- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2017

An American airstrike against a suspected Islamic State target in northern Syria, which local reports later claimed was a safe house for refugees fleeing an ongoing coalition offensive, was likely a legitimate target, the U.S. general leading the coalition fight said Tuesday.

Preliminary inquiries into the strike in the Syrian town of Mansoura last Tuesday refute claims the building was actually a converted schoolhouse used to harbor civilians escaping the coalition assault on Tabqa Dam, a key redoubt for the Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend told reporters at The Pentagon.

“I think that was a clean strike,” he said during a teleconference from coalition headquarters in Baghdad. Citing imagry taken of the target prior to the strike and shortly afterwards, the three- star general said U.S. officials “saw what we expected to see,” which was ISIS fighters — not civilians — gathering in and around the compound.

American and coalition officials did not dispute that civilians could have been killed in during the airstrike in Mansoura, but they have yet to receive confirmation of those types of casualties.

The Pentagon has opened a full investigation into a March 17 strike in Idlib Pentagon says killed a number of top al Qaeda leaders, but which civilians claim willfully targeted a local mosque.

A mix of U.S. fighter jets and armed drones, leveled a building in the Syrian village of al Jinah, 17 miles south of neighboring Aleppo province where senior members of al Qaeda’s core leadership were gathering, according to the Defense Department.

Officials from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that 46 civilians had been killed during the strike, while unconfirmed images of the attack’s aftermath on social media claimed the attack had targeted the village mosque.

While acknowledging that only American aircraft were flying in the skies above Mansoura at the time of the strike, coalition spokesman Col. Joseph Scrocca suggested last week the alleged civilian casualties could have been caused by ISIS itself.

However, images of the attack site circulating on social media clearly show the building had been struck with some type of air-launched weapon.

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