Docs Without Borders Leave Afghan City 10/04 11:24
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- The International medical charity Doctors Without
Borders said on Sunday it had withdrawn from the northern Afghan city of Kunduz
after a deadly airstrike destroyed its hospital and killed 22 people, as the
U.S. and Afghan governments vowed to get to the bottom of the carnage.
The humanitarian crisis in the city, which briefly fell to the Taliban last
week before the government launched a counteroffensive, has been growing
increasingly dire, with shops shuttered because of ongoing fighting and roads
made impassable by mines planted by insurgents.
"All critical patients have been referred to other health facilities and no
MSF staff are working in our hospital," said Kate Stegeman, the communications
manager for Doctors Without Borders, using the French acronym for the
"Some of our medical staff have gone to work in two hospitals where some of
the wounded have been taken," she added.
Investigations are continuing into the bombing of the hospital on Saturday,
which killed at least 22 people. The charity announced Sunday that three
injured hospital patients had died, bringing the total to 10 in addition to 12
dead hospital staffers.
The circumstances surrounding the incident remain murky. The charity said in
a statement Saturday that "all indications" pointed to the international
military coalition as responsible for the bombing, and Army Col. Brian Tribus,
a spokesman for American forces in Afghanistan, said a U.S. airstrike "in the
Kunduz vicinity" around 2:15 a.m. Saturday morning "may have resulted in
collateral damage to a nearby medical facility."
Afghan officials said helicopter gunships returned fire from Taliban
fighters who were hiding in the hospital, and AP video footage of the burned
out compound in the east of Kunduz city shows automatic weapons, including
rifles and at least one machine gun, on windowsills. But Stegeman said there
were no insurgents in the facility at the time of the bombing.
President Ashraf Ghani said a joint investigation was underway with U.S.
Forces and President Barack Obama said he expected a full accounting of the
circumstances surrounding the bombing.
The Taliban seized Kunduz last Monday but have since withdrawn from much of
the city after a government counterattack. Sporadic battles continue as troops
attempt to clear remaining pockets of militants.
The Taliban's brief seizure of Kunduz marked the insurgent group's biggest
foray into a major urban area since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ended their rule.
Afghan forces have been struggling to combat the Taliban since the U.S. and
NATO shifted to a support and training role at the end of last year, officially
ending their combat mission in the war-torn country.
A Kunduz resident who gave his name only as Habibullah said the Afghan flag
was flying over the central square --- contrary to reports that it had been
retaken by the insurgents. Gun battles were being fought in three districts on
the outskirts of town, he said.
Acting provincial Gov. Hamidullah Danishi said most of the insurgents had
fled the city and that those still standing their ground appeared to be what he
called "foreigners," non-Afghans who have been boosting Taliban forces in the
north of the country for some months. Officials have said that many of them are
from Central Asian states, members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Danishi said that 480 Taliban fighters had been killed as of Friday, and
around 300 wounded. He put casualties among Afghan security forces at between
30 and 35 killed or wounded.
Meanwhile thousands of civilian residents remain trapped inside the disputed
city. Militants blocked and mined roads as soon as they entered Kunduz to
prevent people from leaving and to thwart a government assault. Local
television showed live footage of police officers handing bread to children,
one of whom said he had not eaten for three days.
The deputy head of the Afghan National Disaster Management Authority, Aslam
Sayas, said he was aware of the growing humanitarian crisis inside Kunduz. "We
are waiting for the security situation to improve to give us an opportunity to
reach those needy people," he said.
Saad Mukhar, the Kunduz provincial public health director, estimates that
more than 70 people have been killed and more than 500 wounded in the city
since the fighting began.
"I'm afraid that if this situation continues, we will not be able to help
our patients because right now we are facing a serious, drastic shortage of
medicine," he said.
Rahmatullah Hamnawa, a reporter with Salam Watandar radio, said the price of
cooking gas had more than doubled.
Grocers and pharmacists who spoke with The Associated Press by telephone
from inside the city said they have been making furtive deliveries to customers
when the streets are deemed safe.
Shir Aghan, who runs a general store, said some shops were full of food
items, but many shop keepers had fled to neighboring provinces before the
Taliban sealed the city. "People call me and if it's safe I'll go out and sell
them what they need," he said.