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Tag Archive: Airstrike


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USNU.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Wikimedia.org

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BBC

US air strike on IS in Iraq ‘killed civilians’

A US air strike aimed at an IS checkpoint is likely to have killed four civilians, possibly including a child, the US military has said.

On Friday the military released the findings of an investigation into the incident, which took place in March.

Investigators concluded the checkpoint was a valid target and the attack did not violate international laws.

The US has rarely acknowledged civilian deaths in the fight against IS and the announcement brings the total to six.

“All reasonable measures were taken to avoid unintended deaths of, or injuries to, non-combatants,” US Central Command spokesman Patrick Ryder said.

 

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France launches air strikes in Syria; Paris investigation widens

Reuters
By Emmanuel Jarry and Robert-Jan Bartunek 

French warplanes pounded Islamic State positions in Syria on Sunday as police in Europe widened their investigations into coordinated attacks in Paris that killed more than 130 people.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for Friday’s suicide bombings and shootings, which have re-ignited a row over Europe’s refugee crisis and drawn calls to block a huge influx of Muslim asylum-seekers.

French police have launched an international hunt for a Belgian-born man they believe helped organize the assaults with two of his brothers. One of the brothers died in the attacks, while the second one is under arrest in Belgium, a judicial source said.

A further two French suicide attackers have been identified, police said, while the identity of four other assailants, who all died in the violence, was still under review.

France has been bombing Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria for months as part of a U.S.-led operation. Following Friday’s mayhem, Paris vowed to destroy the group. Underlining its resolve, French jets on Sunday launched their biggest raids in Syria to date, hitting its stronghold in Raqqa.

“The raid … including 10 fighter jets, was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Twenty bombs were dropped,” the Defence Ministry said. Among the targets were a munitions depot and training camp, it said.

 

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France Drops 20 Bombs On IS Stronghold Raqqa

French jets carry out their biggest bombing raid in Syria after Islamic State gunmen massacre 132 people in Paris.

23:03, UK, Sunday 15 November 2015

Syrian airstrikes

French fighter planes have dropped 20 bombs on the Islamic State (IS) stronghold of Raqqa in northern Syria.

The bombers hit a jihadi recruitment centre, training camp and arms depot run by the extremist group, according to the French defence ministry.

A spokesman described it as a “massive” attack and France’s biggest to date in Syria.

Raqqa in Syria is an Islamic State stronghold

The aerial raid was launched from air bases in United Arab Emirates and Jordan, and involved France’s 12 fighter bombers based there.

It follows Friday’s terror attacks which left 132 people dead in the French capital.

IS fighters said they carried out the gun and bomb massacre – calling Paris “the capital of prostitution and obscenity”.

Sky’s Sam Kiley, in northern Iraq, said the French airstrikes should not be seen as a “wanton act of revenge” or carpet-bombing campaign.

“I think it’s very clear that the French and the wider coalition have decided in a sense to give France the iron fist at least for the next 24 hours or so,” he said.

 

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Paris Attackers Communicated With ISIS, Officials Say

The New York Times

French Warplanes Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria


Police officers in the Molenbeek area of Brussels on Saturday.© Olivier Hoslet/European Pressphoto Agency Police officers in the Molenbeek area of Brussels on Saturday.

PARIS — French warplanes struck Islamic State militants in Syria on Sunday, a French government official said, two days after attackers linked to the terrorist group carried out a coordinated assault on Paris that killed 129 people.

Prior to the attack on Paris, France had been sparing in its strikes against targets in Syria.

News reports in France said the airstrikes were focused on Raqqa, the city in northern Syria that is the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State.

The attackers in Friday’s terrorist assault in Paris communicated at some point beforehand with known members of the Islamic State in Syria, officials on both sides of the Atlantic say, adding evidence to the assertions that the radical group coordinated or helped carry out the attacks rather than simply inspired them.

President François Hollande of France has characterized the attacks as “an act of war” carried out by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. He provided no specific information, but the Islamic State released statements on Saturday claiming responsibility for the attacks, part of increasing indications that the group is becoming more capable of extending its reach far beyond its base in Syria and Iraq.

