- The Washington Times - Monday, March 27, 2017

U.S. Central Command has opened a full investigation into a U.S. airstrike in northern Syria the Pentagon says killed a number of top al Qaeda leaders, but which civilians claim willfully targeted a local mosque.

Command officials are conducting an official inquiry into the March 17 airstrike that leveled a building in the Syrian village of al Jinah in Idlib province, 17 miles south of neighboring Aleppo province, Central Command spokesman Col. John Thomas said Monday.

On the March 17 strike in al Jinah, command investigators are looking specifically at claims of civilian casualties and whether the building targeted by American warplanes was a part of the village mosque complex. “We are treating it very seriously,” Col. Thomas said of those claims.


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At the time of the Idlib strike, Pentagon officials could not confirm reports by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that stated 46 civilians had been killed during the strike. Other unconfirmed images of the attack’s aftermath on social media claimed the attack had targeted the village mosque.

An estimated 300 individuals were packed into the mosque for evening prayers at the time of the airstrike.



Claims the building may have been an auxiliary site for the al Jinah mosque complex is being investigated as part of the Central Command investigation.

An aerial picture of the attack site, taken after the strike, showed the al Jinah mosque intact next to the massive bomb crater where the targeted building holding the al Qaeda meeting had once stood.

Senior members of al Qaeda’s core leadership — several “likely high value individuals,” were gathering for a meeting inside the building at the time of the strike, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said last week.

Acknowledging that “there could be some damage to the [holy] site…but the mosque is still standing,” he said, referring to the imagery of the blast site provided by the Defense Department.

“This was the building we intended to strike, and we struck it,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Davis said at the time. “This [strike] hit it’s target and that was the intended target.”

Command officials are also looking to confirm civilian casualty claims in recent airstrikes near Tabqa Dam in northern Syria and a series of U.S. strikes in western Mosul which allegedly killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians, Col. Thomas said Monday during a teleconference with reporters from command headquarters in Tampa, Florida.

No official investigations have been opened into those incidents as of yet, but command officials have tagged the ongoing inquiry into collateral damage claims in western Mosul as a top priority, he added.

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