CONFUSION reigned in the wake of the Saturday’s bombing of a hospital compound in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz that killed at least 19 people and wounded dozens more.
It remains unclear exactly who bombed the hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the international medical charity has demanded an investigation into the incident.
MSF said “all indications” pointed to the international military coalition as responsible for the bombing and called for an independent investigation.
US defence secretary Ash Carter said an inquiry was under way into whether the carnage at the clinic was caused by an airstrike from an American fighter jet, while Afghan officials said helicopter gunships had returned fire from Taleban fighters hiding in the compound.
Afghan forces backed by US airstrikes have been battling the Taleban street by street in Kunduz since Thursday to dislodge insurgents who seized the strategic city three days earlier in their biggest foray into a major urban area since the US-led invasion of 2001.
The insurgents have had the city encircled for months, and overran it in a surprise assault that embarrassed the US-backed Afghan government and called into question the competence of the US-funded Afghan armed forces.
Army Colonel Brian Tribus, a spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan, said a US airstrike on Kunduz at 2:15am “may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility” and that the incident was under investigation. He said it was the 12th US airstrike “in the Kunduz vicinity” since Tuesday.
MSF said its trauma centre “was hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged.”
At the time, the hospital had 105 patients and family members, and more than 80 international and Afghan staff, it said.
The medical group did not say whether insurgents were present inside the compound as the Afghan Ministry of Defence claimed, and it was not immediately clear whether the staffers were killed by the Taleban or Afghan or US forces.
MSF said another 30 people were missing after the incident.
The dead included 12 staffers and seven patients from the intensive care unit, among them three children, it said.
A total of 37 people were injured, including 19 staff members, and 18 patients and family members. Five of the injured staff members were in critical condition.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani expressed his sorrow and said he and the commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, US Army General John Campbell, had “agreed to launch a joint and thorough investigation”.
President Barack Obama said that he expected a full accounting of the circumstances surrounding the bombing and that he would wait for those results before making a judgment.