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16 US military personnel disciplined over Afghanistan hospital bombing

Published 28/04/2016

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. Thirty-three people are still missing days after a US air strike on an Afghan hospital, the medical charity has warned, sparking fears the death toll could rise significantly. AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
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. Thirty-three people are still missing days after a US air strike on an Afghan hospital, the medical charity has warned, sparking fears the death toll could rise significantly. AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
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. Thirty-three people are still missing days after a US air strike on an Afghan hospital, the medical charity has warned, sparking fears the death toll could rise significantly. AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
In this Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 photo, the charred remains of the Doctors Without Borders hospital is seen after being hit by a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The attack, which killed a number of hospital staff and patients, was intended to back up Afghan forces fighting to dislodge Taliban insurgents who overran the strategic city earlier in the month. (Najim Rahim via AP)
In this Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015 photo, the charred remains of the Doctors Without Borders hospital is seen after being hit by a U.S. airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The attack, which killed a number of hospital staff and patients, was intended to back up Afghan forces fighting to dislodge Taliban insurgents who overran the strategic city earlier in the month. (Najim Rahim via AP)
The damaged interior of the 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. Thirty-three people are still missing days after a US air strike on an Afghan hospital, the medical charity has warned, sparking fears the death toll could rise significantly. AFP PHOTOSTR/AFP/Getty Images
FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2015 file photo, injured Doctors Without Borders staff are seen near their hospital after it was hit by a U.S. airstrike. Days before the Oct. 3 U.S. air attack on a hospital in Afghanistan, American special operations analysts were gathering intelligence on the facility which they knew was a protected medical site because they believed it was being used by a Pakistani operative to coordinate Taliban activity, The Associated Press has learned. (M?decins Sans Fronti?res via AP, File)

Sixteen US military personnel, including one general officer, have been disciplined for mistakes that led to the bombing of a civilian hospital in Afghanistan last year that killed 42 people.

US officials said the service members received administrative punishments and no criminal charges were filed in connection with the air strike in the northern city of Kunduz.

A number of those punished are US special operations forces.

In many cases, a non-judicial punishment, such as a letter of reprimand or suspension, can effectively end a military career.

The full report on the investigation is expected to be released by the Pentagon on Friday.

Last month, the Associated Press reported that more than a dozen US military personnel had been disciplined in connection with the bombing, and that they were all largely administrative.

The hospital, run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders in Kunduz, was attacked by a US Air Force special operations AC-130 gunship, one of the most lethal in the US arsenal.

Doctors Without Borders called the attack "relentless and brutal".

Last November, the US military said the crew of the AC-130, which is armed with side-firing cannons and guns, had been dispatched to hit a Taliban command centre in a different building 450 yards away from the hospital.

However, hampered by problems with their targeting sensors, the crew relied on a physical description that led them to begin firing at the hospital even though they saw no hostile activity there.

Officials have said the accident was caused by human error and that many chances to avert the incident were missed.

A separate US report on the incident, obtained last autumn by the Associated Press, said the AC-130 aircraft fired 211 shells at the hospital compound over 29 minutes before commanders realised the mistake and ordered a halt.

Doctors Without Borders officials contacted coalition military personnel during the attack to say the hospital was "being 'bombed' from the air", and the word was finally relayed to the AC-130 crew, the report said.

The attack came as US military advisers were helping Afghan forces retake Kunduz, which had fallen to the Taliban on September 28. It was the first major city to fall since the Taliban were expelled from Kabul in 2001.

Afghan officials claimed the hospital had been overrun by the Taliban, but no evidence of that has surfaced. The hospital was destroyed and Doctors Without Borders ceased operations in Kunduz.

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