US-led airstrike kills at least 20 civilians near ‘Islamic State’ capital city


A human rights monitor said Wednesday that an American airstrike has killed at least 20 civilians in Al-Heisha. The attack hit near Raqqa, the de facto capital of the so called “Islamic State.”

An overnight US-led airstrike in the village of Al-Heisha killed at least 20 civilians, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

On Wednesday, the Britain-based monitor said 32 people were also injured in the strikes, and added that all the casualties were civilians. These are the first civilian casualties by US-led airstrikes in the area since Saturday, when Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) launched what they said was a campaign to isolate and capture Raqqa, the de facto capital of the so called “Islamic State” (IS). Al-Heisha is controlled by IS and stands 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Raqqa.

The British monitor said the latest deaths brought the number of civilians killed by American-led airstrikes in Syria that started in September 2014 to 680. That includes 169 children.

Colonel John Dorrian, a spokesman for the US-backed SDF, confirmed the airstrikes took place. “After an initial assessment of strike logs against the date and location of the alleged civilian casualties, the coalition confirms it did conduct strikes in the area described in the allegation,” said Dorrian.

A SDF spokeswoman stated, however, that there were no civilian deaths associated with the airstrike. “There is no such thing, and any such claims are IS news,” said SDF spokeswoman Jihan Sheikh. The SDF claims the airstrikes killed at least six IS fighters in Al-Heisha, and accused IS fighters of using civilians as “human shields.”

Civilians fleeing the village said Tuesday that IS brought heavy weaponry when the SDF assault on the village began. “IS fighters brought heavy weapons to our village and stayed among us so that if there were strikes they would hit us,” said 45-year-old Saada al-Aboud. “They won’t let us leave. We had to escape by running out into the fields, with our children and old people. What else could we do? We left everything behind.”

kbd/kl (AFP, dpa)


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