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Police ‘Let Fugitive Suspect Go After Attacks’

A manhunt is under way for Saleh Abdeslam after he was reportedly questioned and released despite being identified by authorities.

21:29, UK, Sunday 15 November 2015

Salah Abdeslam

A man wanted over the Paris terror attacks had been questioned and released by police hours after the massacres, it is claimed.

Salah Abdeslam, 26, reportedly helped with logistics and rented a black Volkswagen Polo used by the gunmen who stormed the Bataclan concert hall and killed at least 89 people on Friday night.

He was apparently spoken to by officers on Saturday morning when they pulled over a car carrying three people near the Belgian border.

Police then checked Abdeslam’s ID and subsequently let him go, officials told the Associated Press.

The incident came just hours after authorities had identified him as the person who rented the Polo which was abandoned at the scene of the attack.

One of his brothers, Ibrahim Abdeslam, was reportedly among the seven suicide bombers in the co-ordinated assaults targeting six sites across the French capital.

A third brother was apparently arrested in Belgium and questioned before being released.

Salah Abdeslam, who was born in Brussels, is described as 1m 75cm (5ft 8in) tall and has brown eyes.

Police released a photo of him and warned the public he is dangerous and said “do not intervene yourself”. There are reports he may have fled to Spain.

Another man, Bilal Hadfi, has been named as among the attackers and he also lived in Belgium as did Salah and Ibrahim Abdeslam, said the Washington Post.

 

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The New York Times

Major events: Attacks directed by/linked to ISIS Attacks inspired by ISIS Arrests of suspected ISIS militants or supporters

Outlined countries are where ISIS is conducting regular military operations.

IRAQ

Libya

Egypt

ISIS Declares Provinces Across the Region

 Countries and regions in yellow are where ISIS has declared provinces.Algeria

Lybia

Egypt

Syria

Iraq

Saudi Arabia

YemenAfghanistan

Pakistan

Nigeria

See Detailed Map Here

If investigators determine that the Islamic State is responsible for the catastrophic attacks in Paris, as the group claims and France alleges, the assaults represent a major leap in the group’s abilities.

Until now, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has relied mainly on “lone wolf” followers to attack the West, with relatively low-tech assaults — shootings, the taking of hostages, hit-and-runs — that draw wide attention but do not cause mass casualties.

“This is much different than a normal lone wolf inspired attack,” said Patrick M. Skinner, a former C.I.A. operations officer now with the Soufan Group, a security consultancy. “This was choreographed.”

“The fact that they could do this, especially in Paris, where the intelligence service is really good, clearly there’s a hole somewhere,” Mr. Skinner said.

The Islamic State has been expanding beyond its base in Iraq and Syria since it declared a caliphate, or Islamic state, in June 2014. The group is focused on three parallel tracks, according to Harleen Gambhir, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War:

  • inciting regional conflict with attacks in Iraq and Syria;
  • building relationships with jihadist groups that can carry out military operations across the Middle East and North Africa;
  • and inspiring, and sometimes helping, ISIS sympathizers to conduct attacks in the West.
“The goal,” Ms. Gambhir said, “is that through these regional affiliates and through efforts to create chaos in the wider world, the organization will be able to expand, and perhaps incite a global apocalyptic war.”

 

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According to unconfirmed reports by opposition groups, target was a weapons shipment intended for Hezbollah

November 11, 2015, 9:19 pm 26
An Israeli F-16 during an exercise on November 25, 2013. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

An Israeli F-16 during an exercise on November 25, 2013. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Israel reportedly carried out an airstrike Wednesday near the airport in the Syrian capital Damascus, according to Israel’s Channel 2 TV, which cited Syrian media reports.

 

The reports were unconfirmed but according to Syrian opposition groups, the target was a weapons shipments likely intended for Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, Israeli Channel 10 said.

Israel is reported to have been behind a series of air raids on Syrian soil, since the Syrian civil war began in March 2011, aimed at preventing advanced weapons shipments from Iran from reaching arch-enemy Hezbollah via Syria.

