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Survivors of Afghan raid tell of hospital under siege

KABUL, Afghanistan - It was like the end of the world, Anayatullah Nazari said. "It was like they were determined to kill us all and that nobody would survive."

KABUL, Afghanistan - It was like the end of the world, Anayatullah Nazari said. "It was like they were determined to kill us all and that nobody would survive."

More than six weeks after a U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship repeatedly struck a well-marked Doctors Without Borders hospital, killing 30 people in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, official U.S., NATO, and Afghan government reviews have yet to be released.

But a dozen survivors interviewed by the Associated Press are convinced that the assault on the hospital - which treated Taliban and government fighters alike - was no accident. They say it was sustained and focused on destroying the main hospital building.

A NATO general blamed human and technical errors. The Pentagon insists the Americans involved in ordering the strike didn't realize it was a hospital.

If they did, it would be a war crime.

It was just after 2 a.m. on Oct. 3 when the AC-130 shattered the first quiet evening in almost a week in Kunduz, where U.S. and Afghan forces were locked in a ground battle to retake the city of 300,000 from the Taliban. Suddenly, heavy weapons fire rained onto the hospital. The plane flew overhead again and again, strafing people who tried to escape until 3:15 a.m.

Gruesome deaths

There were 105 patients and 149 staffers inside, along with dozens of people caring for friends and relatives, an Afghan custom.

When it was finally over, some had been decapitated. Some bled to death after having limbs shot off. Those too ill to move were incinerated in their beds.

"One of my colleagues was trying to run away from the plane that kept coming back over the hospital," said a nurse who had gone outside to get some fresh air when the attack began.

"He ran from building to building but the plane was following him. Two other colleagues, Khalid and Tahseel, were also followed by the plane. Tahseel was hit by the guns fired from the plane and died. Khalid was injured," the nurse said, speaking on condition of anonymity for his security.

Acting Afghan Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai insists that the Taliban and Pakistan's spy agency directed their takeover of the city from the hospital. National security adviser Hanif Atmar told a European diplomat that the Afghans "will take full responsibility," and that "there was no doubt whatsoever that the Taliban were inside the hospital, that they took it over, thus violating its sanctity," according to notes from the meeting reviewed by the AP.

No evidence

Doctors Without Borders - also known by its French acronym MSF - rejects these assertions, and no evidence has emerged to support them. Survivors interviewed by the AP said that the compound was peaceful before the attack.

The AP has previously reported that U.S. special forces had described the hospital as being under enemy control.

A senior officer in the Green Beret unit sent a report the day before, saying one of their objectives would be to "clear the trauma center" of enemy forces, and that its coordinates had been shared with "all friendly forces," according to two people who described the officer's log to the AP.

Neither Afghan nor U.S. ground forces had eyes on the target, American and Afghan officials said, although the gunship crew, flying in low and slow, would have seen it clearly lit up by generator-powered floodlights.

President Obama has apologized to MSF, without explaining why the U.S. military's chain of command approved the attack.

Some U.S. officials point to a military intelligence computer network that soldiers say was not working properly in Afghanistan, raising the possibility that even though many special operations analysts knew of the hospital, the information was not made available to the commanders who approved the strike.