The US military failed to take “necessary precautions” to prevent civilian deaths in a strike on a mosque in rural Aleppo last month that killed dozens of people, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday.
The March 16 strike in the rebel-held village of Jeenah in rural Aleppo killed 49 people, mostly civilians.
“United States forces appear to have failed to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties,” in the strike, HRW said in a report.
HRW said it had interviewed 14 people with firsthand knowledge of the strike, and worked with organizations to analyze imagery of the attack and reconstruct the assault.
“The US seems to have gotten several things fundamentally wrong in this attack, and dozens of civilians paid the price,” said Ole Solvang, HRW’s deputy emergencies director.
“The US authorities need to figure out what went wrong, start doing their homework before they launch attacks, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Part of the dispute over the attack centered around whether the building hit was a mosque or not.
HRW said the building did not have some traditional features of a mosque, including a domed roof and a minaret. However, it said aerial surveillance would have shown people regularly gathering for daily prayers, including in the moments before the attack.
“Any attempt to verify through people with local knowledge what kind of building this was would likely have established that the building was a mosque,” the rights group said.
HRW said it had found no evidence that militants were inside the mosque, but that even if they had been “striking a mosque just before prayer and then attack people attempting to flee, without knowing whether they were civilians or combatants, may well have been disproportionate or indiscriminate”.
“Indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks violate the laws of war, as does failing to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian deaths,” HRW added. (Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Department + Agencies)