First published on VT, 13 November 2021
VIA YouTube: In the final days of the war against the Islamic State in Syria, when members of the once fierce caliphate were cornered in a dirt field next to a town called Baghuz, a US military drone began hunting military targets in high circles.
The US hid an airstrike that killed dozens of civilians in Syria in March 2019. The death of civilians including women and children resulted from two air bombings near the town of Baghuz during targeting of ISIS militants https://t.co/rt0y3AjxrU
— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) November 13, 2021
But he only saw a large crowd of women and children gather on a riverbank. Without warning, an American F-15E attack jet crossed the drone’s high-resolution field of view and dropped a 500-pound bomb over the crowd, engulfing it in a shaky explosion.
As the smoke cleared, several people stumbled into hiding. Then a jet following them dropped one 2,000-pound bomb, followed by another, killing most of the survivors.
"The Baghuz strike was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents of the war against the Islamic State, but it has never been publicly acknowledged by the U.S. military. The details, reported here for the first time, show that the death toll was almost immediately apparent" https://t.co/4uHsz6wbAM
— Shelly Kittleson (@shellykittleson) November 13, 2021
It was March 18, 2019. US Army’s Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar Uniformed personnel watching the live drone footage stared in amazement, according to an officer who was present at the busy Combined Air Operations Center in the United States of America.
“Who dropped this?”
A confused analyst wrote to a secure chat system used by those watching the drone, two people who studied the chat log recalled. Another replied, “We’ve just hit 50 women and children.” The initial battle damage assessment quickly found that the death toll was actually around 70.
ABD, 2019'da Suriye Baghuz'da gerçekleştirdiği bombalamada 4 çocuk öldüğünü açıklamıştı. Ölen kadın ve çocuk sayısının 70 olduğu ortaya çıktı ve Merkez Kuvvetler Komutanlığı kabul etti. ABD savaş suçunu örtbas etmeye çalışırken, olayla ilgili bir bağımsız soruşturma da yapılmadı. pic.twitter.com/jeJnaGhRq3
— Sağdan Haber (@sagdanhaber) November 13, 2021
The Baghuz attack was one of the biggest incidents of civilian casualties in the war against the Islamic State, but it was never made public by the US military. Details reported here for the first time show that the death toll was understood almost instantly by military officials.
US air force targeted a civilian group consisting of women& children in #Baghuz on March 18, 2019.
More than 2 tons of bombs were dropped on group, whose location was detected by US UAV'S, in 3 separate attacks with F-15E jets causing the death 70 people. pic.twitter.com/E4xkZR91Re
— Abou Isleym (@isleym_abou) November 13, 2021
A legal officer marked the strike as a possible war crime that warrants investigation. But the army made moves that disguised the disastrous strike at almost every step. The death toll has been underestimated.
Reports were deferred, sanitized and classified. Coalition forces led by the US bulldozer demolished the blast site. And senior leaders were not notified.
IG Report Halted
The Department of Defense’s independent inspector general launched an investigation, but the report containing his findings was halted, and the Baghuz strike was not mentioned.
“The leadership seemed very determined to bury it. No one wanted to do anything with it,” said Gene Tate, an evaluator working on the case for the office of the inspector general, agreeing to discuss the unclassified aspects.
When people are trying to do the right thing, but no one in a leadership position wants to hear it, at times he did not even inform his own military partners of his actions. An officer at the command center said that at the time of the Baghuz bombing, the US Air Force command in Qatar had no idea the attack was coming.
Minutes after the strike, an alarmed Air Force intelligence officer at the operations center called an Air Force attorney tasked with determining the legality of the strikes. According to documents obtained by The Times, the lawyer ordered the F-15E fleet and drone crew to withhold all video and other evidence. He went upstairs and reported the strike to the chain of command, saying it was a possible violation of the law of armed conflict – a war crime – and that the regulations require a thorough and independent investigation.
But a thorough, independent investigation never happened.
This week, after the New York Times sent its findings to the US Central Command, which oversees the air war in Syria, the command first acknowledged the attacks, saying that 80 people were killed but the airstrikes were justified.
He said the bombs killed 16 fighters and four civilians. The statement said it was unclear whether the 60 other people killed were civilians, in part because women and children in the Islamic State sometimes take up arms.
“We are disgusted by the loss of innocent lives and are taking all possible measures to prevent them,” Captain Bill Urban, the command’s chief spokesman, said in a statement. “In this case, we reported the strike ourselves and investigated it based on our own evidence and took full responsibility for the unintended loss of life.”
Dave Philipps and
NY Times: In the last days of the battle against the Islamic State in Syria, when members of the once-fierce caliphate were cornered in a dirt field next to a town called Baghuz, a U.S. military drone circled high overhead, hunting for military targets. But it saw only a large crowd of women and children huddled against a river bank.
Without warning, an American F-15E attack jet streaked across the drone’s high-definition field of vision and dropped a 500-pound bomb on the crowd, swallowing it in a shuddering blast. As the smoke cleared, a few people stumbled away in search of cover. Then a jet tracking them dropped one 2,000-pound bomb, then another, killing most of the survivors.
It was March 18, 2019. At the U.S. military’s busy Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, uniformed personnel watching the live drone footage looked on in stunned disbelief, according to one officer who was there.
“Who dropped that?” a confused analyst typed on a secure chat system being used by those monitoring the drone, two people who reviewed the chat log recalled. Another responded, “We just dropped on 50 women and children.”
An initial battle damage assessment quickly found that the number of dead was actually about 70.
The Baghuz strike was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents of the war against the Islamic State, but it has never been publicly acknowledged by the U.S. military. The details, reported here for the first time, show that the death toll was almost immediately apparent to military officials. A legal officer flagged the strike as a possible war crime that required an investigation. But at nearly every step, the military made moves that concealed the catastrophic strike. The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. Read more..