Earlier this week, U.S. coalition forces in Syria accidentally targeted and killed friendly Syrian forces in a misdirected airstrike, Pentagon sources said. Eighteen people were reported dead.
On Tuesday, the U.S.-led coalition was seeking ISIS fighters near the town of Tabqah in northern Syria, but in the process, it accidentally targeted a group of Arab and Kurdish fighters who were part of an allied group in the region, the Syrian Democratic Forces.
U.S.-led Forces at their Third Friendly Fire Incident in One Month
The SDF said they were working with the coalition to determinate the reasons behind the friendly fire “in order to prevent it happening again.” The attack occurred just a month after SDF fighters helped U.S. forces get behind ISIS lines, boosting their chances to take over Tabqah.
Unfortunately, U.S.-led forces have hit other friendly targets in Syria in recent months. Less than a month ago, another poorly directed airstrike killed 200 civilians in the besieged city of Mosul, in northern Iraq. This Tuesday’s incident is the third in a string of three in only one month.
The U.S. media deemed the latest friendly fire the worst of its kind in the region. For the moment, it is unclear whether other countries in the coalition besides the U.S. were responsible for the mistaken airstrike. Coalition forces include troops from Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, the U.K., Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.
The U.S. Central Command apologized to the SDF and the victims’ families for the ‘tragic incident.’ It reaffirmed its commitment to collaborating with the SDF to destroy ISIS. The coalition said they started an investigation into the causes of the accident and vowed to bring appropriate safeguards to prevent other accidents in the future.
More Similar Accidents Expected to Occur
Experts say that as the battle against ISIS becomes more heated, the risk of civilian casualties and dead allies rises exponentially. On the one hand, when it comes to killing a military ally, such mistakes can have grave consequences, especially if they keep reoccurring. But civilians mistakenly killed in a military conflict, on the other hand, are usually referred as ‘collateral damage.’
On March 17, a coalition airstrike hit a rebel-operated truck packed with explosives, causing the deaths of dozens of Syrian civilians in Mosul. An Iraqi official broke the news, but the coalition later confirmed that one of its strikes that day was conducted in the area where the civilians were killed.
From Mar. 17 to Mar. 23, 200 civilians died in the wake of the truck explosion, according to the Nineveh Provincial Council. The group refused to give more details. The Iraqi Counterterrorism Unit in Mosul acknowledged that it asked U.S. forces to engage a suspicious ISIS truck they believed was packed with explosive material.
When the vehicle exploded, the blast destroyed one or two nearby homes where civilians were hiding. Iraqi counterterrorism forces said that the 200-dead toll was exaggerated as only 130 people were hiding in one of the homes. The victims included at least one pregnant woman, children, and some babies too.
Image Source: Flickr