claims.
The report includes information from dozens of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) employees, emails, phone log and satellite images, the international aid organisation said on Thursday.
The document details events leading up to the US airstrikes on the MSF hospital in Kunduz, as well as the “relentless and brutal” attack on 3 October and its immediate aftermath.
“The view from inside the hospital is that this attack was conducted with a purpose to kill and destroy,” MSF general director Christopher Stokes said in Kabul on Thursday.
“But we don’t know why. We neither have the view from the cockpit, nor the knowledge of what happened within the US and Afghan military chains of command.”
The US authorities have described the bombing as a “mistake”. In addition, Afghan officials have repeatedly stated that Taliban fighters used the hospital as a shelter.
In the Tuesday report, the MSF officials restated that there were no armed Taliban inside the hospital, and no fighting in the “close surroundings” of the hospital when the bombs hit.
“Not a single MSF staff member reported the presence of armed combatants or fighting in or from the hospital compound prior to or during the airstrikes,” the report says, adding that the MSF’s “no weapons” policy was upheld.
‘Praying for you all’
Before the blasts, the staff marked the roof of the hospital with two MSF flags, in addition to an existing one at the entrance. The compound was also powered by generators, unlike most of the Afghan city.
“That night, it was one of the few buildings with electrical power, it was fully lit up,” MSF director Stokes said while presenting the report.
The report also provides a phone log of MSF officials trying to reach out to NATO “Resolute Support” command, the US Department of Defense and Afghan authorities after the initial blasts.
“At 2:47 a.m., an SMS was sent from MSF in Kabul to Resolute Support in Afghanistan informing that one staff was confirmed dead and many were unaccounted for (…). At 2:52 a.m., a reply was received by MSF in Kabul from Resolute Support stating “I’m sorry to hear that, I still do not know what happened.'”
“At 2.56 am an SMS was sent from MSF in Kabul to Resolute Support insisting that the airstrikes stop and informing that we suspected heavy casualties. At 2.59 am an SMS reply was received by MSF in Kabul from Resolute Support saying ‘I’ll do my best, praying for you all.'”
Operating on a desk
The eyewitnesses also reported people being shot while running to safety, most likely from a plane.
“Some accounts mention shooting that appears to follow the movement of people on the run,” the MSF report says.
After the attack, medical staff set up improvised operating rooms near the main building, operating on their injured colleagues on an office desk and a kitchen table.
The strikes lasted for over an hour, according to the document, killing at least 30 people. At least 13 of the victims were MSF staff, ten were patients and seven more bodies were “burnt beyond recognition”.
The US, NATO and Afghan officials are investigating the strike, but the MSF has demanded an independent probe by an international commission.