WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military is looking into allegations that civilians may have been killed in U.S. and allied airstrikes in Syria, but so far there is no "credible" reporting that such deaths occurred, the Pentagon said Thursday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and activists in Syria have said that some civilians were killed in airstrikes on Wednesday, possibly wives and children of militants.
Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, said the military is aware of the reports and is looking into them, but he noted that the U.S. has no troops on the ground in Syria so it will take time to determine whether there were civilian deaths. Right now, he said, the U.S. is continuing to review the airstrike damage from the air.
"This is a pretty remote area of the country, mostly just desert. It's not — it's not urban," said Kirby. "We don't believe that there's much reason to be too concerned about any collateral damage, you know, to civilian property, that kind of thing. But on the civilian casualty issue, certainly we take that seriously, and we'll continue to look at that and review that as we work through the damage assessment process."
In other comments, Kirby said that the about 500 soldiers from the 1st Infantry Division's headquarters will deploy to the region, and about 200 of them will go into Iraq, including military joint operations centers in Baghdad and Irbil. The soldiers, who are from Fort Riley, Kansas, are part of the initial wave of troops heading into Iraq that will oversee the small U.S. teams who will be advising and assisting Iraqi units.
The remaining 300 will be in the region, but there are no immediate plans for them to go into Iraq.
The advise-and-assist teams will embed with Iraqi brigades and headquarters units but are not authorized to go out with units that are expected to engage in direct combat on the ground with the Islamic State group militants.