US airstrike on Syrian ′IS′ prison kills dozens of civilians | Middle East| News and analysis of events in the Arab world | DW | 27.06.2017
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Middle East

US airstrike on Syrian 'IS' prison kills dozens of civilians

US-led coalition aircraft have allegedly bombed a prison in Syria killing dozens of civilians. The director of public affairs for the coalition campaign confirmed that an investigation had been launched.

The US-led coalition admitted that it had conducted airstrikes on so-called "Islamic State" (IS) targets in the Syrian town of al-Mayadeen. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) had reported already earlier in the day that at least 42 people had been killed in al-Mayadeen during an air strike on a prison run by IS. The jail reportedly contained civilian prisoners as well as jailed members of the terrorist group.

SOHR stated at the time that the strike was believed to have been carried out by the coalition, adding that the death toll might be closer to 60 according to some of its sources on the ground.

"The strikes hit an IS jail in Mayadeen at dawn on Monday, killing 44 prisoners and 15 jihadists," chief of the Britain-based Observatory Rami Abdel Rahman told news agency AFP.

US reaction

The US-led coalition later confirmed that it had performed airstrikes in the area: "The Coalition conducted strikes on known ISIS command and control facilities and other ISIS infrastructure in (Mayadeen), Syria, June 25 and 26," Colonel Joe Scrocca, coalition director of public affairs, said in an email to the Reuters news agency, referring to IS by another commonly-used name.

"The removal of these facilities disrupts ISIS's ability to facilitate and provoke terrorist attacks against the coalition, our partner forces and in our homelands. This mission was meticulously planned and executed to reduce the risk of collateral damage and potential harm to non-combatants."

Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the US-led coalition meanwhile told Reuters: "With every single allegation we will take it and look into it. "If we are responsible for any civilian casualties we come forth and admit it," he said.

Dillon added that Observatory reporting had previously been exaggerated.

Read: White House claims Bashar al-Assad planning Syrian chemical weapons attack

Read: Almost 500 dead in month of US-led Syria strikes: monitor

Further details emerge

The activist-run Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet also said that at least 60 civilians were killed in the attack, adding that the building had belonged to a commander with links to al Qaeda before it was seized by IS in 2014.

Both Deir Ezzor 24 and SOHR identified aircraft from the US-led coalition as the alleged source of the bombing but it was not clear how they had identified the aircraft responsible. Syrian state-run TV station al-Ikhbariya also cited a correspondent in the area as saying thatcoalition warplanes had destroyed a building in al-Mayadeen used as a prison by IS.

In a news bulletin flashed on screen, it said the building had been used as a prison for a "large number of civilians,"

Target: Mayadeen

Mayadeen is located in the Euphrates Valley about 45 kilometers (28 miles) southeast of Deir Ezzor, the capital of a province bearing the same name.

US intelligence officers had previously told Reuters, on condition of anonymity, that IS had moved most of its leaders to al-Mayadeen as Raqqa came under increasing attack. Among the operations believed to have moved to al-Mayadeen were its online propaganda operation and its limited command and control of attacks in Europe and elsewhere, they said.

Last week the coalition said that it had killed IS's top cleric Turki Binali in a May 31 strike in Mayadeen and earlier this month Russia said it had killed about 180 IS jihadists, including two field commanders, in June 6 and 8 air strikes on Deir Ezzor.

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US-backed militias push into IS-held Raqqa

ss, aw/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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