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US Takes Blame for Plowing Through Gate of Bombed Afghan Hospital

FILE PHOTO -- Afghan employees of a Doctors Without Borders hospital move debris of its damaged gate in Kunduz, Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2015. Officials said a U.S. tank forced its way through the closed gates of the compound. Najim Rahim/AP
FILE PHOTO -- Afghan employees of a Doctors Without Borders hospital move debris of its damaged gate in Kunduz, Afghanistan, Oct. 15, 2015. Officials said a U.S. tank forced its way through the closed gates of the compound. Najim Rahim/AP

The U.S. took the blame Monday for the incident last week in which a U.S. team was riding in an Afghan tracked vehicle that plowed through the gate of the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz that was hit by an AC-130 gunship earlier this month.

“They did it. They shouldn’t have. They are going to make it right,” Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman said of the visit gone awry of a U.S. military casualty and damage assessment team to the hospital compound last Friday.

Davis said the incident showed a lack of coordination with Doctors Without Borders (Medicins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) that had to be corrected as investigations of the Oct. 3 attack on the hospital that killed 22 were proceeding.

The U.S. team was in a tracked vehicle that was driven by Afghans that had come to the gate unannounced in an attempt to get an initial damage assessment that could provide the basis for restitution, Davis said.

Thinking there were no MSF personnel present in the compound, the U.S. team had the Afghans ram through the gate.

“They had broken through that gate in the interest of safety” since there was still fighting in the area, “and in the belief that (MSF) personnel were not on site,” Davis said.

In a statement last Friday, MSF said that “the unannounced and forced entry damaged the gate to the property, potentially destroyed evidence, and caused stress and fear for the MSF team that had arrived earlier in the day to visit the hospital.”

“Only after the armored vehicle forced its way into our compound was MSF informed that the intrusion was conducted by a delegation from the US/NATO/Afghan investigation team.”

“This occurred despite an agreement made between MSF and the joint investigation team that MSF would be provided advance notice before each step of the process involving the MSF’s personnel and assets.”

In previous statements, MSF has said that the Oct. 3 attack on the hospital by the AC-130 continued for more than an hour despite repeated pleas by hospital staff to call it off. MSF also maintained that the GPS coordinates of the hospital were well known to the U.S.

The military was conducting an Article 15-6 fact-finding investigation into the hospital attack. NATO and Afghan authorities are conducting separate investigations. MSF has called for an independent investigation by an international body.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at richard.sisk@military.com

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