An American airstrike against suspected Islamic State positions near the Syrian city of Raqqa ended with nearly 20 militia members allied with the U.S.-backed coalition dead.
The strike took place Tuesday near Syria’s Tabqa Dam, which was recently recaptured by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a constellation of indigenous Arab and Kurdish militias battling to oust Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL, from the country.
“The strike was requested by the partnered forces, who had identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position. The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position,” officials from U.S. Central Command said in a statement Thursday. In the end, 18 SDF militiamen were killed in the mistaken strike.
The areas in and around Taqba Dam have been the site of fierce fighting in recent weeks. The dam, along with the surrounding town and adjacent airfield, will also provide Syrian and coalition forces with a prime “launching point” for future U.S. and coalition-led operations once the looming advance on ISIS’s self-styled capital of Raqqa begins, he added.
U.S. and allied commanders are reviewing the incident and working toward implementing “appropriate safeguards to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
American and coalition advisers remain in “close contact with our SDF partners who have expressed a strong desire to remain focused on the fight against ISIS despite this tragic incident,” according to the statement.
This is only the latest incident of miscalculation and questionable use of coalition airpower as fighting intensifies in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Coalition and Central Command officials have two open investigations into a pair of Syrian strikes that led to the reported deaths of almost 100 civilians combined.
One strike targeted a suspected ISIS fighting position in the Syrian town of Mansoura in March. Eyewitnesses later claimed the target was actually a converted schoolhouse used to harbor refugees fleeing nearby fighting
Earlier this month, a mix of U.S. fighter jets and armed drones, leveled a building in the Syrian village of al Jinah, 17 miles south of neighboring Aleppo province where senior members of al Qaeda’s core leadership were gathering, says the Pentagon. Command officials are investigating whether the targeted building was part of the village’s mosque complex.
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