JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, on Tuesday called the recent airstrike on an Afghan hospital in the northern city of Kunduz a mistake.
The U.S. chain of command decided to conduct the operation and the hospital was "mistakenly struck,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee of the incident that left 22 people dead.
"We would never intentionally target a protected medical facility," he told the senators. "I must allow the investigation to take its course and, therefore, I’m not at liberty to discuss further specifics at this time. However, I assure you that the investigation will be thorough, objective and transparent.”
And in light of the Kunduz airstrike, Campbell said he has ordered retraining of the rules of engagement.
“To prevent any future incidences of this nature, I've directed the entire force to undergo in-depth training in order to review all of our operational authorities and rules of engagement,” he said.
The rules for U.S. and Afghan troops in Afghanistan requesting airstrikes are that they can be called in for counterterrorism strikes, force protection or, in extreme situations, to prevent casualties.
Although the airstrikes on the Doctors Without Borders hospital were requested by Afghan forces, Campbell said, they were approved by the U.S. chain of command.
“The Afghan forces on the ground requested air support from our forces there on the ground," he explained, "but as I said in my opening statement, even though the Afghans requested air support, it still has to go through a rigorous U.S. procedure to enable fires to go on the ground.”
Campbell added: "We had a special operations unit that was in close vicinity that was talking to the aircraft that delivered those fires.”
After the general told reporters Monday that Afghan forces who were under attack by the Taliban requested the U.S. airstrikes, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said in a statement: "The U.S. government has admitted that it was their airstrike that hit our hospital in Kunduz and killed 22 patients and MSF staff. Their description of the attack keeps changing – from collateral damage, to a tragic incident, to now attempting to pass responsibility to the Afghanistan government. The reality is the U.S. dropped those bombs. The U.S. hit a huge hospital full of wounded patients and MSF staff."
In terms of troop levels there, Campbell on Tuesday also confirmed to the committee that he has presented recommendations to the White House that would revise the planned drawdown of all 9,800 U.S. troops by the end of next year.
Campbell said a reduction in forces by 2017 remains the “planning assumption,” but “much has changed” since the drawdown plan was decided in mid-2014, when President Obama's decision “did not take into account the changes over the past two years.”
"As a result," Campbell said, "I’ve put forward recommendations to adjust this new environment while addressing our missions, train, advise and assist the Afghan Security Forces and conduct counterterrorism missions to protect the homeland."
Mike Coppola/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Six people, including former United Nations General Assembly President John Ashe, were charged Tuesday in a wide-ranging corruption and bribery scheme related to business projects in the Chinese gambling hub of Macau.
Ashe is accused of accepting over $1 million in bribes “from sources in China” in exchange for performing “official actions for businessmen who were seeking benefits from the U.N. and the government of Antigua and Barbuda” -- the country for which Ashe was also an ambassador to the U.N., according to a criminal complaint released on Tuesday. Ashe was president of the General Assembly in 2013.
“Among other things, Ashe accepted over $500,000 of bribes facilitated by [defendants Francis] Lorenzo and [Jeff C.] Yin from [defendant Ng Lap Seng], who was seeking to build a multi-billion dollar, U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau, China,” the complaint says. Ambassador Francis Lorenzo is a naturalized U.S. citizen, but has been a U.N. diplomat representing the Dominican Republic for the last 11 years, according to the complaint.
The complaint says Ashe also received over $800,000 in bribes “from various Chinese businessmen” and in return “supported these businessmen’s interests within the United Nations and with senior Antiguan government officials, including the country’s then-Prime Minister… with whom Ashe shared a portion of the bribe payments.”
An attorney for Lorenzo, Brian Bieber, told ABC News his client voluntarily surrendered to the FBI early Tuesday morning.
"Ambassador Lorenzo acted in good faith at all times and to his detriment, trusted the people he dealt with and relied on their integrity," Bieber said. "We anticipate a response to all the detailed allegations being leveled against the Ambassador to be forthcoming shortly."
ABC News previously reported Ng’s arrest late last month by the FBI. He is accused of lying about why he brought $4.5 million in cash to the United States. The complaint against Ng details a series of trips he made to the U.S., often by private jet, allegedly carrying large amounts of cash, but did not say for whom the money was intended.
Almost two decades ago, Ng was identified in a 1998 Senate report as the source of hundreds of thousands of dollars illegally funneled through an Arkansas restaurant owner, Charlie Trie, to the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton administration.
