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Obama apologizes for U.S. bombing of Afghan hospital, MSF calls for investigation

By Andrew V. Pestano and Doug G. Ware
Obama apologizes for U.S. bombing of Afghan hospital, MSF calls for investigation
U.S. President Barack Obama listens to German President Joachim Gauck speak to the media before the two held a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on October 7, 2015. Earlier Wednesday, Obama apologized for a U.S. airstrike that leveled a humanitarian hospital in Afghanistan last weekend. Pool Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday apologized for an errant airstrike that leveled a humanitarian hospital in Afghanistan last weekend -- as Doctors Without Borders calls for an independent investigation into the matter.

The bombing killed at least 22 people in Kunduz, Afghanistan on Saturday.

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"President Obama spoke by telephone with Doctors Without Borders International President Dr. Joanne Liu to apologize and express his condolences for the MSF staff and patients who were killed and injured when a US military airstrike mistakenly struck an MSF field hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan over the weekend," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

"When we make a mistake, we are honest about it. We own up to it, we apologize where necessary, as the president did in this case," he added. "We implement the kinds of changes that make it less likely that those kinds of mistakes will occur in the future."

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Also Wednesday, Liu called for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, created under the Geneva Conventions, to investigate the devastating strike.

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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 airstrike conducted by an AC-130 gunship. There were more than 80 staff and 105 patients and their caretakers in the hospital at the time of the attack, officials said.

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"It is unacceptable that the bombing of a hospital and the killing of staff and patients can be dismissed as collateral damage or brushed aside as a mistake," Liu said at a press conference in Geneva. "This was not just an attack on our hospital. It was an attack on the Geneva Conventions. This cannot be tolerated."

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U.S. forces in Afghanistan Commander Gen. John Campbell confirmed Monday that the MSF hospital in Kunduz was struck by a U.S. airstrike after Afghan forces called for air support.

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.

The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission requires one of the 76 countries that signed up to its jurisdiction to request an investigation be carried out.

"We need to safeguard that space to allow access to healthcare in conflicts, that's the essential message. It's about being able to care for populations in conflict area," Liu added. "If we let this go, we are basically giving a blank check to any countries at war."

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