A top U.S. commander said Tuesday that the bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in northern Afghanistan was accidental -- but the humanitarian group, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières, claims otherwise.
The hospital, the only one of its kind in the region, was "deliberately bombed," according to a statement released Tuesday by Dr. Joanne Liu, MSF's international president. "The attack was unacceptable."
The explosion rocked the northeastern Afghan city of Kunduz in the middle of the night, killing 22. This was the 12th U.S. airstrike in the area in a five-day period. The hospital was hit several times, causing some patients to be burned alive.
MSF alleges the bombing was a breach of international law. "Hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces," Liu said. "We are working on the presumption of a war crime."
MSF said that it was treating 400 patients in Kunduz last week. Its intensive care unit, emergency rooms and physiotherapy ward were destroyed, while the rest of the hospital was "largely untouched," Liu said.
Defense officials are still searching for an answer to why the hospital was targeted. Originally, U.S. military officials claimed that U.S. forces were under threat and called for the attack.
But on Tuesday, U.S. Army Gen. John F. Campbell changed the narrative. "Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. forces," he said. Campbell said they called for an airstrike to target the Taliban.
The U.S. has attempted to draw down its military presence in Afghanistan. "Our forces are in the area to provide training, advice and assistance to the Afghan forces," Campbell said. "While our personnel are not directly engaged in the fighting, they're providing valuable support to the Afghans."
This has been made more challenging due to heightened Taliban activity in recent weeks. The Taliban captured Kunduz last week -- the first time it had captured a major urban center in almost 15 years -- and government forces are still struggling to take the city back.
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