“Trie’s contributions purchased access for himself and Ng to the highest levels of our government,” the Senate report said. Ng and Trie made a number of visits to the White House to attend Democratic National Committee-sponsored events and was photographed with President Bill Clinton and then-first lady Hillary Clinton. ABC News reported in 1997 that Ng had made six trips to the White House.
After Ng’s arrest last month, a spokesman for the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign, Brian Fallon, said there had been no contact between the campaign and Ng, and there is no indication of any current ties to the Clintons or the Democratic Party.
Justin Tallis - WPA Pool/Getty Images(LONDON) -- Prince Harry on Monday made the day of some seriously ill children in London when he attended the WellChild Awards.
Taking a page from his mother, the late Princess Diana, Prince Harry brought a smile to the courageous children at the awards, many of whom are battling life-threatening illnesses.
WellChild, a U.K. charity of which Prince Harry is Patron, seeks to provide care for any seriously ill child, no matter how challenging their condition may be.
One child who had mistaken the fifth-in-line to the British throne for a clown, made a special request, asking the prince, “Can you make me a balloon animal please?”
Although Prince Harry attends each year to deliver the “Most Inspirational Child” award to children in different age groups, he was overwhelmed by the kids again this year.
“This is my eighth WellChild Awards now and every year, without fail, I am humbled by the people and children I meet,” Prince Harry, 31, said.
Harry described the event as another “emotional roller coaster” as he was touched by the children’s heroism.
“You guys are awesome” he told the children. “The stories we have heard tonight are moving beyond words. They remind us of the utter insignificance of everyday worries.”
Ruby Smallman was presented with the “Most Caring Young Person” award for caring for her older sister, who is a quadriplegic.
Ruby, wearing a tiara, presented Harry with a ceramic penguin she made, complete with a crown, the British flag, military medals and a sign pointing to the South Pole.
She knew Harry had been to the South Pole nearly two years ago during the Walking with the Wounded 200-mile charity trek.
Prince Harry, who retired from the British army in June, has previously told ABC News’ Royal Contributor Victoria Murphy that the memory of his mother had inspired him in his charitable endeavors.
“It’s something our mother did a lot of and that’s the time that you really get to learn, you get the experience and you actually get the honest truth out of people," Harry said.
Prince Harry has often been compared to his late mother because of his ability to connect with children and adults from all walks of life -- battling injury and sickness -- and bringing a smile and laugh to their face.
The WellChild Awards were no exception.
“It is heartening to hear so many stories of happiness and hope even though dark times,” Prince Harry said Monday. “We literally have the bravest children in the U.K. in this room."
PeterHermesFurian/iStock/ThinkStock(ISTANBUL) -- Russian airstrikes in Syria is causing a possible confrontation with a NATO ally.
Turkey is accusing Russian warplanes of violating its airspace during aerial assaults on neighboring Syria.
The country's foreign minsitry says that two Turkish planes patrolling the border forced a Russian aircraft to leave its airspace.
Officials in Turkey are angered at the supposed incursion, and have summoned the Russian ambassador.
Turkey is also expressing concern about Russian strikes targeting some foreign-backed rebel groups.
NATO has urged Russia to cease all airstrikes. A statement from the North Atlantic Council released on Monday said, "Russian military actions have reached a more dangerous level with the recent violations of Turkish airspace on 3 October and 4 October by Russian Air Force SU-30 and SU-24 aircraft in teh Hatay region."
"And Allies strongly protest these violations of Turkish sovereign airspace, and condemn these incursions into and violations of NATO airspace. Allies also note the extreme danger of such irresponsible behaviour. They call on the Russian Federation to cease and desist, and immediately explain these violations."
Mark Fedor, the U.S. Coast Guard Chief of Response at Seventh Coast Guard District, holds a press conference about the missing cargo ship El Faro, Oct. 5, 2015. (ABC News)(NEW YORK) — The cargo ship that was last heard from on Thursday morning has sunk, but Coast Guard officials are holding out hope that they can find the 33 crew members who were on board.
The container ship, called El Faro, was en route from Jacksonville, Florida, to San Juan, Puerto Rico, when it went missing. The timing of the trip had the vessel close to the edge of Hurricane Joaquin, which was in the vicinity of the Bahamas for much of Thursday and Friday.