Jerusalem has not openly admitted to being behind such operations. It has, however, warned that it will not permit the Lebanon-based terror group to obtain what it calls “game-changing” advanced weaponry.

 

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Israeli airstrikes hit near Damascus airport – Syrian state TV

Damascus international Airport (Image from wikipedia.org)
Israeli airstrikes have hit targets near Damascus International Airport and in the town of Dimas near the Lebanon border, Syrian state TV reports.

“The Israeli enemy committed aggression against Syria by targeting two safe areas in Damascus province, in all of Dimas and near the Damascus International Airport,” the report said, adding that there were no casualties.

View image on Twitter

BREAKING: Syrian state TV: Israeli jets bomb near Damascus airport http://htz.li/11u 

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‘No armed combatants, no fighting’: MSF issues Afghan hospital bombing report

A wounded Afghan man, who survived a U.S. air strike on a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, receives treatment at the Emergency Hospital in Kabul October 8, 2015. © Mohammad Ismail
 
A Médecins Sans Frontières investigation into the Afghan hospital bombing by US forces has found that there were no armed combatants or weapons within the compound, and no fighting in the direct vicinity of the hospital at the time of the airstrikes.

In its report released on Thursday, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) addressed the “relentless and brutal aerial attack by US forces” which took place in Kunduz on October 3 and killed at least 30 people, including MSF staff.

“The MSF rules in the hospital were implemented and respected, including the ‘no weapon’ policy and MSF was in full control of the hospital at the time of the airstrikes,” the organization stated.

The document also said there were “no armed combatants within the hospital compound and there was no fighting from or in the direct vicinity” of the trauma center at the time of the strikes.

The hospital was “fully functioning” at the time of the airstrikes, with 105 patients admitted and surgeries taking place, according to the findings of the investigation.

In addition, MSF said the “agreement to respect the neutrality of our medical facility based on the applicable sections of International Humanitarian Law was fully in place and agreed with all parties to the conflict prior to the attack.”

READ MORE: US tank enters MSF hospital in Afghanistan’s Kunduz, ‘destroys potential evidence’ – reports

Despite that neutrality, the hospital was still the target of a US airstrike, leading MSF to ask how such an attack was allowed to happen.

“The question remains as to whether our hospital lost its protected status in the eyes of the military forces engaged in this attack – and if so, why,” MSF said in its statement.

 

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MSF Report: Afghan Hospital Attack Had No Military Purpose

FILE - Hospital hit by a U.S. airstrike killed at least 30 people, including three children, according to officials with the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders, Kunduz, Afghanistan.
FILE – Hospital hit by a U.S. airstrike killed at least 30 people, including three children, according to officials with the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders, Kunduz, Afghanistan.

The international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders says an internal review of last month’s airstrikes by U.S. forces on its hospital in northern Afghanistan shows no reason why the facility should have come under attack.

The organization, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), released a report Thursday documenting events surrounding the airstrikes. The report says there were no armed combatants fighting within or from the hospital grounds.

In response, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman said the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Army General John Campbell, has “met personally with MSF representatives.”

Spokesman Jeff Davis said the United States is working closely with MSF to identify the dead and wounded, conclude its own investigation and move ahead with condolence payments.

Last month, Campbell said the U.S. accepted full responsibility for the bombing, which, according to the Pentagon, came after Afghan forces called in U.S. airstrikes against Taliban fighters thought to be firing from inside the medical compound.

The MSF document, part of an ongoing review of events undertaken by the group, is based upon 60 debriefings of MSF national and international employees who worked at the 140-bed trauma center; internal and public information; before and after photographs of the hospital; email correspondence; and telephone records.

 

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US forces in Afghanistan knew Kunduz site was hospital – report

The damaged hospital in which the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) medical charity operated is seen on October 13, 2015 following an air strike in the northern city of Kunduz. © STR
New information suggests the US deliberately targeted the Kunduz hospital, killing 22 patients and staff, despite knowing it was a protected medical site.

US special operations analysts investigated the hospital for days prior to the deadly October 3 attack, describing the hospital as a base of operations for a Pakistani agent coordinating Taliban activities, AP has learned from a former intelligence official familiar with the documents.

