The American military has denied an activist group’s report that civilians were killed in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes last week on a northern Syrian village controlled by the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
According to the U.K.-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which relies on a network of activists in Syria, the civilian death toll from the strikes on the northern Syrian village Bir Mahli that allegedly took place overnight Thursday has risen to at least 64 civilians, including 19 women, 31 children under the age of 16 (16 females, 15 males), an 18-year- old young man.
U.S. Central Command (Centcom), which oversees the U.S.-led air campaign against ISIS, “Confirmed there were airstrikes at the same time near Kobani, adding that it destroyed seven Islamic State group positions and one of the group’s vehicles and hit 50 fighters,” notes The Associated Press (AP).
“We in SOHR were shocked when we heard the denial of the U.S-led coalition forces on this massacre, rather than starting a serious investigation to bring those responsible to justice and to compensate the survivors and the affected,” said the Observatory.
Earlier Sunday, Maj. Curtis Kellogg, a spokesman , told AP that there was no information to corroborate the Observatory’s claims.
“We currently have no information to corroborate allegations that coalition airstrikes resulted in civilian casualties,” Kellogg said. “Regardless, we take all allegations seriously and will look into them further.”
Late on Sunday, Centcom reportedly concluded that the Observatory’s allegations were inaccurate.
“We currently have no indication that any civilians were killed in these strikes,” Maj. Kellogg told AP.
Maj. Kellogg, citing reports from Kurdish forces that held the village before ISIS, said that “no civilians had been in Bir Mahli for two weeks.”
Moreover, Shorsh Hassan, a Kobani-based spokesman for the main Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, had earlier told AP that there were no civilians in the village.
The pro-ISIS Aamaq News Agency reportedly released a video showing a man walking between children who were allegedly wounded in the airstrikes.
“We in SOHR condemn in the strongest terms this massacre committed by the U.S. led coalition under the pretext of targeting the [Islamic State] in the village, and we call the coalition countries to refer [those] who committed this massacre to the courts, as we renew our calls to neutralize all civilians areas from military operations by all parties,” said the Observatory in May 2, when it first reported that civilians were killed in the strikes.
Earlier this year, Kurdish security forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, pushed ISIS out of Kobani.
However, ISIS still controls nearby villages and continues to fight the opposition in the area, primarily made up of Kurds.