US airstrike allegedly kills 56 civilians including kids in Syria

The US military is reviewing an airstrike or airstrikes in northern Syria that a leading human rights group alleges has killed 56 civilians, among them 11 children. The aerial bombing, termed a “massacre” by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) on Tuesday, occurred near Manbij, an area where US proxy forces are engaged in a fierce fight to oust the Islamic State militant group (Isis).

Senior US officials consider Manbij a way station to capturing Isis’s Syrian capital Raqqa. Defense ministers in the anti-Isis coalition are set to discuss Raqqa’s capture at a meeting in Washington on Wednesday.

According to the SOHR, US-led coalition airstrikes hit the northern countryside of Manbij, killing 56 and wounding “tens” more, some critically. The group claims that since 31 May, coalition strikes have killed a total of 104 civilians, including 29 children, 16 women and eight prisoners.

An official release of airstrike information from US Central Command early on Wednesday did not include the claims of civilian deaths, but instead said that three of its airstrikes near Manbij on 19 July destroyed Isis fight positions, 12 of its vehicles and a command “node”.

But Col Christopher Garver, the chief spokesman for the US-led war effort, confirmed to the Guardian that the US is “looking into it now” as a step to determine whether to open a formal investigation.

“We are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties in the area,” a statement from the US war command said on Wednesday.

Overall, the US military has confirmed 36 civilian deaths from its airstrikes since summer 2015, a figure independent observers consider too low to be credible, considering the daily barrage of air-delivered US ordnance for nearly two years. The independent group Airwars estimates the US to have caused the deaths of a minimum of 1,422 civilians in Iraq and Syria during the campaign. Central Command is investigating other civilian-casualty allegations as well.

Manbij is often cited by US officials as a success story for the ongoing war. On Tuesday, the US military said that its ground-force proxy, the Syrian Arab Coalition, had captured an Isis headquarters fashioned as a hospital in the western part of the city. It claims that Isis is under assault from four fronts in Manbij while holding territory in the city center.

Ashton Carter, the US defense secretary, cited the importance of the ongoing fight in Manbij during Wednesday’s defense ministerial meeting.

Proxy forces “have now surrounded Manbij city, which is one of the last junctions connecting Raqqa to the outside world and a key transit point for external plotters threatening our homelands,” Carter said.


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