New details emerging from Syria reveal that what was initially thought to be a strike on militants killed dozens of civilians praying at a mosque.
Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday that a March 16 drone strike on a target in Aleppo province was, in fact, the Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque, which was hosting hundreds of civilians for nightly prayers. Anywhere from 38 to 46 people were killed in the bombing.
At the time, a Washington Post described the strike as an attack “outside Aleppo” on al-Qaeda militants, and dismissed allegations from community members that the strike killed scores of civilians as unconfirmed, along with the accusation that the target was a mosque. Another report from the Associated Press only said that the building that was targeted was a “partially constructed community meeting hall.” Pentagon officials told ABC News that claims the target was a mosque were untrue. U.S. Central Command’s statement acknowledging the attack and denying the target was a mosque even misattributed the target’s location as being in Idlib province, when it was actually in Aleppo province.
But according to Forensic Architecture — a London-based firm that describes itself as a group of architects, scholars, filmmakers, designers, lawyers and scientists who “provide evidence for international prosecution teams, political organisations, NGOs, and the United Nations” — conducted an analysis of the building that was bombed on March 16 and determined that it was, in fact, a mosque, and that “US misidentification” was “possibly the cause for civilian casualties.”
A video the organization produced shows the group came to the conclusion that the target of the drone strike was “a functioning, recently built mosque containing a large prayer hall, several auxiliary functions, and the Imam’s residence.” The group’s site also alleges that several of the civilians killed in the strike were children as young as ten years old:
Given that the building was open to the public, that a large number of local residents were free to move through and around it as they gathered for prayer, and that there was a publically[sic] accessible religious lesson with 50 people present, raises doubts regarding the likelihood that an Al-Qaeda meeting was taking place in the building at the time… There were eleven people injured and eight killed as a result of the first two blasts within the northern part of the building, he said. They included the Imam’s wife, Ghassun Makansi, a fourteen-year-old boy named Mohammad Khalad Orabi, and his ten-year-old brother Hassan Omar Orabi.
However, despite these revelations, the silence from major media outlets is deafening. As of this writing, no outlets aside from Human Rights Watch and AirWars — which collaborated with Forensic Architecture in its analysis of the strike — have publicly acknowledged that the initial claims from Pentagon officials denying the target was a mosque were false. Numan Kurtulmuş, Turkey’s deputy prime minister, called the strike a “war crime” after hearing the target was a mosque. Pentagon officials have still not publicly admitted to targeting the mosque.
Tom Cahill is a writer for the Resistance Report based in the Pacific northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook.