Report: US-Led Airstrikes Kill 64 Syrian Civilians, Including 31 Children; Pentagon Issues Denial
A prominent Syrian human rights group says 64 civilians, 31 of them children, were killed in US-led airstrikes targeting Islamic State (IS) fighters in a village in the northern province of Aleppo on April 30.
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks the number of civilians killed by Syrian government forces, anti-Assad rebels, IS fighters and by the US-led coalition fighting them, says the deaths occurred in Bir Mahli, a remote northern village near Kobani, which is on the Turkish border. The village is home to a mix of Arabs and Kurds.
The rights group, which is calling the deaths a “massacre,” said the dead included 31 children under the age of 16, including 16 girls and 15 boys, as well as 19 women and 14 men. The victims were all reportedly in their homes, which were struck by bombs or missiles fired from US-led warplanes.
“We in SOHR condemn in the strongest terms this massacre committed by the US-led coalition under the pretext of targeting the IS in the village,” SOHR said in a statement, “and we call the coalition countries to refer who committed this massacre to the courts, as we renew our calls to neutralize all civilians areas from military operations by all parties.”
As it often does in cases involving civilian casualties inflicted by its forces, Pentagon officials initially denied reports its forces had killed any civilians, claiming all the dead were IS fighters.
“US Central Command can confirm that Coalition forces conducted airstrikes in the vicinity of Birmahle, Syria, on April 30, destroying several ISIL fighting positions and striking more than 50 ISIL fighters,” US Central Command (CENTCOM) spokesman Maj. Curt Kellogg said in a statement.
But the Associated Press reports CENTCOM is assessing claims of civilian deaths in order to determine whether to launch a formal investigation. In addition to killing more than 2,000 IS militants, US-led airstrikes have also killed scores of civilians in the ongoing campaign against the terror group in Syria and Iraq. Twenty civilians were killed in multiple strikes in western Iraq in February, while as many as two dozen innocents, including numerous children, were killed in September attacks in northern Syria.
The overwhelming majority of the more than 220,000 people killed during the course of Syria’s four-year civil war have died in fighting between government troops and forces loyal to dictator Bashar al-Assad and rebel groups, including Islamic State, and in massacres and killings committed by all sides in the ongoing conflict.