WASHINGTON: US forces attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz last year after a series of errors and will be disciplined, but they did not commit a war crime, their commander said Friday.
General Joseph Votel said that on October 3, 2015, the crew of an AC-130 gunship had taken off earlier than planned without a list of protected sites and had been mistakenly guided to bombard the Kunduz trauma center.
The general, head of US Central Command, said that 12 of the personnel involved -- commanders, flight crew and a special forces team on the ground -- had been suspended or removed from command and four others were reprimanded.
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"The investigation concluded that certain personnel failed to comply with the rules of engagement and the law of armed conflict," he said, announcing the results of a lengthy probe into the strike, which killed at least 42 people.
"The investigation found that the incident resulted from a combination of human errors, process errors and equipment failures and that none of the personnel knew they were striking a hospital."
Votel said that a US special forces group accompanying Afghan forces had called for air support after four days of heavy fighting against the Taliban guerrillas who had overrun the northern city.
The AC-130 crew, which had recently come under fire from a ground-to-air missile, had targeted the hospital by mistake, believing it to be a Taliban occupied building that was a quarter of a mile away.
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"Our forces did not receive fire from the trauma center during the incident nor did the investigation find that insurgents were using it as a base for operations," he said.
"Some insurgents were treated at the trauma center, but hospitals and patients are protected on the battlefield. The trauma center was a protected facility, but it was misidentified during this engagement."