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Doctors Without Borders Rejects Obama's Apology for Bombing Afghan Hospital

Jason Cone, United States Executive Director of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)
Jason Cone, United States Executive Director of Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) (MSF) speaks during a press briefing in New York City, October 7, 2015. Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Wednesday called for the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to be activated for the first time since its 1991 creation to investigate the deadly U.S. air strike on an Afghan hospital. |

The Doctors Without Borders charity group said that President Barack Obama's apology for the bombing of one of the group's hospitals in the Afghan city of Kunduz is not enough, and called for an international investigation into what it said was an alleged "war crime."

Joanne Liu, President of MSF International, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders)
Francoise Saulnier, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) legal counsel gestures next to Joanne Liu, President of MSF International, during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland, October 7, 2015. Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) called on Wednesday for an independent international fact-finding commission to be established to probe the deadly U.S. bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. |

"Governments up to now have been too polite or afraid to set a precedent," Dr. Joanne Liu, president of Doctors Without Borders, said according to CNN. "The tool exists, and it is time it is activated."

"We reiterate our (request) that the U.S. government consent to an independent investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to establish what happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened," Liu added of the bombing that killed 22 people, including 12 members of its staff.

The air strike on the hospital was apparently carried out because U.S. officials believed members of the Taliban were hiding there.

The aid group noted that at least 10 patients were also killed in the strike, three of them children. It called the incident "the biggest loss of life for our organization in an airstrike."

The White House said in a statement that Obama personally spoke with Liu over the phone to apologize and express his condolences.

"During the call, President Obama expressed regret over the tragic incident and offered his thoughts and prayers on behalf of the American people to the victims, their families, and loved ones," the statement read, and added that the Department of Defense will be carrying out a "transparent, thorough, and objective accounting of the facts and circumstances of the incident."

Liu has said, however, that the U.S. carrying out its own investigation is not enough, and called for an international committee to take control of proceedings.

Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama waves to the media as he departs the White House in Washington for a day trip to an event at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial, in Emmittsburg, Maryland, October 4, 2015. Obama will attend a service to honor 84 heroic firefighters who died in 2014 and others from previous years. |

Medecins Sans Frontieres, as the group is also called, has said that the deadly air strike is forcing is to review its presence in Afghanistan.

"The overwhelmingly shocking nature of the event forces us to take stock of our work in Afghanistan generally and to carefully weigh the safety and security of our staff and patients," said MSF general director Christopher Stokes.

"Our future ability to work in Afghanistan will now be based on our ability to obtain a clear reaffirmation of the respect for humanitarian law," Stokes added, and called the incident a "war crime."

Gen. John Campbell, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, has insisted that the air strike on the hospital was an accident.

"If errors were committed, we will acknowledge them," Campbell said. "We will hold those responsible accountable, and we will take steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated."

Jason Cone, the U.S. executive director for Doctors Without Borders, noted that the U.S. has also claimed that Afghan officials asked them to target the hospital in the search for Taliban fighters. Cone said that this "changing of stories" underscores the need for an independent inquiry.

"In Kunduz, our patients burned in their beds, our doctors' nurses and other staff were killed as they worked, our colleagues had to operate on each other. One of our doctors died on an improvised operating table, an office desk, while his colleagues tried to save his life," Cone said.

At least one of the 76 member states of the IHFFC will need to request an investigation before it can go forward, though so far none of the governments have complied to MSF's request.

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