The US military stated that it carried an attack on March 17 in Aleppo, Syria which targeted an al-Qaeda members’ meeting.
However, the locals and first responders maintained that the building that was targeted was actually a mosque called Omar Ibn al-Khatab where around 300 people regularly gathered for prayers and religious lectures.
Three investigations, same findings:
Human Rights Watch, Forensic Architecture and Bellingcat conducted three independent investigations, and this week they published the results. They all state that the targeted building was indeed the mentioned mosque and that the airstrike “completely destroyed” the service section, as well as shot at those who were fleeing the scene. In total 38 were killed and dozens more wounded.
Navy Captain Jeff Davis was asked about the likelihood of hitting a mosque, to which he replied: “The area was extensively surveyed prior to the strike in order to minimize civilian casualties. We deliberately did not target the mosque.”
Human Rights Watch conducted research which stated that: “US authorities failed to take all feasible precautions to avoid or minimize civilian casualties in the attack, a requirement under the laws of war.”
It continued: “While US officials acknowledged that there was a mosque nearby, they claimed that the targeted building was a partially constructed community hall. But information from local residents, photographs, and video footage of the building before and after the attack show that the targeted building was also a mosque.”
No armed groups in the mosque:
According to local residents, no members of al-Qaeda or other armed groups were in the mosque during the time of the airstrike. HRW added that the mosque held services in the time between sunset prayers and evening prayers every Thursday, the airstrike occurred at 6:55 p.m., right after the end of evening prayers.
For its report, HRW interviewed around 14 eyewitnesses who were in the mosque at the time of the attack, as well as analyze video footage along with pictures that were procured by Bellingcat. While Forensic Architecture made a model of the mosque to show the attack occurred in real life. It is worth noting though that the three investigations were carried out separately.