U.S. criticized by observer groups for Syrian civilian casualties

Human Rights Watch and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights have criticized the U.S. for air strikes that they say killed Syrian civilians.
By Fred Lambert Contact the Author   |   Oct. 5, 2014 at 9:23 PM
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IDLIB, Syria, Oct. 5 (UPI) -- Air strikes conducted by the U.S. late last month against extremist militant positions in Syria killed several civilians, two observer groups said.

Human Rights Watch reported that American strikes on Sept. 23 in the village of Kafr Deryan in northern Idlib killed seven civilians.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which gathers information from sources on the ground in the war-torn country, said that air strikes by the U.S. against an Islamic State logistics hub in Manbij early last week actually hit a grain silo, killing several civilians.

In the first incident, three residents of Kafr Deryan told HRW that "missiles killed at least two men, two women, and five children." Two of the witnesses said that the two men among the casualties were civilians, but the third witness indicated that they were members of the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida-affiliated extremist group operating in Syria.

All three local residents told Human Rights Watch that Jabhat al-Nusra forces were based about a kilometer from the village in the compound struck in the first missile attacks, but that there were no Jabhat al-Nusra buildings, checkpoints, or vehicles in the vicinity of the strike in the village.

The Washington Post reported that 50 Nusra Front fighters were killed in the strikes on Kafr Deryan at around the same time that the leader of al-Qaida militant group Khorasan, Mushin al-Fadhli, was killed in an attack near Aleppo.

The second incident was reported by U.S. Central Command -- which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of North Africa -- as an attack on a storage facility "being used by ISIL as a logistics hub and vehicle staging facility."

However, Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory, said that the air strikes in Manbij only killed civilians.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Sept. 25 that the U.S. was looking into civilian casualties but currently had "no credible reporting from operational sources."

"The U.S. government should investigate possible unlawful strikes that killed civilians, publicly report on them, and commit to appropriate redress measures in case of wrongdoing," said Nadim Houry, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for HRW.

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