UN board: Convoy air attack likely carried out by Syria

AP News
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Posted: Dec 21, 2016 9:16 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.N. board of inquiry says it received reports that an attack on an aid convoy on the outskirts of Aleppo in September was "highly likely" to have been carried out by the Syrian air force but it was unable to reach a definitive conclusion.

A summary of the board's report released late Wednesday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also said its members "did not have evidence to conclude that the incident was a deliberate attack on a humanitarian target."

The board said an air attack using multiple types of munitions from more than one aircraft affected 17 trucks in the convoy, killed at least 10 people including five drivers and injured at least 22 others.

Ban established the inquiry after the convoy came under fire while delivering aid to a Syrian Arab Red Crescent compound near Urem al-Kubra, about 15 kilometers west of Aleppo on Sept. 19, for distribution to some 78,000 people.

Most humanitarian supplies carried by the convoy were damaged or destroyed, with the U.N. estimating losses at almost $650,000. In addition masked armed men diverted three trucks with an estimated $96,000 worth of supplies, the board said.

There were initial reports of an air attack but also the possibility that the convoy was hit by direct fire, a ground assault, or an improvised explosive device.

The board determined that the attack came from the air, "using multiple types of munitions deployed from more than one aircraft and aircraft type" including non-precision bombs and smaller air-to ground weapons which could have been missiles, rockets or "sub-munition bomblets."

It said the board considered the location of the compound and decided that the attack had "most likely" been carried out by pro-government forces.

The board noted that only Syria, Russia, and the U.S.-led coalition supporting the opposition "had the capabilities needed to carry out an attack of the kind that had occurred on Sept. 19, 2016, including at night."

The opposition didn't have the capability to carry out air attacks and the board noted that nobody had alleged the involvement of coalition aircraft, "and, as such, their involvement was highly unlikely."

The board received reports that "information existed" the attack was carried out by three Syrian Mi-17 helicopters, "followed by three unnamed fixed-wing aircraft, with a single Russian aircraft also suspected of being involved," the summary said.

"However, the board did not have access to raw data to support these assertions and, in their absence, it was unable to draw a definitive solution," it said.

The board, headed by retired Indian Lt. Gen. Abhijit Guha, visited Syria from Dec. 5-9 but was not allowed to visit the scene of the convoy attack. According to the summary, it used satellite images, over 370 photos and videos, interviews with 16 people who were eyewitnesses or in the vicinity, as well as information from member states, the U.N., Syrians and others to arrive at its findings.