Capt. Mark Fedor, the Coast Guard chief of response, said Monday that they had found one emergency rescue suit that had "unidentifiable" human remains.
That person's remains were not recovered, as Fedor said that the rescuers were being called to other reports of signs of life, so after checking that the individual was deceased, they moved on in hopes of saving someone else, Fedor said during a news conference Monday.
"We needed to quickly move to other reports of life," Fedor said.
"We will remain hopeful that we ... will find survivors. That is our main focus as we move forward," he said.
The ship was last heard from at 7:20 a.m. on Thursday when a distress signal was sent, reporting that the vessel had lost electricity and was taking on water. There were 33 crew members on board, including 28 Americans, authorities said.
A big part of the problem was the proximity of the then-Category 4 storm, which prevented search operations from launching in full until Sunday.
"If they were able to abandon ship, it would have been in very challenging conditions," Fedor said, noting that one of the two lifeboats that was on board El Faro has been found but no one was on board.
"We're not going to discount somebody's will to survive," Fedor said of the chances of finding survivors.
Sayed Khodaberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said on Monday that Afghan forces who were under attack by the Taliban requested the U.S. airstrikes that resulted in 22 deaths at a hospital in Kunduz run by Doctors Without Borders.
"We have now learned that on October, 3rd, Afghan forces advised that they were taking fire from enemy positions and asked for air support from U.S. Forces," Campbell told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. "An air strike was then called to eliminate the Taliban threat and several civilians were accidentally struck."
Campbell said that information was different from initial reports that "indicated that U.S. forces were threatened and that the air strike was called on their behalf."
He said three investigations are underway and "if errors were committed, we'll acknowledge them. We'll hold those responsible accountable and we will take steps to ensure mistakes are not repeated."
In addition to the U.S. military's internal investigation, joint investigations are also being conducted with the Afghan government and NATO.
Campbell declined to address the rules of engagement for the U.S. military troops in Kunduz and who specifically had ordered the airstrike, citing the ongoing investigation. But he acknowledged that "the Afghans asked for air support from a special forces team that we have on the ground providing train advise and assist in Kunduz."
"But I think the impression that people got after the first couple days is they were firing directly on U.S. forces, and what I'm telling you today is as I've talked to the investigating officer, as we continue to get updated information, that that was not the case in this place," Campbell said.
He restated that the 9,800 U.S. troops serving as trainers in Afghanistan are not directly fighting the Taliban.
"Afghanistan remains an area of active hostilities and our personnel continue to operate in harms way. Therefore, they retain the inherent right of self-defense," Campbell said.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) this weekend demanded an independent investigation into the deadly airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that struck an MSF-run hospital, "under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed," calling the U.S. military's announcement that it would formally investigate "wholly insufficient."
"Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient," a statement Monday from MSF General Director Christopher Stokes said.
Gen. Campbell responded Monday when asked about the request for the organization's independent investigation: "If there's other investigations out there that need to go on I'll make sure that we coordinate those as well but I won't go into those details here. We're going to do everything we can in this case to be open and transparent."
Brigadier Gen. Richard Kim is conducting the initial military investigation and Campbell said he should have a preliminary report "in the next couple of days."
Campbell confirmed that an AC-130 gunship had been called in to strike at Taliban fighters.
Doctors Without Borders has asserted they provided the coalition the GPS coordinates for their hospital earlier in the week and that they contacted the coalition during the airstrikes to cease the attacks. Campbell said those were questions that Kim would be investigating.
JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- A 2,000-year-old arch in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra is the latest casualty by ISIS militants.
Professor Maamoun Abduilkarim, the country’s director of antiquities, confirmed that ISIS Sunday blew up the Arch of Triumph, one of the city’s most recognizable sites. “Shocked” and “shameful,” he told ABC News, noting that unlike the two temples that were destroyed earlier this year, the arch has no religious significance.
The arch was known to locals as the “Bridge of the Desert” because it linked the Roman Empire to Persia and the East.
Abduilkarim said he had not seen photos or videos of the devastation, but learned reports from eyewitnesses.
“They’re destroying building by building,” he said, “within three to six months, at this pace, we’re going to lose Palmyra.”
He said there had been witness accounts of militants digging holes with bulldozers to place explosives around the arch as well as other sites that he expects will be destroyed. The arch sat on top of columns lining the ancient city streets. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the columns have been left in place.
There are two choices, Abduilkarim said: Sit and watch and lose the city, or the Syrian army advances quickly with the support of the international forces and retakes Palmyra.
