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US Says Civilian Killed in Syria Strike Last Year

A US strike in Syria last year killed a civilian who was misidentified as an Al-Qaeda leader, the military command responsible for the region said on Thursday.

The strike was carried out on May 3, 2023, but indications quickly emerged that the man it killed was not a senior militant, and Central Command (CENTCOM) chief General Erik Kurilla ordered an investigation early the following month.

“The investigation determined US forces misidentified the intended Al-Qaeda target and that a civilian… was struck and killed instead,” CENTCOM said in a statement, saying it “regrets the civilian harm that resulted.”

“The investigation concluded the strike was conducted in compliance with the law of armed conflict as well as Department of Defense and CENTCOM policies,” the statement said, noting without providing specifics that it found “several issues that could be improved.”

Hours after the strike killed Lotfi Hassan Masto, his brother said his relative had no Al-Qaeda ties and was “tending to his sheep in the mountain when the aircraft came and targeted him.”

“He was happy with his life and everyone loved him and appreciated him,” Mohammed Masto said. “He minded his own business and lived at the edge of the village.”

The conflict in Syria has killed more than half a million people since it began in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests, spiraling into a complex battlefield involving foreign armies, militias, and jihadists.

The United States has around 900 troops deployed in Syria as part of international efforts to combat the Islamic State jihadist group, and periodically carries out strikes targeting militants in the country.

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