Pentagon investigation finds those responsible for Syria strike that killed civilians in 2019 not at fault

The Pentagon announced Tuesday, May 17, that those responsible for a 2019 airstrike that caused civilian casualties in Syria committed no fault, failing to “deliberately” killed civilians, nor acted as a “unwarranted indifference”.

The Pentagon’s internal investigation into this March 18, 2019 bombing in Baghouz, Syria, was launched in November after the publication of an article by the New York Times who accused the US military of trying to conceal the presence of non-combatant casualties. The American daily claimed that 70 people, including women and children, had been killed in this operation in Baghouz, the last stronghold of the Islamic State (IS) group, and that a military lawyer had described the incident as “possible war crime”.

Read also A New York Times investigation lifts the veil on the deaths of thousands of civilians in the Middle East in American strikes

But the investigation, led by Army General Michael Garrett, concluded that the commander of US forces on the ground received an urgent request for air support from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that day, the coalition of Western-backed anti-ISIS fighters in northeast Syria. Commander “obtained confirmation that there were no civilians in the firing zone” and authorized the strike, says General Garrett in his findings made public by the US Department of Defense.

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“No Malicious Intent”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the strike left 56 people dead, including 52 combatants including 51 adults and a teenager. Four civilians – a woman and three children – were killed. In addition, two combatants were injured, as well as 15 civilians (11 women and four children), he said.

Mr. Kirby informed that no one would be punished for the victims of Baghouz. The investigation established that no one had “acted in violation of the laws of war”he said, and instead concluded that there had been no “no malicious intent”.

“We don’t do everything perfectly, but we try to improve”assured the spokesperson. “We try to be as transparent as possible about the lessons we learn. »

The investigation report attributes to “administrative errors” the delays in bringing these facts to light, which were not revealed until three years later by the press, giving the impression that the army was trying to conceal them. But in a memo to the highest ranks in the US military, also released on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said ” disappointed “ to learn that information has been kept under wraps for months. He ordered heads of US military commands to ensure that any operations involving civilian casualties are investigated.

Read also our editorial of February 5: The Islamic State organization, a still threatening hydra

The World with AFP