US says it killed civilian in Syria drone strike last year

Pentagon admits 'several issues' and 'regrets civilian harm' from strike on Al Qaeda target

Mohammed Hassan Masto sits next to the grave of his brother Lutfi on May 7, 2023, in the village of Qorqanya, a rural area in northern Idlib province, Syria. AP
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The Pentagon on Thursday acknowledged in an internal investigation that the US mistakenly killed a civilian in Syria in a 2023 drone strike, saying US forces had misidentified an intended Al Qaeda target.

The US Central Command said it could not publicly share many details of the investigation because it was classified information, Reuters reported.

While the strike complied with the law of armed conflict and US policies, the investigation “revealed several issues that could be improved”.

“US Central Command acknowledges and regrets the civilian harm that resulted from the air strike,” Centcom said in a statement.

“We are committed to learning from this incident and improving our targeting processes to mitigate potential civilian harm.”

The Washington Post, which was first to report the assessment, said the statement confirmed the newspaper's earlier report that a US claim to have killed a senior Al Qaeda leader was false.

The May 3, 2023, strike in north-west Syria was supposed to kill a senior Al Qaeda leader but instead hit a civilian named Lufti Masto, the statement said.

It said the investigation had concluded in mid-November.

Hours after the strike, Mr Masto's brother told AFP that Lufti 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.”

Updated: May 02, 2024, 8:30 PM