ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US-led coalition on Saturday rejected media reports that claimed that at least 40 people were killed in an airstrike on the last remaining pocket of Islamic State (IS) militants in Syria.
“Multiple open source reports today falsely claimed that Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) strikes near Hajin, Syria, resulted in the deaths of civilians,” the US-led coalition said in a statement.
“CJTF-OIR conducted a total of 19 strikes in the Hajin area between the hours of 11:00 p.m. on Nov. 16 and 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 Eastern European Time,” the coalition added.
“These strikes were in support of ground operations against [IS] targets in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. CJTF-OIR validated these targets as legitimate [IS] targets and assessed them to be free of civilian presence at the time of the strikes,” the statement further said.
According to the coalition’s initial assessment following the strikes, there was no evidence of civilians near the targeted areas.
The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) also confirmed a total of 16 airstrikes were carried out in the area. However, they did not suggest civilians were hit.
Mustafa Bali, the Director of the SDF Media Center, said that at least four IS fighters were killed, two ammunition depots and one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) were destroyed, and three front lines were targeted.
The US-led coalition, however, detected a total of ten additional strikes in the same area of Hajin that did not originate from the coalition or partner forces.
The coalition statement did not specify if this meant the Syrian government or other armies operating in the area were responsible for the ten additional strikes.
“These strikes were neither coordinated with nor approved by CJTF-OIR. CJTF-OIR calls on all other actors to cease uncoordinated fires across the Euphrates,” the coalition warned.
“CJTF-OIR deliberately selects targets and uses stringent precautions to avoid injuring or killing innocent civilians in its operations to defeat [IS]. CJTF-OIR takes allegations of civilian casualties seriously and investigates each one thoroughly,” the coalition concluded.
Last week, the General Command of the SDF announced the resumption of military operations against the jihadist group in Syria’s eastern city of Deir al-Zor, after temporarily halting its campaign on Oct. 31 as a result of Turkey’s aggression on Syria’s northeast.
Editing by Nadia Riva