BEIRUT: The US military failed to take “necessary precautions” to prevent civilians deaths in a strike on a Syrian mosque last month that killed dozens of people, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday, reports AFP.
The March 16 strike in the village of opposition-held Al-Jineh in northern Aleppo province killed 49 people, mostly civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“United States forces appear to have failed to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties,” in the strike, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.
The Pentagon said the strike targeted a meeting of senior Al-Qaeda leaders and denied a mosque had been hit in the attack.
But it launched a casualty “credibility assessment” after reviewing public and classified information.
HRW said it had interviewed 14 people with firsthand knowledge of the strike, and worked with organisations to analyse imagery of the attack and reconstruct the assault.
“The US seems to have gotten several things fundamentally wrong in this attack, and dozens of civilians paid the price,” said Ole Solvang, HRW’s deputy emergencies director.
“The US authorities need to figure out what went wrong, start doing their homework before they launch attacks, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Part of the dispute over the attack centred around whether the building hit was a mosque or not.
HRW said the building did not have some traditional features of a mosque, including a domed roof and a minaret.
But it said aerial surveillance would have shown people regularly gathering for daily prayers, including in the moments before the attack.
“Any attempt to verify through people with local knowledge what kind of building this was would likely have established that the building was a mosque,” the group said.