The site, operated by Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF), was attacked five times in the span of an hour by a C-130 gunship, despite repeated pleas by the MSF to US forces. MSF officials described repeated strafing runs against the main hospital building, which housed the emergency room and the intensive care unit. No surrounding buildings were hit, they say.

The new details suggest “that the hospital was intentionally targeted,” Meinie Nicolai of MSF told the AP by email. “This would amount to a premeditated massacre,” she added.

 

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russiaamericaBy Brandon Turbeville

In yet another telling episode, the United States has again demonstrated its true position in regards to ISIS and the Russian bombing of the terrorist organization.

As Russian forces drop bombs and missiles on top of ISIS fighters all across Syria, lobbing cruise missiles from the Caspian, regular sortie missions, and combat helicopter attacks against ISIS and other “relatively moderate” cannibals and terrorists, the United States launched a bombing mission of its own against two power plants in Aleppo.

The power plants were located in al-Rudwaniya east of Aleppo and resulted in power outages affecting the Syrian people, adding to the American tradition of bombing civilian infrastructure instead of ISIS and other terrorist targets in Syria. The power outages only further contribute to the misery surrounding the people of Aleppo who have been bombarded by barbarians funded by the United States and NATO, intent of raping and beheading their way through the city and declaring their caliphate of pre-civilization on civilized people.

It should also be noted that the US bombing campaign is a violation of international law, unlike the Russian campaign where Russian forces were invited in to the country by the legitimate government.

 

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Commander of war in Afghanistan tells Senate panel that US forces had called in airstrike at Afghan request – ‘an admission of a war crime’ says MSF chief

General John Campbell says the airstrike was the result of a ‘US decision’.

US special operations forces – not their Afghan allies – called in the deadly airstrike on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, the US commander has conceded.

Shortly before General John Campbell, the commander of the US and Nato war in Afghanistan, testified to a Senate panel, the president of Doctors Without Borders – also known as Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) – said the US and Afghanistan had made an “admission of a war crime”.

Shifting the US account of the Saturday morning airstrike for the fourth time in as many days, Campbell reiterated that Afghan forces had requested US air cover after being engaged in a “tenacious fight” to retake the northern city of Kunduz from the Taliban. But, modifying the account he gave at a press conference on Monday, Campbell said those Afghan forces had not directly communicated with the US pilots of an AC-130 gunship overhead.

“Even though the Afghans request that support, it still has to go through a rigorous US procedure to enable fires to go on the ground. We had a special operations unit that was in close vicinity that was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires,” Campbell told the Senate armed services committee on Tuesday morning.

 

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As Pentagon Shifts Story (Again), MSF Says No Excuse for ‘War Crime’ Against Hospital

‘We are working on the presumption of a war crime,’ said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of MSF International

 

Gen. John Campbell testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, October 6, 2015. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Gen. John Campbell testifies  before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, October 6, 2015. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

 

While testifying before a Senate panel on Tuesday, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan General John Campbell changed—for the fourth time in as many days—the military’s account of its bombing of a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) hospital in the city of Kunduz on Saturday. The shift means Pentagon officials have now described the deadly attack alternately as “collateral damage,” a mistake, the fault of Afghan soldiers, and finally, the work of U.S. Special Forces.

The aid agency, furious with the military’s shifting narrative of the attack that killed 22 people—including 12 staff members and 10 patients—has stated once again its belief that what occurred is nothing short of a “war crime” and argued only a independent, outside investigation could be trusted to probe the incident.

“This attack cannot be brushed aside as a mere mistake or an inevitable consequence of war,” said Dr. Joanne Liu, president of MSF International, in a statement released Tuesday. “Nothing can excuse violence against patients, medical workers and health facilities.”

“Under International Humanitarian Law hospitals in conflict zones are protected spaces. Until proven otherwise, the events of last Saturday amount to an inexcusable violation of this law,” Liu continued. “We are working on the presumption of a war crime.

However, in the four different version of events provided by the U.S., the term “war crime” did not appear once.

