US bombing on Afghan hospital ‘may be war crime’

After 19 people, including 12 members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), are killed in suspected US-led air strike, US President Barack Obama pledges full investigation

The suspected US-led air strike on a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz at least 19 people, including 12 members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), was “inexcusable” and possibly criminal, the UN’s human rights chief said.

Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein called for a full and transparent investigation, noting that “if established as deliberate in a court of law, an air strike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”

“This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal,” Zeid said in a statement.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama pledged a full investigation into the apparent US air strike on an Afghan hospital. The attack killed 19 staff and patients on Saturday, including three children.

It also wounded 37 people, including 19 MSF staff, 18 patients and caretakers, according to the medical charity known by its French initials, MSF.

MSF President Meinie Nicolai condemned the attack as “abhorrent and a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.”

“We demand total transparency from coalition forces. We cannot accept that this horrific loss of life will simply be dismissed as 'collateral damage'.”

“All indications currently point to the bombing being carried out by international Coalition forces,” MSF said.  Officials of the charity organisation said they "frantically phoned" NATO and Washington DC, as bombs rained on the hospital for "nearly an hour".

The U.S. military said it conducted an air strike "in the vicinity" of the hospital as it targeted Taliban insurgents who were directly firing on U.S. military personnel. It said an investigation had begun, while the White House said in a statement that it expects "a full accounting of the facts and circumstances" of the incident.

"On behalf of the American people, I extend my deepest condolences to the medical professionals and other civilians killed and injured in the tragic incident at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz," U.S. President Barack Obama said in the White House statement.

The Afghan Ministry of Defence said in a statement that Taliban fighters had attacked the hospital and were using the building "as a human shield." It said during the firefight, a rocket landed close to the hospital, wounding civilians.

Afghan government forces backed by U.S. air power have fought to drive the Taliban out of the northern provincial capital since the militants seized it six days ago, in the biggest victory of their near 14-year insurgency.