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Human error largely to blame for MSF hospital attack, US investigators say

BMJ 2015; 351 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h6412 (Published 26 November 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;351:h6412
  1. Michael McCarthy
  1. 1Seattle

Human error, technical failures, and violations of US army rules of engagement led to the night-time air attack on the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan last October.1 The attack left 30 patients, staff, and physicians dead and 37 wounded, the army investigation concluded.

Speaking from Kabul by teleconference, John F Campbell, commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, said that a report by the US military investigators found that personnel involved in the attack did not know that the compound they were targeting was the MSF trauma center but had failed to undertake the measures necessary to verify that the facility was a legitimate military target. “This was a tragic but avoidable accident caused primarily by human error,” Campbell said.

The report said that Afghan troops working with US special operations forces on the ground in Kunduz province had been under heavy attack by the Taliban for five days and nights when, on 2 October, they asked for close air support in a clearing operation that included clearing the National Directorate of Security headquarters building that Afghan special operations forces believed …

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