In testimony to the Senate Armed Forces Committee delivered Tuesday, General John Campbell said that U.S. Special Forces called in the ground strike and were in direct communication with the aircraft that launched the attack.

“To be clear, the decision to provide aerial fires was a U.S. decision made within the U.S. chain of command,” he said. “A hospital was mistakenly struck. We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.”

The statements marked a shift from those issued Monday, when Campbell emphasized the role of Afghan commanders in calling in the strike but ultimately indicated that the bombing was justified due to Taliban proximity. “Unfortunately, the Taliban decided to remain in the city and fight from within, knowingly putting civilians at significant risk of harm,” he said.

On Sunday, the military said that the bombing occurred in the vicinity of the hospital, which had accidentally been struck.

On Saturday, U.S. Army Colonal Brian Tribus, spokesperson for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said that the airstrike was conducted “against individuals threatening the force. The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby facility.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also avoided using the term “war crime” in statements made Monday, instead calling the incident a “profound tragedy.”

MSF, which says it informed coalition and Afghan officials of its GPS coordinates before and during the attack—to no avail—raised disturbing questions about the bombing. According to the organization, the bombing targeted the intensive care unit, emergency rooms, and physiotherapy ward—leaving surrounding buildings mostly unharmed.

“Statements from the Afghanistan government have claimed that Taliban forces were using the hospital to fire on Coalition forces,” said Liu. “These statements imply that Afghan and U.S. forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital, which amounts to an admission of a war crime.”

MSF is not alone in sounding the alarm. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said on Saturday, “The seriousness of the incident is underlined by the fact that, if established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”

In an interview with Common Dreams, Suraia Sahar, organizer with Afghans United for Justice, emphasized that Saturday’s bombing—while more visible due to MSF’s status as a foreign organization—was “nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Both the U.S. and Afghan forces have a repeated history of faulty intelligence and criminal cover-ups in their military operations in Afghanistan,” said Sahar. “Thanks to MSF’s relentless campaign for an independent investigation, there is a small window of opportunity for them to be held accountable for their complicity in war crimes.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is weighing whether to keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2016, defying its own pledge to reduce the presence to 1,000 military personnel for the purpose of embassy security by the end of next year.

In his statements Tuesday, Campbell sought to use this latest attack to bolster the argument for a prolonged U.S. presence. Responding to a question about whether the troop draw-down should continue according to the Obama administration’s initial plan, Campbell said, “I do believe we have to provide our senior leadership with options different from the current plan.”

Media Are Blamed as US Bombing of Afghan Hospital Is Covered Up

New York Times headline corrected

A US-led NATO military coalition bombed a hospital run by international humanitarian aid organization Doctors Without Borders (known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontières, MSF) in Afghanistan, killing at least 22 people—12 staff members and 10 patients, including three children—and wounding 37 more.

AFP, the first network to report the story, in the early hours of October 3, quoted NATO saying, “US forces conducted an air strike in Kunduz city…. The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility.”

MSF promptly issued a statement (10/3/15), revealing that it had been “hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged.” In an update hours later, MSF said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms the horrific bombing of its hospital in Kunduz, which was full of staff and patients.”

The humanitarian organization also indicated multiple times—and in bold capital letters—that “all parties to the conflict, including in Kabul and Washington, were clearly informed of the precise location (GPS Coordinates) of the MSF facilities in Kunduz, including the hospital, guesthouse, office and an outreach stabilization unit.” MSF says the US “repeatedly and precisely” hit the hospital.

Morever, the aid group explained that the “bombing in Kunduz continued for more than 30 minutes after American and Afghan military officials in Kabul and Washington were first informed by MSF that its hospital was struck.” That is to say, the US persisted in bombing a hospital that it explicitly knew before and during the attack was a hospital.

If you read US corporate media coverage of this incident, however, US culpability would likely not be evident. Instead, readers would learn that a hospital was bombed in Afghanistan, and that people died. Who exactly carried out the bombing would not be clear.

cnn us air attack

“Air Attacks Kill at Least 19 at Afghanistan Hospital; US Investigating,” wrote CNN (9/3/15). Who carried out those attacks? Never asked is who else could possibly have bombed the hospital. What other air forces are attacking Kunduz? Did the bombs magically fall from the sky? CNN provides no answer.

