WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- U.S. forces in Afghanistan Commander Gen. John Campbell confirmed Monday that the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz was struck by a U.S. airstrike after Afghan forces called for air support.
"We have now learned that on Oct. 3, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces," Campbell said at a press conference. "An airstrike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck. This is different from the initial reports which indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the airstrike was called on their behalf."
Staff for Doctors Without Borders, known officially as Médecins Sans Frontières, left the bombed hospital on Sunday. At least 10 patients and 12 MSF staff died in the airstrikes conducted by an AC-130 gunship. There were more than 80 MSF staff and 105 patients and their caretakers in the hospital at the time of the attack.
The hospital was bombed at approximately 15 minute intervals between 2:08 a.m. and 3:15 a.m. local time, the organization said. The airstrikes destroyed part of the hospital and sparked fires that burned for hours.
"If errors were committed we will acknowledge them," Campbell added. "As has been reported, I've ordered a thorough investigation into this tragic incident and the investigation is ongoing. The Afghans have ordered the same. We'll hold those responsible accountable and we will take steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated."
Campbell offered his "deepest condolences" to victims.
MSF said that "we cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as collateral damage."
"Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, a transparent investigation must be conducted by an independent international body," MSF added.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières released the following statement from Christopher Stokes, MSF General Director, in reaction to Campbell's announcement:
"Today the U.S. government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff. Their description of the attack keeps changing -- from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government. The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs. The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff. The U.S. military remains responsible for the targets it hits, even though it is part of a coalition. There can be no justification for this horrible attack. With such constant discrepancies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened, the need for a full transparent independent investigation is ever more critical."