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Nineteen Dead In Attack On Afghan Hospital; UN Calls Incident 'Inexcusable'

In this photograph released by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on October 3, 2015, Afghan MSF staff react in one of the remaining parts of the MSF hospital in Kunduz after it was hit by an air strike.

The United Nations has denounced air strikes on a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in the Afghan city of Kunduz after at least 19 people were killed, including 12 staff members, four adult patients, and three children.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said that "if established as deliberate in a court of law, an air strike on a hospital may amount to a war crime."

"This event is utterly tragic, inexcusable, and possibly even criminal," he added.

MSF said its hospital in Kunduz was partially destroyed after being hit by air strikes overnight on October 3.

At least 37 people were seriously injured in the attack.

"We are deeply shocked by the attack, the killing of our staff and patients, and the heavy toll it has inflicted on health care in Kunduz," MSF said.

It said the hospital was hit by a sustained "aerial attack" amid ongoing fighting between the Taliban and NATO-backed Afghan government troops to gain control of the city.

The charity also said that it had provided the GPS coordinates to coalition and Afghan military and civilian officials as early as September 29.

“All indications currently point to the bombing being carried out by international coalition forces,” MSF said in a statement posted online.

NATO admitted that it might have been responsible.

"U.S. forces conducted an air strike in Kunduz city at 2:15 a.m. ... against individuals threatening the force. The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility. This incident is under investigation," NATO said.

Taliban fighters do not have an air force.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul voiced sympathy for the victims in the bombing and "all those suffering from the violence in Kunduz."

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said a “full investigation” is under way in coordination with the Afghan government.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said 10 to 15 "terrorists" had been hiding in the hospital at the time of the strike.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s office issued a statement earlier saying the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission had apologized to Ghani over the hospital bombing. NATO, however, said it was not aware of such an apology.

MSF said that, at the time of the bombing, the hospital had 105 patients and their caretakers and more than 80 international and Afghan staff were present.

MSF said it had treated 394 people wounded in fighting since the Taliban attacked the city on September 28.

Government forces largely regained control over the strategic city of 300,000 on October 1, but sporadic fighting continues as Afghan troops track down remaining Taliban fighters.

During the fighting, the U.S. military launched several air strikes to support government forces.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a statement saying there were no Taliban fighters in the hospital at the time of the bombing. It blamed Afghanistan's intelligence service for misdirecting the air strike to purposefully hit the hospital.

The MSF clinic in Kunduz comprises several buildings and is located in the east of the city, not far from the local office of NDS, the Afghan intelligence service.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP