Regime arresting men in retaken areas
WASHINGTON: The Pentagon said Tuesday that intelligence errors resulted in a US-led coalition airstrike in Syria in September that reportedly killed around 90 Syrian regime soldiers.
There were “errors in the development of intelligence, as well as missed opportunities for coalition members on duty to recognize and voice contrary evidence to decision makers,” the US military’s Central Command said in a statement following a six-week probe into the Sept. 17 attack near Deir Ez Zor.
The US-led coalition is focused on attacking the Daesh group in Syria and Iraq and does not want to get involved in Syria’s brutal civil war.
Australian, Danish, British and American planes all took part in the airstrike, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group has said killed at least 90 regime troops.
Brig. Gen. Richard Coe, who investigated the case, told reporters that each of the four countries “did employ weapons,” dropping a total of 34 guided bombs and firing 380 rounds of 30-mm ammunition.
The targets struck included “defensive fighting positions,” vehicles, tents, tunnels and people — all of which were thought to be legitimate Daesh targets, he added.
The Pentagon said it had only been able to conclusively count 15 deaths, but acknowledged the toll was possibly much higher.
“In this incident, we made an unintentional, regrettable error primarily based on human factors in several areas in the targeting process,” Coe said.
Key among these mistakes was an early misidentification of a Syrian vehicle as belonging to Daesh terrorists, which colored subsequent intel assessments.
Further complicating matters, the troops were not wearing recognizable military uniforms or carrying identifying flags, the Pentagon said.
Perhaps most significantly, a critical miscommunication occurred when Russian forces called the coali- tion to tell them the strike was hitting Syrian regime troops.
That call, which came in on a special hotline between the coalition and Russians, was subject to a 27-minute delay because the officer with whom the Russians normally spoke was not immediately available.
During that window, almost half of the separate strikes making up the larger assault occurred.
As soon as the Russians were able to speak to their regular point of contact, the strike was called off.
Additionally, the investigation found that an early assessment from an intelligence analyst that the target “couldn’t possibly” be Daesh was overlooked.
No coalition forces are being charged in the incident.
“In my opinion, these were a number of people all doing their best to do a good job,” Coe said.
“The decision to strike these targets was made in accordance with the law of armed conflict and the applicable rules of engagement.”
The strike was conducted by F-16 and FA-18 fighters, A-10 groundattack craft and drones.
Daesh has since January 2015 besieged the eastern city of Deir Ez Aor where more than 200,000 people live.
Amnesty International said it has received reports of Assad security forces detaining men in Aleppo areas that have returned to regime control.
The London-based human rights group warned of the potential for revenge attacks, arbitrary detention, torture, harassment and kidnappings against people formerly living under opposition control. The reports could not be independently confirmed.
O’Brien, of the UN, said civilians in western regime-held Aleppo have also come under indiscriminate shelling by opposition groups— violence that has displaced about 20,000 people in recent weeks in that area.
“The parties to the conflict in Syria have shown time and again that they are willing to take any action to secure military advantage even if it means killing, maiming or starving civilians into submission in the process,” O’Brien said.
France’s foreign minister called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting to try to stop the fighting in Aleppo and bring in humanitarian aid.
Jean-Marc Ayrault said he will meet Wednesday in Paris with the head of Aleppo’s district councils, Brita Haj Hassan. “More than ever, it is urgent to put in place a stop to hostilities and allow unhindered access to humanitarian aid,” the French foreign minister said.
France has supported Syrian opposition groups resisting Assad’s Russian-backed forces.
Separately, Syria’s Foreign Ministry on Monday denounced comments by Qatar that it will continue to back opposition fighters.
Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani told Reuters in an interview on Sunday that Doha would continue to arm opposition groups even if US President-elect Donald Trump were to end Washington’s support for them.
Syrian families, fleeing from various eastern districts of Aleppo, wait to board vehicles and head to regime-controlled western Aleppo on Tuesday in the regime-held eastern neighborhood of Jabal Badro as the regime offensive to recapture Aleppo has...