Afghan special forces raid MSF hospital

Kunduz, July 2

Afghan special forces raided a hospital run by medical aid group Médecins Sans Frontières in northern Afghanistan, in search of a suspected al Qaeda operative being treated there, a commander of the elite force said today.

Raids on hospitals are rare because they are protected by international law and those run by foreign aid agencies in Afghanistan provide crucial support to war victims, who may travel for days to get assistance.

It was unclear if yesterday’s raid by a contingent of special forces from the capital, Kabul, had succeeded in capturing its target, Kunduz special forces commander Abdullah told Reuters. “I was told he was an al Qaeda member being treated at the MSF Hospital,” Abdullah said.

The northern city of Kunduz has been on the front line of the increasingly bloody conflict for months, with Taliban forces overrunning two districts in the province and striking checkpoints close to the city.

The French aid group said its hospital was temporarily closed to new patients after armed soldiers had entered and behaved violently towards staff.

“This incident demonstrates a serious lack of respect for the medical mission, which is safeguarded under international humanitarian law,” MSF said in a statement.

A staff member who works for the aid group said, “The foreign doctors tried to stop the Afghan Special Operations guys, but they went in anyway, searching the hospital.”

He declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Medicins Sans Frontieres hospitals provide aid to war victims, regardless of which side they support or how they were injured.