“Aerial bombardments blew apart a Doctors Without Borders hospital in the battleground Afghan city of Kunduz about the time of a US airstrike” CNN said. The blowing apart of the hospital just appears to be a temporal coincidence.

fox us investigate airstrike

Fox News‘ headline (10/3/15) reads “US Officials Investigate Airstrike in Afghanistan That Killed at Least 19 at Doctors Without Borders Hospital.”

The New York Times completely rewrote and changed the title of its report on the bombing seven times. Early on October 3, the Times published an article headlined “Airstrike Hits Hospital in Afghanistan, Killing at Least 9.” Minutes later, it changed the headline to “Airstrike Hits Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan.” Two hours after, it became “Afghan Hospital Hit by Airstrike, Pentagon Says.” Then “US Investigates After Bombs Hit Afghan Hospital,” before finalizing as “US Is Blamed After Bombs Hit Afghan Hospital.”

The over 20 versions of the article published in the Times‘ website can be seen at the website NewsDiffs, which monitors edits to pieces published in large new outlets. Because the Times changed the web URL for the article when changing the headlines, there are three separate entries on NewsDiffs.

newsdiffs nyt us bombs afghan hospital

Not one of the five New York Times headlines indicated that the US was responsible for the bombing. The final title, “US Is Blamed After Bombs Hit Afghan Hospital,” which was published in print, fails to acknowledge that it was the US who dropped those bombs, which explains why it is blamed.

The New York Times‘ other story (10/4/15), “Doctors Without Borders Says It Is Leaving Kunduz After Strike on Hospital,” was also substantially edited and rewritten numerous times. It’s likewise full of weasel words and quotes from the US government.

The Washington Post (10/4/15) also changed headlines and URLs for its reporting, making it difficult to track. It did choose a title acknowledging the US role in the attack, but attributed it to MSF, writing, “Doctors Without Borders Says US Airstrike Hit Hospital in Afghanistan; at Least 19 Dead.”

AP headlined an article (10/4/15) updating the death toll, “Doctors Without Borders Leaves Afghan City After Airstrike.” The piece says, “A deadly airstrike destroyed its hospital and killed 22 people, as the US and Afghan governments vowed to get to the bottom of the carnage.” Not mentioned is that the US government is responsible for the carnage.

Ambiguous, misleading and even downright dishonest language abounds throughout the coverage. US media spin the story to reflect positively on the culprit; they report that the US is investigating the atrocity, while failing to acknowledge that the US itself is responsible for the atrocity.

This technique is very reminiscent of the loaded language police departments use to downplay police brutality—language that is often repeated verbatim by journalists who just uncritically quote government press releases.

Not all media were as biased in the interest of the Pentagon, however. Even some US news outlets were clear and honest in their reporting.

slate us airstrike

Slate (10/3/15) was one of the few publications to report without the equivocation. “US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Afghanistan Kills at Least 19,” it said. The next day, Slate (10/4/15) followed up with the piece “Doctors Without Borders Says US May Have Committed War Crime.”

US: We Accidentally Bombed Hospital to Kill Taliban

After the attack, MSF released a statement saying “All indications currently point to the bombing being carried out by international Coalition forces”—that is to say, NATO.

As details became clearer, the media narrative began to shift from one of obfuscation or even denial of the US bombing to one of apologism and justification. When it was obvious that the US and NATO were responsible for killing and wounding scores of people at a hospital, the US and Afghan governments began to fall back on the “human shields” excuse.

A Washington Post article (10/4/15) first titled “Afghan Official: Hospital in Airstrike Was ‘a Taliban Base,’” and subsequently changed to “Afghan Response to Hospital Bombing Is Muted, Even Sympathetic,” quotes Afghan government officials who claimed the “hospital has a vast garden, and the Taliban were there.” Yet MSF’s aforementioned statement makes it clear that the US “repeatedly and precisely” bombed the hospital, not the surrounding areas, which were “left mostly untouched.”

