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US confirms responsibility for Afghan hospital airstrike

October 6, 2015

The American commander of international forces in Afghanistan has confirmed that a deadly air strike that hit a hospital in Kunduz was made within the "US chain of command." All aid organizations have left the city.

MSF hospital Kunduz, Afghanistan
Image: Reuters/Stringer

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington on Tuesday, US General John Campbell said that Afghanistan's forces showed no signs of fracturing and he was confident they would regain control of Kunduz, despite them having "admittedly faltered at times."

"Even though the Afghans request[ed] that support, it still has to go through a rigorous US procedure" before firing could start, Campbell told the committee.

"To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fires was a US decision made within the US chain of command," Campbell said. "A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility."

Campbell's testimony came three days after an airstrike hit a hospital in the northern Afghan city, run by medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF). At least 22 people died in the attack, which the United Nations (UN) said could amount to a war crime.

In a bid to prevent further incidents like Kunduz, forces under Campbell's command have been directed to undergo in-depth training, the top US commander said.

The United Nations also confirmed on Tuesday that all aid organizations had left Kunduz city. Efforts to provide aid to the city have been hindered by the ongoing fighting between Taliban and government forces.

UN emergency relief spokesman Jens Laerke said the city's airport also remained closed due to the risk of road bombs and ambushes.

ksb/se (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)