US strike kills 7 civilians in Syria, says watchdog

28 Sep 2014 / 21:56 H.

    NEW YORK: Apparent US missile strikes killed at least seven civilians in northwestern Syria, a watchdog group said today, calling for a probe into possible violations of the laws of war.
    Amid unverified claims of civilian casualties from US-led air raids targeting the Islamic State group in Syria, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Thursday that the American military has "no credible reporting from operations sources" of civilians killed.
    But New York-based Human Rights Watch cited three residents of the Syrian village of Kafr Deryan in Idlib province as saying via Skype that missiles killed at least two men, two women and five children in the early hours of Tuesday.
    HRW pointed, however, to "unverified information" that the two men may have been members of Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syrian franchise. And it stressed that it was unable to verify the accounts.
    But video footage of the strikes corroborates witness accounts of civilians killed by US-produced Tomahawk cruise missiles, HRW added.
    "The United States and its allies in Syria should be taking all feasible precautions to avoid harming civilians," HRW deputy Middle East director Nadim Houry said in a statement.
    "The US government should investigate possible unlawful strikes that killed civilians, publicly report on them and commit to appropriate redress measures in case of wrongdoing."
    Locals told HRW that a series of missiles struck a Nusra compound, including a weapons depot, just outside the village. But moments later, missiles struck two homes in Kafr Deryan proper, according to the witnesses, who cited the casualties by name.
    Residents told HRW that there were no Nusra facilities or property inside the village.
    "The reported killing of at least seven civilians in strikes in which there may have been no legitimate military target nearby raises concerns that the strikes were unlawful under the laws of war and should be investigated," HRW said.
    "The US government should investigate credible allegations of violations of the laws of war, such the strikes on Kafr Deryan, and publish its findings."
    The group urged Washington to recognize that the US government failed to discriminate between combatants and civilians, or unlawfully caused civilian loss disproportionate to the expected military advantage.
    An activist who spoke to the rights group said that six other civilians – three children and three women – were also killed in the strikes, but HRW was unable to verify the claim. He said 15 others, among them women and children, were injured. – AFP

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