The aid organization also explicitly denied fighters ever being anywhere inside the hospital compound.

In a statement titled “MSF Response to Spurious Claims That Kunduz Hospital Was ‘A Taliban Base,’” the aid organization wrote:

MSF is disgusted by the recent statements coming from some Afghanistan government authorities justifying the attack on its hospital in Kunduz. These statements imply that Afghan and US forces working together decided to raze to the ground a fully functioning hospital with more than 180 staff and patients inside because they claim that members of the Taliban were present.

This amounts to an admission of a war crime. This utterly contradicts the initial attempts of the US government to minimize the attack as “collateral damage.”

There can be no justification for this abhorrent attack on our hospital that resulted in the deaths of MSF staff as they worked and patients as they lay in their beds. MSF reiterates its demand for a full transparent and independent international investigation.

MSF also made it clear that its hospital “is the only facility of its kind in the whole northeastern region of Afghanistan,” and that its “doctors treat all people according to their medical needs and do not make distinctions based on a patient’s ethnicity, religious beliefs or political affiliation.”

Despite MSF’s explicit denial of the allegations, US media continued to reiterate the claims of US and Afghan government officials.

Anonymous US military officials told Fox News (10/3/15) they “regret the loss” of scores of innocent lives, but “say the incident could have been avoided if the Taliban had not used the hospital as a base, and the civilians there as human shields.”

But wait, which was it? Was the bombing an accidental incident of “collateral damage,” as the government claimed at first, and as the media reverberated? Or was it a deliberate attack on the Taliban, who were supposedly firing from the hospital? It can’t be both; the two explanations contradict each other.

The fact that, when MSF’s points—and not just those of the US and Afghan governments—are considered, the human shields argument does not withstand close scrutiny aside, a blatant contradiction emerges in this narrative. The answer to this critical question remains unknown; the government, and the media that so obediently echoes it, do not clarify.

MSF's Kunduz hospital on fire, after being bombed by the US/NATO Photo: MSF

Striking, too, are the similarities to US reporting on Israeli airstrikes. In order to justify bombing hospitals in Gaza, the US-backed Israeli government often claims Palestinian militants use the medical facilities as bases. Israel’s military—which has itself used human shields many times—then says it is justified to bomb hospitals, UN shelters and other civilians areas.

US ally and NATO member Turkey borrowed Israel’s hasbara (public relations) tactic and claimed the same about leftist Kurdish militants in order to justify its killing of Kurdish civilians.

The Wall Street Journal (10/4/15) boldly steered clear of any posturing and openly justified the US bombing of the hospital. The unsigned editorial justified the mass killing of MSF aid workers by shifting the blame onto the Taliban insurgents. It even brought up the specter of Hamas, writing, “Like Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, the terrorists hide near civilians. These Taliban tactics put the medical personnel and patients at risk.” The piece waxes poetic, and hagiographic; in a moment of undiluted American exceptionalism on blast, the Journal claimed that “no force in the history of warfare has done more to avoid civilian casualties than the American military.”

Remove references to the US and the Taliban in such media coverage, replace it with blanks, and you have a template media can use any time a US ally bombs civilians—A Guide to Defending War Crimes Committed by US Allies: “[Ally] did not actually want to bomb [civilian area], but [enemy] forced it to.”

Double Standards

When US enemies like Russia carry out airstrikes, all nuance is thrown out the window; US media drop their standards and gleefully accuse the enemies of war crimes. Yet when the US and NATO carry out airstrikes, journalists suddenly have a newfound skepticism. Their language immediately becomes ambiguous, their writing unclear; murky passages written in the passive voice are ubiquitous.

Official international bodies have not minced words about the bombing, nevertheless. The UN says the US attack on the Kunduz hospital was “inexcusable and possibly even criminal” (Australia’s ABC, 10/4/15). UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein remarked, “If established as deliberate in a court of law, an airstrike on a hospital may amount to a war crime.”

