Regime ar­rest­ing men in re­taken ar­eas

Arab News - - INTERNATIONAL -

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...

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