HRW: US failed to protect civilians in Syria mosque

Free Syrian Army fighters carry their weapons as they walk in the northern province of Quneitra, Syria on Tuesday. (REUTERS)
Updated 19 April 2017
0

HRW: US failed to protect civilians in Syria mosque

BEIRUT: The US military failed to take “necessary precautions” to prevent civilians deaths in a strike on a Syrian mosque last month that killed dozens of people, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
The March 16 strike in the village of opposition-held Al-Jineh in northern Aleppo province killed 49 people, mostly civilians, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“United States forces appear to have failed to take necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties,” in the strike, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report.
The Pentagon said the strike targeted a meeting of senior Al-Qaeda leaders and denied a mosque had been hit in the attack.
But it launched a casualty “credibility assessment” after reviewing public and classified information.
HRW said it had interviewed 14 people with firsthand knowledge of the strike, and worked with organizations to analyze imagery of the attack and reconstruct the assault.
“The US seems to have gotten several things fundamentally wrong in this attack, and dozens of civilians paid the price,” said Ole Solvang, HRW’s deputy emergencies director.
“The US authorities need to figure out what went wrong, start doing their homework before they launch attacks, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Part of the dispute over the attack centered around whether the building hit was a mosque or not.
HRW said the building did not have some traditional features of a mosque, including a domed roof and a minaret.
But it said aerial surveillance would have shown people regularly gathering for daily prayers, including in the moments before the attack.
“Any attempt to verify through people with local knowledge what kind of building this was would likely have established that the building was a mosque,” the group said.
HRW said it had found no evidence that militants were inside the mosque, but that even if they had been “striking a mosque just before prayer and then attack people attempting to flee, without knowing whether they were civilians or combatants, may well have been disproportionate or indiscriminate.”
“Indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks violate the laws of war, as does failing to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian deaths,” it added.
HRW said it had submitted its findings to US Central Command and been told a “comprehensive investigation reached the preliminary conclusion that the strike was lawful.”
Washington leads a coalition that has been carrying out airstrikes against the Daesh group in Syria since 2014, as well as occasionally targeting other terrorists.
Last month, the coalition said its campaign against Daesh in Syria and Iraq had unintentionally killed at least 220 civilians, but monitors say the real number is far higher.


UAE, Bahrain support Pompeo’s list of demands for Iran

Updated 3 min 10 sec ago
0

UAE, Bahrain support Pompeo’s list of demands for Iran

  • A senior UAE official says United States is taking the right approach on Iran
  • Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry also affirms full support for Washington's strategy toward Iran.

JEDDAH: The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates, Anwar Gargash, said on Monday US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was taking the right approach on Iran.
Gargash wrote on his official Twitter account, several hours after a policy speech on Iran by Pompeo, that united efforts were the right way to show Iran the “futility of its incursions and expansionism.”
Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry also affirmed full support for the United States’ strategy toward Iran.
“Pompeo’s [strategy] which reflects the determination to confront the danger of Iranian policies that undermine security and stability in the region and to overcome the shortcomings of the nuclear agreement. And praised the continued efforts of the United States to strengthen regional and international peace and security and its relentless efforts to take all possible measures to prevent the spread of chaos, tension and crisis resolution in the region,” a statement from Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry read.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirms that the Kingdom of Bahrain considers itself in a single position with the United States of America in the face of the Iranian threat, addressing Iran’s attempts to export violence and terrorism and stressing the need for Iran to respond to all efforts to achieve peace and resolve conflicts in the region and to remove them from nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction. The immediate cessation of support for terrorist militias and adherence to international laws and norms and non-interference at all in the internal affairs of the States of the region,” the statement added.
The statement comes after Pompeo laid out 12 demands for Iran and said relief from economic sanctions would only come when Washington had seen tangible shifts in Iran’s policies.