US President Barack Obama said that US authorities has launched a "full investigation" into an air strike that killed 19 people at an Afghan hospital on Saturday, October 3. Nato said that an airstrike targeting Taliban militants may have caused "collateral damage".
In a statement, Obama offered his "full condolences" for what he called a "tragic accident". "The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgement as to the circumstances of this tragedy," Obama said in the statement.
At least 12 members of staff and seven patients were killed in the attack on the hospital run by charity Medecine San Frontiers (MSF). The UN called the strikes "inexcusable and possibly even criminal".
"International and Afghan military planners have an obligation to respect and protect civilians at all times, and medical facilities and personnel are the object of a special protection," said UN High Commissioner Ra'ad Al Hussein Zeid. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has called for a thorough investigation into the attacks.
MSF said that patients burned to death in their beds during the air strikes that began at 2am local time on Saturday. MSF president, Meinie Nicolai, said that both US and Afghan military authorities had been given the GPS coordinates of the hospital.
"Twelve staff members and at least seven patients, including three children, were killed; 37 people were injured," the charity said. "This attack constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law."
MSF said that despite calls to US and Afghan military authorities in Kabul, the attacks lasted another 30 minutes, targeting the main hospital building housing the intensive care unit and emergency rooms.
"The bombs hit and then we heard the plane circle round," said Heman Nagarathnam, MSF's head of programmes 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."
There has been intense fighting in Kunduz since Taliban fighters swept into the city on Monday. The militant group denied that its fighters had taken refuge in the hospital and said "barbaric American forces… carried out deliberate airstrikes on a civilian hospital".