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Did U.S. airstrike in Syria kill 50 civilians? Desperate effort to cover up the truth

US airstrikes

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(NaturalNews) Foreign policy hawks have criticized the Obama Administration for doing too little too late to stop the spread of violent Islamist extremism in Iraq and Syria in the wake of the departure of U.S. forces, violence committed by, and in the name of, an organization known as ISIL, or ISIS.

In response to that group's invasion and capture of large swaths of both countries, and as its fighters encroached on and threatened Baghdad last summer, the White House eventually did approve limited air strikes against ISIL forces in Iraq and Syria, though they, too, have been seen as far too little action amid a growing threat.

Now, though, even those limited strikes may have had unintended consequences, as reported by McClatchy Newspapers in recent days:

A U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed at least 50 Syrian civilians late last month when it targeted a headquarters of Islamic State extremists in northern Syria, according to an eyewitness and a Syrian opposition human rights organization.

The civilians were being held in a makeshift jail in the town of Al Bab, close to the Turkish border, when the aircraft struck on the evening of Dec. 28, the witnesses said. The building, called the Al Saraya, a government center, was leveled in the airstrike. It was days before civil defense workers could dig out the victims' bodies.

Looking into it

In response to repeated inquiries by McClatchy, the Defense Department's U.S. Central Command, which is responsible for operations in the Middle East, eventually confirmed the attack.

"Coalition aircraft did strike and destroy an ISIL headquarters building in Al Bab on Dec. 28," Col. Patrick S. Ryder said in an email to the newspaper group, though it is unclear which aircraft from which countries of the "coalition" actually took part in the attack.

Ryder further stated that a review of the attack did not turn up any evidence of civilian deaths but that Central Command would look at any further information, "since we take all allegations seriously."

For the first time in early January, U.S. officials acknowledged that they are looking into "at least a few" claims that there were civilian casualties as a result of Syria-based air strikes.

"This is something we always take seriously," Pentagon spokesman Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby told the newspaper group. "We are very mindful of trying to mitigate the risk to civilians every time we operate, everywhere we operate."

A follow-up email to reporters from Central Command said that the Pentagon had been given nine reports of civilian deaths in Syria, adding that determinations had yet to be made on a handful of them. Pentagon officials provided no further details regarding the incidents, McClatchy reported.

They won't coordinate with us

The newspaper group added further alleged details about the strike:

But the Syrian Network for Human Rights, an independent opposition group that tracks casualties in Syria, said it has documented the deaths of at least 40 civilians in airstrikes in the months between the start of U.S. bombing in Syria Sept. 23 through the Dec. 28 strike on Al Bab. The deaths include 13 people killed in Idlib province on the first day of the strikes. Other deaths include 23 civilians killed in the eastern province of Deir el Zour, two in Raqqa province and two more in Idlib province.

Civilian deaths are a major issue for the U.S., as Washington is attempting to win support from average Syrians for the strikes, which are aimed at destroying the Islamic State's military capabilities. However, the deaths are being viewed by U.S.-allied Syrian rebel commanders as one possible reason why support for their cause has dwindled in northern Syria, as support for more radical elements like al Qaeda's Nusra Front and ISIL has increased.

Further, rebel commanders have told media that they have intelligence information that would help avoid civilian deaths, but instead, U.S. officials won't coordinate with them, McClatchy reported.





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