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US Blames Human Error In Doctors Without Borders Bombing


The European Parliament urged Thursday an “independent” investigation into the U.S. bombing of an MSF hospital in Afghanistan which killed 30 people in an attack the military blamed on human error.

Doctors Without Borders has said it told both Afghan forces and the Taliban of the hospital’s location.

Stokes expressed surprise that USA forces could undertake a military operation while experiencing problems in their communications systems and without having the target clearly identified and in sight or comparing it with the list of sites that must not be attacked.

Campbell explained that, following the investigation, the target confusion was caused by a technical error in the AC-130 aircraft’s mapping system that made it detour from its original path. Without the exact coordinates, pilots tried to spot the target by visual identification and attacked the MSF hospital instead of the intended headquarters.

This was a tragic but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error“, said Campbell, who described the results of parallel investigations to reporters in Afghanistan and listening in at the Pentagon in Washington.

The US general did not say what disciplinary action would be taken against the officers involved and did not contest MSF’s claims that the medical charity provided the security forces with coordinates of the facility.

“These are examples of human and procedural errors”, he said.

It has offered to help rebuild the hospital and offered condolences for the families of the victims, and vowed to learn from what it says was a tragic mistake.

It has repeated its call for an independent investigation.

Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said: “The basic tenets of the United States law of war that every U.S. force member is taught from basic training onwards includes the principles of proportionality and distinction”. That night, there were reports of gunfire in the area, which led to a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship being called in.

The group said several doctors and nurses were killed immediately, and patients who could not move burned to death in the ensuing fire.

The airstrikes were a response to the Taliban’s recapture of Kunduz while the hospital had been sheltering Taliban fighters when it was struck.

Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, spokesman for the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, added: “We did not intentionally hit the hospital and we are heartbroken about what happened“.

Doctors Without Borders – known by its French acronym MSF – has said that within minutes of the start of the airstrike, its staff in Kabul began calling North Atlantic Treaty Organisation officials in a frantic effort to stop the assault, but officials were unable to intervene in time. AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images The damaged hospital in which the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical charity operated is seen on October 13, 2015 following an air strike in the northern city of Kunduz.

Damaged buildings are seen at the MSF hospital in Kunduz Afghanistan Oct.16 2015