US disputes claim Syria strike killed dozens of civilians

The Pentagon is denying that large numbers of civilians were killed in a March strike by a Syrian mosque, acknowledging only one possible civilian death at an adjoining religious compound.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has claimed that the March 16 strike in the village of opposition-held Al-Jineh in northern Aleppo killed 49 people — most of them civilians. But an investigation led by Lieutenant General Paul Bontrager found that about two dozen men attending an Al-Qaeda meeting were killed in the strike, with several others wounded.

“Sadly, we did assess that there was likely one civilian casualty,” Bontrager says, noting he was “unsure” if the person survived.

The general says the probe looked at media reports that indicated a large number of civilian deaths, but investigators did not uncover evidence to support those claims.

“We are not aware of large numbers of civilians being treated in hospitals after the strike,” he says. “We are confident this was a meeting of Al-Qaeda members and leaders.”


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