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Issue #1707      October 21, 2015

Kunduz Trauma Centre bombing

“Investigate US military atrocity”

The following is what Dr Kathleen (Kass) Thomas wrote on facebook upon her return to Australia after working the last five months in Kunduz Centre, Afghanistan, as the Director of Emergency and ICU.

October 3, 2015 was the worst day of my life. The very foundations on which Medicines Sans Frontieres’ (MSF) Kunduz Trauma Centre stood were physically and metaphorically destroyed as a shower of heartless, relentless bombs landed with precision on their intended target – our hospital. As the hospital burnt to the ground, it took with it the lives of many of my friends, colleagues and patients and injured countless others.

Surgery activities in one of the remaining parts of MSF’s hospital in Kunduz, in the aftermath of the bombings.

These were colleagues who I had worked side by side with continuously since the beginning of the heavy fighting in Kunduz early in the week. They had decided to stay in the hospital, working around the clock, to treat injured patients from both sides of the conflict, many of them innocent civilians.

As the war raged around us, we huddled together, taking comfort in the fact that both warring parties respected our hospital’s neutrality and impartiality, understood our rules which aligned with those of international humanitarian law, and knew our GPS coordinates. We all believed the hospital was the safest place to be.

The events that unfolded that early morning can only be described as a nightmare. The staff that had tirelessly looked after victims of war trauma for the past six days, had now sustained the same injuries as their patients – limbs blown off, shrapnel rocketed through their bodies, burns, pressure wave injuries of the eyes and ears, etc. Suddenly we were treating our own staff with minimal supplies and no facilities while merciless bombs fell around us.

Our colleagues did not die peacefully like in the movies. They dies painfully, slowly, some of them screaming out for help that never came, many alone and terrified knowing the extent of their own injuries and aware of their impending death.

Trapped, fully conscious patients were engulfed in flames and burned to death in their beds. Young, dedicated, eager doctors, nurses, cleaners, watchmen, pharmacists and medical records staff, with their whole life in front of them, were ripped viciously from this life. Those who didn’t die sustained major injuries which will render them severely disabled for the rest of their lives.

The remaining staff that remain in Kunduz, many of whom support big families, have lost their employment. Kunduz city has lost its only functional health care facility leaving wounded civilians with nowhere to get medical treatment.

And for what reason? Why? I simply cannot comprehend how or why this happened. But I do know that it is completely inexcusable. The US military cannot show such utter disregard for International Humanitarian Law and get away with it.

For the sake of my lost and injured friends, colleagues, and patients, and for the future of innocent civilians caught up in warfare around the world, we must demand an independent investigation into the attack on MSF’s Kunduz Trauma Centre. There must be accountability for this brutal event.

Please, I ask you to show your solidarity with MSF and Kunduz and share this with as many people as possible, or post your own photo of yourself on social media with the sign: #independentinvestigation and #Kunduz.

I know that the horror of what I witnessed on October 3, 2015 will never leave my mind, and the grief of losing friends, colleagues and patients will never leave my heart, but if we can bring worldwide attention to this issue, and demand the US military be held accountable so that it cannot happen again, then at least there will be something positive to come from such a heart wrenching atrocity.

Thank you.

Kass

Next article – Editorial – Shades of an aspirational fascist

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