ISIS seized the city in May and has since destroyed many of the historic ruins, including the Temple of Baalshamin in August. The extremist group deems ancient relics a form of idolatry and against their strict interpretation of Islamic law, but the destruction of these sites is also believed to be a valuable source of income.
Palmyra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and contains “the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world,” according to UNESCO. The director general of UNESCO has called the destruction of Palmyra, once a top tourist attraction in the Middle East, a "new war crime and an immense loss for the Syrian people and for humanity."
NASA(NEW YORK) -- A treasure trove of thousands of high resolution images taken during the manned Apollo missions have been curated in a new Flickr gallery.
While the photos were obtained from NASA, the new gallery is an independent project run by Kipp Teague, who first created the Project Apollo Archive in 1999. The gallery includes new and unprocessed photos of the Apollo missions.
Astronauts are seen walking on the moon's cratered surface. There are iconic shots including the American flag on the moon, while other photos show astronauts smiling inside the spacecraft during the journey to the moon and back.
Mario Tama/Getty Images(KUNDUZ, Afghanistan) -- Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) is condemning the US bombing of their hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, calling it a "war crime," and are demanding that an independent investigation be conducted.
The airstrike happened on Saturday morning and has killed at least 22 people, including 12 medical staffers.
Coalition forces say US forces were targeting insurgents firing on them from the vicinity of the medical facility.
Jason Cone, the Executive Director for Doctors Without Borders in the United States says he wants to see proof. "If the hospital had been threatened and various armed groups operating in the city had demonstrated that they were not going to respect our facility prior to the bombing, we would have suspended operations and we would have evacuated our staff and our patients."
UPDATE: The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for survivors of the El Faro after finding debris in the ocean that is believed to be from the missing ship.
(NEW YORK) -- Officials are still searching for the cargo ship that went missing near the eye of Hurricane Joaquin.
The vessel, El Faro, is carrying 33 crew members including 28 Americans and heading from Florida to Puerto Rico. Coast Guard officials found a life ring, floating containers, and life jackets that officials say are consistent with what might have come from the missing El Faro.
Rescue crews searching for the vessel, reported finding an oil slick in the water, says the BBC. But officials are unable to confirm if the oil is from El Faro.
Officials are scouring 30,000 square nautical miles, mostly by air and in treacherous conditions due to the storm.
Hurricane Joaquin was downgraded to a category 2 and is heading toward the island of Bermuda.
izustun/iStock/ThinkStock(KUNDUZ, Afghanistan) -- A nurse detailed the chilling moments after an airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan, that struck a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders.
The first-hand account by Lajos Zoltan Jecs, a nurse at the trauma hospital, was posted online.
“There are no words for how terrible it was,” Jecs wrote, describing the airstrike responsible for at least 22 deaths.
He writes that he was asleep in the hospital safe room when the bombing occurred: “I was woken up by the sound of a big explosion nearby. At first I didn't know what was going on. Over the past week we'd heard bombings and explosions before, but always further away. This one was different, close and loud.”
Jecs says his first indication that the hospital itself had been struck was when an injured colleague made it to the safe room.
“It was one of the Emergency Room nurses. He staggered in with massive trauma to his arm. He was covered in blood, with wounds all over his body ... In the safe room, we have a limited supply of basic medical essentials, but there was no morphine to stop his pain,” Jecs wrote. “We did what we could.” After the bombing stopped, Jecs emerged and what he saw shocked him.
“We tried to take a look into one of the burning buildings. I cannot describe what was inside. There are no words for how terrible it was. In the Intensive Care Unit six patients were burning in their beds,” he wrote.
Jecs describes the scene as chaos.
“Enough staff had survived, so we could help all the wounded with treatable wounds. But there were too many that we couldn't help.”
Even seasoned medical staff members were deeply affected by what had occurred, according to Jecs. “Seeing adult men, your friends, crying uncontrollably — that is not easy,” he wrote. “I have been working here since May, and I have seen a lot of heavy medical situations. But it is a totally different story when they are your colleagues, your friends.”
The hospital was a home for Jecs.
“Yes, it is just a building. But it is so much more than that. It is healthcare for Kunduz. Now it is gone.” While the United States has said that it will conduct a full investigation into the attack on the hospital, Doctors Without Borders is calling for independent and international body to conduct any investigation to allow for full transparency.