Five Questions About the Bombing of a Hospital in Kunduz

October 5, 2015 10:40 PM

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On Saturday, at 2:08 A.M. local time, an American AC-130 began to bomb a hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), in Kunduz, Afghanistan. According to accounts from doctors and nurses, the air strike continued for more than an hour, in fifteen-minute waves. The hospital burned for hours afterward; photos and videos from the scene show the structures illuminated by flames from within. “We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings,” a nurse named Lajos Zoltan Jecs said, in a statement distributed by M.S.F. “In the Intensive Care Unit, six patients were burning in their beds.” At least twenty-two people, ten patients and a dozen staff members, were killed by the strike or by the fires that the bombs started. Three children were among the dead. More children were among the three dozen people wounded in the attack, who, along with other surviving patients and staff, were transferred to a hospital a couple of hours away. The numbers may rise, M.S.F. says. The hospital is now closed, although it would be more accurate to say that it is gone. What remains are at least five questions.

1. Why did the United States bomb the hospital? The first statements released by the Pentagon suggested that the air strike was an error: in the heat of battle—Kunduz fell under Taliban control last week—bombs had fallen where they were not meant to fall. The Pentagon added the hard-choices note of ...

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