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Heat grows on U.S. for independent probe into MSF hospital strike

Pressure was growing for an international inquiry into a catastrophic U.S. strike on an MSF hospital in the northern city of Kunduz

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Pressure was growing Thursday for an international inquiry into a catastrophic U.S. strike on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan, after the military detailed “tragic but avoidable” errors but refused to say if there would be an independent investigation.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) slammed American forces for “gross negligence” Wednesday after the U.S. commander in Afghanistan said the October 3 strike on a charity-run hospital in the northern city of Kunduz was “caused primarily by human error”.

The raid killed 30 people and forced the charity to close the trauma centre -- the only one in the region -- while stirring an avalanche of global condemnation.

General John Campbell, speaking at NATO headquarters in Kabul Wednesday, blamed in part fatigue of U.S. troops who had been battling a Taliban offensive in Kunduz for five days, adding that the mistake was “compounded by process and equipment failures”.

“The frightening catalogue of errors outlined today illustrates gross negligence on the part of U.S. forces and violations of the rules of war,” MSF general director Christopher Stokes said after the announcement.

Campbell’s spokesman Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner refused to say if the U.S. probe would be followed by an additional independent international investigation, for which MSF has repeatedly called.

Human Rights Watch backed the MSF call, saying Campbell’s account of the attack “warrants a criminal investigation into possible war crimes” and voicing concern that decisions over any criminal charges remained within the US military chain of command.

The general said during Wednesday’s press conference that individuals involved in the attack had been suspended pending “standard military justice”, but refused to offer details on who was responsible.