US military concealed airstrikes that killed dozens of Syrian civilians – NYT

The US military covered up the 2019 airstrikes in Syria that killed up to 64 women and children, a possible war crime, during the battle against Islamic State, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

The two consecutive airstrikes near the city of Baghuz were ordered by a classified US special operations unit tasked with ground operations in Syria, according to the report.

The newspaper said the US Central Command, which oversaw US air operations in Syria, recognized the strikes for the first time this week and said they were justified.

In a statement on Saturday, the Central Command reiterated the account it gave to the newspaper that 80 people were killed in the attacks, including 16 Islamic State fighters and four civilians. The army said it was unclear if the other 60 people were civilians, in part because the women and children could have been combatants.

In Saturday’s statement, the military said the attacks were “legitimate defense”, proportionate and that “adequate measures were taken to rule out the presence of civilians.”

Missile fire is seen from Damascus, Syria, on May 10, 2018 (credit: REUTERS / OMAR SANADIKI)

“We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent it. In this case, we self-report and investigate the strike based on our own evidence and take full responsibility for the involuntary loss of life,” Central Command said.

The number of civilians among the 60 deaths could not be determined because “several armed women and at least one armed child were observed” in a video of the events, he said, adding that most of the 60 were likely combatants.

Central Command said the attacks took place while the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were under heavy fire and in danger of being overrun and the SDF had reported that the area was free of civilians.

The Department of Defense inspector general launched an investigation into the March 18, 2019 incident, but his report was ultimately “stripped” of any mention of the bombing and a full and independent investigation was never conducted, according to the Times. The newspaper said its report was based on confidential documents and descriptions of classified reports, as well as interviews with personnel directly involved.

An Air Force attorney present at the operations center at the time believed the attacks were possible war crimes and later alerted the Department of Defense inspector general and the Senate Armed Services Committee when no action was taken, he said. the Times.

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