Wounded MSF staff after the US/NATO bombing of its Kunduz hospital Photo: MSF

MSF said the attack “constitutes a grave violation of international humanitarian law.” The aid group called the bombing a “war crime” and “a grave violation of International Humanitarian Law.”

The humanitarian organization is demanding an investigation “by an independent international body,” not by the US, noting that “relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald (Intercept, 10/3/15) pointed out the hypocrisy of the US warning about civilian casualties of Russian airstrikes while it bombs scores of doctors and patients in Afghanistan, a country it has militarily occupied for close to 15 years.

When Russia denies killing civilians in its airstrikes on Syria, US media are suddenly skeptical and thorough; yet when the US government makes the same claims, journalists just recycle its press releases.

Is the job of the media to just uncritically report what favored governments say? Or is it supposed to examine the truth of official claims? If it is supposed to be the latter, US media have abysmally failed in their duties in reporting on the US bombing of MSF’s Kunduz hospital.


Ben Norton is a freelance journalist and writer. His website can be found at BenNorton.com and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

Consortium News

Seen through a night-vision device, U.S. Marines conduct a combat logistics patrol in Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 21, 2013. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz)

The apparent U.S. slaughter of at least 22 people at an Afghan hospital, including Doctors Without Borders medical staff, is part of the grim reality of indiscriminate death when U.S. Special Forces undertake their secret raids and often toss aside the rules of warfare, reports Nicolas J S Davies.

By Nicolas J S Davies

On Dec. 26, 2009, a U.S. Special Operations team flew from Kabul to Ghazi Khan village in the Narang district of Kunar province. They attacked three houses, where they killed two adults and eight children. Seven of the children were handcuffed before they were shot. The youngest was 11 or 12, three more were 12, and one was 15. Both the United Nations and the Afghan government conducted investigations and confirmed all the details of the attack.

U.S. officials conducted their own inquiry, but no report was published and no U.S. military or civilian officials were held accountable. Finally, more than five years later, a New York Times report on Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC) Seal Team 6 named it as the U.S. force involved. But JSOC operations are officially secret and, to all practical purposes, immune from accountability. As a senior U.S. officer told the Times, “JSOC investigates JSOC, that’s part of the problem.”

Accountability for the U.S. attack on the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz on Saturday, killing at least 22 people, is likely to be just as elusive. The bilateral security agreement that President Karzai refused to sign, but which President Ghani signed in September 2014, provides total immunity from Afghan law for U.S. forces and officials. So whoever should be held legally responsible for the massacre at the hospital will only be subject to accountability under U.S. military and civilian legal systems, which routinely fail to prosecute anyone for similar war crimes.

 

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Doctors Without Borders pulls out of Kunduz after apparent U.S. airstrike

Humanitarian group calls bombing that killed 22 a war crime

CBC News Posted: Oct 04, 2015 9:29 AM ETLast Updated: Oct 05, 2015 8:50 AM ET

  • A hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières in the Afghan city of Kunduz is seen in flames, after explosions in the city on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.
  • A hospital run by Médecins Sans Frontières in the Afghan city of Kunduz is seen in flames, after explosions in the city on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015. (Médecins Sans Frontières/AP)

The international humanitarian group Médecins Sans Frontières said Sunday it had withdrawn from the northern Afghan city of Kunduz after a deadly airstrike destroyed its hospital and killed 22 people.

The humanitarian crisis in the city, which briefly fell to the Taliban last week before the government launched a counteroffensive, has grown increasingly dire, with shops shuttered because of ongoing fighting and roads made impassable by mines planted by insurgents.

The medical group, also known by its English name Doctors Without Borders, blames the 22 deaths on a U.S. airstrike. Afghan officials said helicopter gunships were returning fire from Taliban fighters who were hiding in the hospital.

But the organization is calling the bombing a war crime, with the executive director of its Canadian division telling CBC News that staff contacted both the U.S. and Afghan forces throughout, but the airstrike continued for another 35 minutes.

“Such attacks against medical facilities are grave breaches of humanitarian law,” Stephen Cornish told CBC News on Sunday. “At the time of this attack our surgery team were operating on a patient on the operating table who [then] died on that operating table.

 

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