22 July 2017

Afghanistan: MSF opens first clinic in Kunduz since US strike

MSF clinic in KunduzImage copyright

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The clinic will treat patients with minor or chronic injuries

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reopened a small medical clinic in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.

It is the charity’s first facility there since US air strikes destroyed a hospital it ran, killing 42 people including patients and staff, in 2015.

A US military inquiry found the strike was the result of “human error” but MSF called it a war crime.

Meanwhile, in Kandahar in the south, about 30 villagers are thought to have been abducted by Taliban militants.

Police officials said 70 hostages were taken, of which at least seven were killed and about 30 were released.

Reports said the civilians were abducted earlier this week when the Islamist rebels launched coordinated attacks on a military camp on the Kandahar-Uruzgan Highway, in which two policemen and at least 12 militants died. The militants are said to have accused the villagers of co-operating with the government.

A police spokesman said all of the people who had been abducted were civilians, and intelligence services were looking for them.

Correspondents say more and more Afghan people are losing their lives, caught in the cross-fire of an intensifying conflict.

The 2015 bombardment took place as US-backed Afghan forces were battling to reverse the Taliban’s seizure of Kunduz.

“We are really happy to restart medical activities in Kunduz, though we know that the needs are much bigger than the ones we will provide,” MSF head of programmes in Afghanistan, Silvia Dallatomasina, told the BBC.

An MSF official said the clinic would only provide treatment for minor or chronic injuries.

“But this is just the first step to be able to – and we are willing to do it – restart proper trauma care in Kunduz city,” she said.

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Media captionThe BBC gained exclusive footage from inside the MSF hospital in Kunduz

MSF has been meeting the Afghan government, US government and armed groups, and received enough assurances to reopen, she added.

The new facility, which has one doctor and five nurses, is not located at the site of the hospital bombed in 2015.

Image copyright

Image caption

The facility has one doctor and five nurses

A US military inquiry said that the crew of the AC-130 gunship mistook the clinic for a nearby government building that had been taken over by Taliban fighters.

The crew – tired from days of fighting – took off earlier than planned without the correct preparatory information, Gen Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command, said at the time.

Because it was unintentional, it did not constitute a war crime, he added.

But MSF said it was “incomprehensible” that the bombing had not been halted. The inquiry found that doctors on the ground rang US officials 10 minutes into the attack pleading for them to stop, but it was another 20 minutes before they did.

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