ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US-led coalition on Sunday confirmed they hit a mosque that the so-called Islamic State (IS) used for military purposes to attack the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
US Army Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), told Kurdistan 24 the strike occurred on Oct. 18 in Susah, Syria.
“This strike resulted in 12 Da’esh [Arab acronym for IS] terrorists killed in action, and disabled a key Da’esh operational headquarters critical to Da’esh’s defense of its last remaining territory,” he added.
“The facility was a mosque, which the law of war protects from targeting unless it is used for a military purpose.”
The US Army Col. explained that the extremist group’s deliberate use of the building “as a command and control facility…caused it to lose its protected status.”
“The group was actively coordinating attacks on the SDF and Coalition Forces from the command and control center at the time of the strike.”
According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), dozens of civilians died in the strike. The US-led coalition said it would investigate such allegations.
US Army Col. Ryan said IS’ “misuse of the mosque is another example of their violation of the law of war,” adding this made the religious site “a valid military target.”
“Our in-depth monitoring of Da’esh’s use of the structure as a command and control center made us aware of when only Da’esh fighters would be present,” he stated.
“We conduct inquiries into all credible allegations of civilian casualties.”
On Sept. 11, the SDF and the US-led coalition announced the start of their campaign on the last remaining IS-held town in eastern Syria on the Euphrates River.
The SDF say heavy clashes continue as part of the operation to “defeat terrorism.”
But the battle is hampered by IS’ use of human shields, in addition to tunnels, dust storms, and the extremist group’s heavy use of mines.
According to the pro-Kurdish news agency Hawar News, IS “uses civilians as human shields. They also kill civilians trying to get out of the town and go to the safe areas liberated by SDF.”
The SDF have formed special units to liberate civilians and open safe corridors for them.
For the sake of civilian safety, the fighters are advancing carefully, because, as campaign leaders say, protecting civilians is a priority.
Last week, IS attacked a refugee camp near the town of al-Bahra, taking advantage of a dust storm, and kidnapped 130 families, including 90 women, most of them with Russian and Iraqi nationalities.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany