Human Rights Watch: U.S. airstrikes hit Syrian mosque

By Mike Bambach  |  Updated April 18, 2017 at 7:05 AM
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April 18 (UPI) -- A report released Tuesday said the United States bombed a Syrian mosque in an airstrike last month, which the U.S. military had denied.

The Human Rights Watch report on the March 16 attack on Omar Ibn al-Khatab Mosqu suggests the United States failed to take "all feasible precautions" to avoid civilian casualties.

The U.S. military said it carried out a March 16 airstrike on a building where al-Qaida militants were meeting, not on a mosque next door where activists said 46 civilians were killed in a bombing.

"We did not target any mosques," U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. John J. Thomas said the day after the bombing. "What we did target was destroyed. There is a mosque within 50 feet of that building that is still standing."

A week later, officials at CENTCOM said they were investigating whether the strike caused the civilian deaths. Thomas said it was possible the mosque damage was caused by booby traps placed by the Islamic State.

But the Human Rights Watch report said the U.S. military misidentified the location of the attack and interviews with locals and photographs and video of the building prove it was a well-known mosque that hosted lectures every Thursday between sunset and evening prayers.

"The U.S. seems to have gotten several things fundamentally wrong in this attack, and dozens of civilians paid the price," Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"The U.S. authorities need to figure out what went wrong, start doing their homework before they launch attacks, and make sure it doesn't happen again."

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