Coali­tion strike ‘kills 20 civil­ians’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

US-backed forces pressed of­fen­sives yes­ter­day on the Is­lamic State group’s strongholds in Syria and Iraq, as an air strike by the Amer­i­can-led coali­tion re­port­edly killed 20 civil­ians near the Syr­ian city of Raqa. Sup­ported by coali­tion air raids, Iraqi forces have pushed into IS’s Mo­sul strong­hold and a Kur­dish-Arab mili­tia al­liance has been ad­vanc­ing on the ji­hadists’ de facto Syr­ian cap­i­tal Raqa. The Syr­ian Ob­ser­va­tory for Hu­man Rights said a coali­tion strike overnight had hit the ISheld vil­lage of Al-Heisha, about 40 kilo­me­ters north of Raqa. Rami Ab­dul Rah­man, the head of the Bri­tain-based mon­i­tor­ing group, said nine women and two chil­dren were among the 20 civil­ians killed and that 32 oth­ers had been wounded.

The Syr­ian Demo­cratic Forces (SDF), the mili­tia al­liance which Wash­ing­ton is sup­port­ing in the as­sault, de­nied the civil­ian deaths. “There is no such thing, and any such claims are IS news,” SDF spokes­woman Ji­han Sheikh Ahmed said. Colonel John Dor­rian, a spokesman for the coali­tion said it ap­peared there had been strikes in the area. “Af­ter an ini­tial as­sess­ment... the coali­tion con­firms it did con­duct strikes in the area de­scribed in the al­le­ga­tion,” he said.”How­ever, more spe­cific in­for­ma­tion is needed to con­clu­sively de­ter­mine re­spon­si­bil­ity” for civil­ian ca­su­al­ties. The Ob­ser­va­tory said the lat­est deaths brought the num­ber of civil­ians killed since US-led air strikes in Syria be­gan in Septem­ber 2014 to 680, in­clud­ing 169 chil­dren.

‘We left ev­ery­thing be­hind’

Some 200 fam­i­lies had fled Al-Heisha, ac­cord­ing to an SDF of­fi­cial. “Daesh fighters brought heavy weapons to our vil­lage and stayed among us so that if there were strikes they would hit us,” 45-year-old Saada Al-Aboud said af­ter flee­ing the town, us­ing an Ara­bic acro­nym for IS. “They wouldn’t let us leave. We had to es­cape by run­ning out into the fields, with our chil­dren and old peo­ple. What else could we do? We left ev­ery­thing be­hind.”The SDF launched the drive to­wards Raqa on Satur­day, up­ping pres­sure on the ji­hadists three weeks af­ter Iraqi forces be­gan their as­sault on Mo­sul. — AFP

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