Wednesday 25 April 2018

16 US military personnel disciplined over Afghanistan hospital bombing

The service personnel received administrative punishments
The service personnel received administrative punishments

Sixteen US military personnel, including one general officer, have been disciplined for mistakes that led to the bombing of a civilian hospital in Afghanistan last year that killed 42 people.

US officials said the service members received administrative punishments and no criminal charges were filed in connection with the air strike in the northern city of Kunduz.

A number of those punished are US special operations forces.

In many cases, a non-judicial punishment, such as a letter of reprimand or suspension, can effectively end a military career.

The full report on the investigation is expected to be released by the Pentagon on Friday.

Last month, the Associated Press reported that more than a dozen US military personnel had been disciplined in connection with the bombing, and that they were all largely administrative.

The hospital, run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, was attacked by a US Air Force special operations AC-130 gunship, one of the most lethal in the US arsenal.

Doctors Without Borders called the attack "relentless and brutal".

Last November, the US military said the crew of the AC-130, which is armed with side-firing cannons and guns, had been dispatched to hit a Taliban command centre in a different building 450 yards away from the hospital.

However, hampered by problems with their targeting sensors, the crew relied on a physical description that led them to begin firing at the hospital even though they saw no hostile activity there.

Officials have said the accident was caused by human error and that many chances to avert the incident were missed.

A separate US report on the incident, obtained last autumn by the Associated Press, said the AC-130 aircraft fired 211 shells at the hospital compound over 29 minutes before commanders realised the mistake and ordered a halt.

Doctors Without Borders officials contacted coalition military personnel during the attack to say the hospital was "being 'bombed' from the air", and the word was finally relayed to the AC-130 crew, the report said.

The attack came as US military advisers were helping Afghan forces retake Kunduz, which had fallen to the Taliban on September 28. It was the first major city to fall since the Taliban were expelled from Kabul in 2001.

Afghan officials claimed the hospital had been overrun by the Taliban, but no evidence of that has surfaced. The hospital was destroyed and Doctors Without Borders ceased operations in Kunduz.

Press Association

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