Wire services — May 2, 2015
The death toll from an airstrike by U.S.-led forces on the northern Syrian province of Aleppo has risen to 52 including seven children, a group monitoring the conflict said Saturday.
Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said the death toll from Friday’s strike was the highest civilian loss in a single attack by U.S. and Arab forces since they started air raids against hardline armed groups in Syria such as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
U.S.-led forces are also targeting the group in Iraq. The Observatory said the raid had mistakenly struck civilians in a village on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River in Aleppo province, killing members of at least six families.
U.S.-led strikes had killed at least 66 civilians in Syria from the start of the raids on Sept. 23 until Friday’s strike, which brought the total to at least 118. The campaign has also killed nearly 2,000 ISIL fighters, the Observatory said.
The group said at least 13 people were still missing from Friday’s raid. The U.S. military did not confirm the civilian deaths, but said it takes all such reports seriously and would look into the matter further.
“We currently have no information to corroborate allegations that coalition air strikes resulted in civilian casualties,” Major Curt Kellogg, spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said in an email.
Shorsh Hassan, a spokesman for the main Kurdish militia known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in Kobane, said he was not aware of any civilian casualties in the strikes. He told the Associated Press that the village, held by ISIL, was emptied of civilians days before the clashes that preceded the airstrikes. The area has seen heavy fighting between the Kurdish forces and ISIL.
Salem al-Meslet, a spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition, a Western-backed umbrella opposition group, told the AP that it appeared likely that the U.S.-led strikes in the village killed civilians, though “it is hard at this moment to speak with absolute certainty.”
The U.S.-led air strikes have slowed ISIL’s advances but have so far failed to weaken it in areas it controls. The group has built its own government in Syria’s city of Raqqa, where it is most powerful.
Washington and its allies say their aim is to support what they call moderate rebels fighting against both Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and ISIL.
But four years into Syria’s civil war, no side is close to victory. A third of the population has been made homeless and more than 220,000 people have been killed.
Government forces have seen a series of setbacks on the battlefield recently and rebel fighters have edged closer to Assad’s stronghold in the coastal areas.
Fighting continued on Saturday between government forces and rebels in government-held Latakia, heartland of Assad’s minority Alawite community.