Afghan special forces raided the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz less than three months before a U.S. bombing killed 22 staff members and patients.
The raid took place on the afternoon of July 1, according to a statement from the hospital at the time. U.S. authorities have since said that Afghan forces called in Saturday's bombing, which lasted for more than an hour, and that the U.S. was unaware it was striking a hospital.
The previous raid suggests that Afghan authorities were aware the facility was a hospital and had a hostile relationship with its staff prior to calling in the U.S. bombing.
According to a statement posted online in July, "heavily armed men from Afghan Special Forces entered the [Médecins Sans Frontières] hospital compound, cordoned off the facility and began shooting in the air."
"The armed men physically assaulted three MSF staff members and entered the hospital with weapons," the statement continued. "They then proceeded to arrest three patients. Hospital staff tried their best to ensure continued medical care for the three patients, and in the process, one MSF staff member was threatened at gunpoint by two armed men. After approximately one hour, the armed men released the three patients and left the hospital compound."
While the motive of the raid is unclear, Afghan forces have long protested the practice of providing medical treatment to insurgents. But international law says that as soon as a fighter is in need of treatment, he is no longer a combatant.
“In all conflicts where MSF works, we never take sides,” said Dr. Bart Janssens, MSF’s director of operations, in a statement at the time. “Our doctors treat all people according to their medical needs and do not make distinctions based on a patient’s race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or political affiliation. Any injured or wounded person in need of urgent medical care will receive it at MSF's trauma centre in Kunduz.”
One hospital doctor, Ehsan Usmani, made his anger at Afghan authorities public on the Friday before the bombing. “A thousand curses on you Ashraf Ghani and Stanekzai that you bloodied and covered in dust the people of Kunduz with your blind bombings,” he wrote on Facebook, referring to the Afghan president and Minister of Defense Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, both of whom the hospital had reached out to after the July assault.
The Taliban has been quick to note Usmani's comments in a public relations campaign -- highlighting just how damaging the attack has been to the U.S. cause.
“Spit, spit, spit, spit on your faces,” Usami wrote. “Hey people, share this message that since this afternoon the bombers of the dirty and unclean government have been killing, maiming and wounding the innocent people of Kunduz.”
The strike has allowed the Taliban to align itself with those killed in the bombing in the public eye.
And it has opened the door for the Taliban to favorably compare its own hands-off treatment of the hospital, posting photos of insurgents mingling with doctors after the takeover of Kunduz, followed by images of the charred remains of the facility.