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Tipsheet

Sound Familiar? CENTCOM Announces Civilian Casualties Possible in Recent Drone Strike Targeting Al Qaeda

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

U.S. Central Command announced that the U.S. military carried out a drone strike targeting a senior al Qaeda leader and planner in Syria, where there are initial indications that civilians may have also been taken out in the process.

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The strike, which occurred Friday near Idlib, was conducted using a precision strike method from an MQ-9 aircraft. CENTCOM has opened an investigation into the possibility of the loss of civilian life.

"We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent them," CENTCOM spokesman, Capt. Bill Urban, said in a statement Friday. "The possibility of a civilian casualty was immediately self-reported to U.S. Central Command. We are initiating a full investigation of the allegations and will release the results when appropriate."

Officials said the killing of the al Qaeda member will "disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to further plot and carry out global attacks threatening U.S. citizens and our partners." The identity of the target was not revealed.

This comes after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered an investigation earlier this week into a March 18, 2019 drone strike in Syria that killed 80 people, some of whom are believed to be civilians. CENTCOM told The New York Times in mid-November that 16 fighters and four civilians were killed in the strike. However, the status of the 60 remaining people was not determined.

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And on November 3, Air Force Inspector General Lt. Gen. Sami Said concluded that there were no illegalities in the Aug. 29 strike in Kabul, Afghanistan conducted amid the U.S. military's evacuation of the region. The strike resulted in the deaths of 10 civilians, including seven children. The target of the attack, initially believed to be a member of ISIS-K, was later determined to be a U.S. aid worker. 

Austin signed off on Said's conclusion that there was no criminal conduct in the botched airstrike in Afghanistan.

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