A US or US-led coalition air strike killed 20 civilians near the Islamic State de facto capital city of Raqqa, Syria earlier this week.
BBC cites the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which said the dead included six women and a child. The monitor group said 32 other people were wounded in the strike, which occurred in the village of al-Heisha, 25 miles (40 km) north of Raqqa. The village, which is controlled by Islamic State, has been the target of a US-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab forces fighting to recapture the area.
US Col. John Dorian confirmed the attack. “After an initial assessment of strike logs against the date and location of the alleged civilian casualties, the coalition confirms it did conduct strikes in the area described in the allegation,” Dorian said, adding that “more specific information is needed to conclusively determine responsibility” for any civilian casualties.
Deutsche Welle reports civilians fleeing al-Heisha said Islamic State fighters were transporting heavy weaponry when Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) troops attacked the village. “[Islamic State] fighters brought heavy weapons to our village and stayed among us so that if there were strikes they would hit us,” local Saada al-Aboud, 45, told DW. “They won’t let us leave. We had to escape by running out into the fields, with our children and old people. What else could we do? We left everything behind.”
According to SOHR, 680 civilians, including 169 children, have been killed by US-led coalition air strikes since the alliance began bombing Islamic State targets in Syria in September 2014. The US rejects this figure, claiming its forces have killed 64 civilians in Syria and Iraq during the anti-Islamic State campaign. Last month, a US strike on a home near Mosul, Iraq — where US-backed Iraqi forces are fighting to recapture the city of nearly two million inhabitants from Islamic State — killed eight members of one family, including a pregnant woman and three children.
Russian forces fighting to defend longtime Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime from Islamic State and other insurgents have killed an estimated 2,000 civilians. A United Nations envoy says more than 400,000 people have died during the course of a five-year Syrian civil war.
Over the past half century, US military forces have killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force on Earth. According to a 2015 study, more than 1.3 million people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan alone during the course of the 15-year US-led war against Islamist terrorism.