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Doctors Without Borders Leaves Kunduz, Afghanistan After Deadly Airstrike

by The Associated Press, F. Brinley Bruton and Fazul Rahim /  / Updated 

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Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included reporting from The Associated Press that video footage of the burned-out compound in Kunduz showed automatic weapons, including rifles and at least one machine gun, on windowsills. The AP has since corrected their story and removed the reference after a review of the images cast doubt on whether there were weapons on the hospital windows or simply charred debris.

KABUL — International medical charity Doctors Without Borders said it has left the northern city of Kunduz after an apparent U.S. airstrike killed 19 people at its hospital there.

"MSF hospital in Kunduz is not functional anymore," Kate Stegeman, a Kabul-based spokesperson for the charity also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, announced in a tweet on Sunday.

The group blames the U.S. for the airstrike. Afghan officials said helicopter gunships returned fire from Taliban fighters who were hiding in the facility.

According to Polly Markandya, a Doctors Without Borders representative in London, all staff and patients had been relocated to two other facilities in Kabul and another location two hours away from the city.

Investigations were continuing into the bombing of the hospital, which killed at least 19 people, including 12 Doctors Without Borders staffers.

Related: Will Taliban Invasion Keep U.S. Boots on Ground in Afghanistan?

Another 37 others were injured in the strike: 19 staff members, including five in critical condition, and 18 patients and caretakers, according to Jason Cone, the executive director for Doctors Without Borders in the U.S. The organization didn't comment on the identities of the victims, but said all international staffers were alive and accounted for.

Image: Afghan (MSF) surgeons work inside a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital
Afghan surgeons work inside a Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital after an air strike in the city of Kunduz, Afghanistan, on Saturday.MSF via Reuters

Coalition spokesman Col. Brian Tribus confirmed that a U.S. airstrike conducted at around 2:15 a.m. local time on Saturday (5:45 p.m. ET Friday) "may have caused collateral damage to a nearby health facility."

On Saturday, President Barack Obama offered his condolences to the victims and said he will be kept updated on any developments into the investigation of the bombing.

"The Department of Defense has launched a full investigation, and we will await the results of that inquiry before making a definitive judgment as to the circumstances of this tragedy," he said in a statement.

Stegeman said there were 105 patients and about 80 staff in the building at the time of the bombing — but no insurgents.

"All the gates were closed and we never allow arms in to our facilities," she said.

President Ashraf Ghani has said a joint investigation is underway with U.S. Forces.

The Taliban seized Kunduz last Monday but have since withdrawn from much of the city in the face of a government counterattack. Sporadic battles continue as troops attempt to clear remaining pockets of militants.

Afghan forces have been struggling to combat the Taliban since the U.S. and NATO shifted to a support and training role at the end of last year, officially ending their combat mission in the war-torn country.

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