The United States military has started a formal investigation into what officials are calling credible claims of civilian casualties from a U.S.-led coalition airstrike in Manbij, Syria.
Speaking to reporters from Baghdad, Col. Chris Garver said the initial U.S. assessment of allegations into civilian casualties proved the allegations are credible enough to warrant the investigation.
Syrian rights groups have claimed a coalition airstrike in Manbij on July 19 killed civilians, with the reported death toll ranging from about 10 to several dozen.
Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters man a checkpoint as civilians on pick-up trucks evacuate from the southern districts of Manbij city after the SDF advanced into it in Aleppo Governorate, Syria, July 1, 2016.
According to the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State coalition, the Syrian Arab Coalition, or SAC, called in an airstrike against IS buildings and vehicles after observing a convoy of armed IS fighters who appeared to be readying for a counterattack against SAC troops who were nearby. Only after the strike did the U.S.-led coalition receive reports from sources indicating there may have been civilians in the area.
Col. Garver said the formal investigation could include interviewing victims’ family members or witnesses that have spoken with rights groups and comparing that information with coalition knowledge on where and when they carried out strikes.
The military is also assessing the credibility of a second allegation of civilian casualties, this one from a July 23 strike on a village east of Manbij.
“That credibility assessment is still ongoing,” Garver said. The coalition has conducted more than 520 airstrikes in support of the SAC push to reclaim Manbij from Islamic State fighters.