KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The latest developments from Afghanistan, where the international charity Doctors Without Borders says that at least 19 people were killed when its clinic came under "sustained bombing" as government and international forces continue to battle Taliban fighters in the northern city of Kunduz (all times local):
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "strongly" condemned the airstrikes in Kunduz and said hospitals and medical personnel are "explicitly protected" under international humanitarian law, his spokesman's office said in a statement Saturday.
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan says the military is opening an investigation into the deadly bombing of a Doctors Without Borders facility in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.
"While we work to thoroughly examine the incident and determine what happened, my thoughts and prayers are with those affected," said Gen. John F. Campbell in a statement.
U.S. forces conducted an airstrike "in the vicinity" of the hospital around 2:15 a.m. local time, targeting insurgents who were firing upon U.S. service members "advising and assisting" Afghan security forces, the statement said
The charity reports that the hospital was repeatedly bombed at approximately 15-minute intervals between 2:08 a.m. and 3:15 a.m. Saturday morning.
"We continue to advise and assist our Afghan partners as they clear the city of Kunduz and surrounding areas of insurgents. As always, we will take all reasonable steps to protect civilians from harm."
Doctors Without Borders has raised the total number of the number of people killed when its Kunduz trauma center was bombed to at least 19. It says 12 staff members and at least seven patients, including three children, died in the incident.
The medical charity, also known by the French acronym MSF, adds that 37 people were injured including 19 staff members.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani expressed his "deep sorrow over the killing and wounding of civilians" in Kunduz.
In a statement issued by his office, Ghani said he had spoken with the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell about the incident. Campbell "provided explanations about the incident and offered condolences to those affected. Both the President and Gen. Campbell agreed to launch a joint and thorough investigation," the statement said.
The latest statement clarifies an earlier statement from Ghani's office, which said that Campbell had "apologized" for the incident, in which at least 16 people were killed in an air strike on the trauma center run by Doctors Without Borders. No apology has been issued. An investigation into the incident is under way.
Doctors Without Borders says all indications suggest their Kunduz hospital was bombed by U.S.-NATO forces. In a statement the group demands a "full and transparent account" of coalition aerial bombardments over Kunduz. It also calls for "an independent investigation of the attack to ensure maximum transparency and accountability."
The statement says that from 2:08 a.m. to 3:15 a.m. Saturday morning, the hospital was hit by bombs at 15-minute intervals. It quotes Kunduz-based doctor Heman Nagarathnam saying the planes repeatedly circled overhead during that time.
"There was a pause, and then more bombs hit. This happened again and again. When I made it out from the office, the main hospital building was engulfed in flames," Nagarathnam said according to the MSF statement. Those people that could had moved quickly to the building's two bunkers to seek safety. But patients who were unable to escape burned to death as they lay in their beds."
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has offered condolences on the "tragic incident" at the Kunduz hospital compound and promised an investigation.
"While we are still trying to determine exactly what happened, I want to extend my thoughts and prayers to everyone affected. A full investigation into the tragic incident is underway in coordination with the Afghan government," Carter said in a statement, noting that U.S. forces were "operating nearby" in support of Afghan security forces battling the Taliban.
"At this difficult moment, we will continue to work with our Afghan partners to try and end the ongoing violence in and around Kunduz," Carter said.
The U.N. human rights chief is calling the airstrike that hit a clinic in Kunduz "tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal."
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein issued the statement Saturday and urged a swift and transparent investigation of the "deeply shocking event."
"International and Afghan military planners have an obligation to respect and protect civilians at all times, and medical facilities and personnel are the object of a special protection," Zeid's statement says. "These obligations apply no matter whose air force is involved, and irrespective of the location."
He adds, "if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime."
Doctors Without Borders has announced that the death toll from the bombing of the group's Kunduz hospital compound has risen to 16, including 3 children killed.
NATO's Resolute Support mission in Kabul says it has no knowledge of an apology over the bombing of the Doctors Without Borders compound in the Afghan city of Kunduz. President Ashraf Ghani's office had issued a statement saying that the commander of NATO's Resolute Support Mission had apologized to Ghani over the hospital attack.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office has released a statement on the incident in Kunduz, in which the compound of Doctors Without Borders was apparently attacked.
The statements says that Ghani had spoken with "the commander of NATO's Resolute Support Mission," without naming U.S. Army Gen. John Campbell. It says the commander "explained and apologized for the attack."