Human error : U.S. airstrike kills 30 in #Afghanistan
Kabul,Afghanistan ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – Human error was the primary cause of the airstrike that killed 30 people last month at a hospital in northern Afghanistan, Army Gen. John Campbell announced Wednesday.
The crew of an AC-130 gunship believed they were striking a building several hundred yards away, and not the Doctors Without Borders trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan, Campbell, the top commander in Afghanistan, told reporters in a briefing. Another 37 people were wounded. Technical problems also contributed to the “tragic mistake,” Campbell said.
The crew also failed to “undertake appropriate measures” to determine whether the hospital was a viable target, Campbell said. He summarized the findings of the military’s investigation but did not release the full report.
The special operations aircraft launched 69 minutes early and thus the crew was not fully briefed, including on targets that were deemed off-limits, including the hospital, Campbell said. In addition, technical problems on the plane prevented it from sending or receiving messages. The AC-130 attacked the building with artillery shells and left it a smoking ruin.
Most of the personnel involved have been suspended from their duties, Campbell said.
“We failed to meet our own high expectations on Oct. 3,” Campbell said.
Officials from Doctors Without Borders called U.S. military officials 12 minutes after the attack began, said Army Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, a military spokesman in Kabul. By the time the air crew was told it was hitting the hospital, their attack had ended. Some of the military personnel violated the “rules of engagement,” Shoffner said.
Days before the strike, the Taliban had overrun Kunduz. U.S. commandos were aiding Afghan troops who were retaking the city. A missile had also been fired at the the AC-130, Shoffner said.
“Chaos does not justify this tragedy,” Shoffner said.
The U.S. military is committed to helping Doctors Without Borders to rebuild the hospital and to make reparations to the victims, Shoffner said.
“We are absolutely heartbroken over what occurred here,” Shoffner said.
In a statement earlier this month, Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders, called the attack unjustified.
“The attack destroyed our ability to treat patients at a time of their greatest need,” Liu said. “A functioning hospital caring for patients cannot simply lose its protected status and be attacked.”