US military says ‘collateral damage’ from airstrike was accident

By Simon Cambers and David Wright, CNN • Updated 12th September 2017 The U.S. military has spoken out for the first time about reports that a coalition airstrike killed dozens of civilians in Syria…

US military says 'collateral damage' from airstrike was accident

By Simon Cambers and David Wright, CNN • Updated 12th September 2017

The U.S. military has spoken out for the first time about reports that a coalition airstrike killed dozens of civilians in Syria last month.

A statement published on the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) website on Wednesday said the alleged incident occurred on February 23, targeting a tactical unit of ISIS extremists as the extremists came under fire from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The U.S. military said it had assessed the incident was a mistake and had no evidence to back up the claim that “some civilians” were present.

“The Coalition did not intentionally target the SDF; the U.S. only targets ISIS tactical units and light tactical vehicles,” the statement read.

“The alleged incident occurred as the ISIS terrorists’ convoy of at least 20 vehicles and six buses was being dismounted and turning around to make a single vehicle-borne explosive device (VBIED) against advancing SDF.”

It continued: “Based on a comprehensive and impartial review of all relevant information, no evidence supports the assertion that some civilians were present as claimed. The Coalition also reviewed captured or seen video of the incident and found no evidence of damage to SDF or civilian areas.

“The incident remains under investigation. The coalition believes the video is a clumsy attempt to scapegoat the U.S. for a civilian casualty incident that resulted from the ISIS terrorists’ choice to use explosive weapons.”

Among those killed in the attack were ISIS supporters, suspected members of al Qaeda and relatives of ISIS fighters, the U.S. said.

“While the U.S. does not routinely disclose details about strikes, this incident remains under investigation and we will make it public as appropriate,” the statement said.

Coalition spokesman Col. Ryan Dillon previously told CNN that U.S. forces “are very clear with our partners that we don’t selectively target civilians,” adding that those killed had been killed “by persons in an ISIS-held area who actively encouraged them to come to that area and to put their lives in their hands.”

It was the first time that CENTCOM had provided any details about a U.S. airstrike in Syria that has been widely reported to have killed dozens of civilians.

A Syrian opposition monitoring group, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said 54 people had been killed in the Feb. 23 strike, according to its founder Rami Abdel Rahman.

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