US orders new review of deadly 2019 airstrike in Syria

Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin orders to review the airstrike that killed dozens, including women and children


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US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. — AP file
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin. — AP file

Published: Tue 30 Nov 2021, 3:28 AM

Last updated: Tue 30 Nov 2021, 3:38 AM

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin has ordered a new review of a US airstrike in Syria in March 2019 that killed dozens, including women and children, to assess the extent of civilian casualties and whether the strike violated the laws of war.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Monday that Austin chose the commander of US Army Forces Command, Gen Michael X. Garrett, to conduct the review. Garrett will have 90 days to complete his inquiry, which Kirby said would include a determination of whether “accountability measures” should be taken against those involved in the attack.

The attack, first reported in detail earlier this month by The New York Times, happened near the town of Baghuz, in eastern Syria near the Iraq border. The Times reported that a military legal officer had quickly flagged the strike as a possible war crime that required an investigation, but that at multiple stages the military made moves to conceal the strike and downplayed the death toll.

After the Times story was published, Austin requested and received a briefing on the matter from Gen. Frank McKenzie, the command of US Central Command. McKenzie’s command has said an initial investigation concluded that the strike constituted legitimate self-defence in support of Syrian partner forces under fire from the Daesh group.

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