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Leaks show US planned deadly raid on Afghan hospital

This article is over 8 years, 5 months old
Charity accuses US of ‘premeditated massacre’ after it bombed a hospital in Afghanistan, writes Judith Orr
Issue 2476
US troops during an operation in Afghanistan in 2012
US troops during an ‘operation’ in Afghanistan in 2012 (Pic: Defence Images/flickr)

The US knew the target of a bombing raid in Afghanistan was a hospital days before the attack took place on 3 October. The raid, in the northern city of Kunduz, killed ten patients and 12 staff.

Leaks have revealed that US special operations officers had been gathering intelligence on the hospital for some time. 

They claim they were targeting a Pakistani intelligence officer who was working undercover in the hospital. Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), the charity that ran the hospital, said that none of the staff were Pakistani.

Now tapes from the cockpit recorder of the AC-130 gunship plane are reported to show the air crew questioning the legality of the bombing.

AC-130 gunships have a crew of at least a dozen and are directed by orders from troops on the ground. They can circle a target and carry out sustained bombing. MSF said that assault lasted over an hour and the plane flew over for repeated strikes. 

Official US explanations for what happened have changed several times. The US first claimed the strike was called in because of gunfire coming from the hospital.

But MSF staff said there was no sound of shooting before the air attack and that the night had been “calm”.

In the aftermath of the assault a US tank drove right into the ruins of the bombed hospital. The US claimed it carried Afghan and Nato investigators looking into the attack. 

But MSF said, “Their unannounced and forced entry damaged property, destroyed potential evidence and caused stress and fear.”


International president of MSF Dr Joanne Liu is demanding an independent investigation.

“Our patients burned in their beds,” she said. “Even wars have rules.”

MSF official Meinie Nicolai said that evidence that the hospital was “intentionally targeted” would make the attack a “premeditated massacre”.

The West has waged war in Afghanistan for nearly a decade and a half. The battle for Kunduz, which the Taliban took last month, exposes the failure of that war. 

The Taliban is gaining ground and the US cannot claim any victory.

The US had declared combat operations over at the end of 2014. US president Barack Obama had promised to bring down the numbers of US troops in Afghanistan over the next year.

But he announced last week that he will not do so.

There were supposed to be just 1,000 US troops left in Afghanistan by the end of 2017.

Now the 10,000 troops based there will stay through most of 2016. And more than half will stay at US bases across the country after that.

Obama claimed to be against “endless war”. But there is no end to the US bloody intervention in sight.


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