US silence over coalition’s reported deadly bombing in Manbij, Syria puzzles Moscow – Churkin

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin. © Eduardo Munoz
The US-led anti-terror coalition in Syria has been “astonishingly” silent about recent reports claiming dozens of civilian casualties in Manbij were caused by its airstrikes, Russia’s UN Ambassador said, expressing fears that the probe could be scuttled.

Speaking at the UN Security Council meeting on Monday, Vitaly Churkin said that, while Moscow has been “extremely worried” by the reports of civilian deaths in northern Syria, delegations from the Western countries “astonishingly... did not say a word” regarding the matter during the meeting.

Pointing out that an investigation into civilian casualties caused by NATO bombings in Libya has not been forthcoming even five years on, Churkin said no “promises of investigation” on the Manjib deaths were necessary. “I’m sure the American military already very well know the state of affairs,” the UN Ambassador said.

After Churkin’s speech, US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said that Washington would “carefully and thoroughly review any and all credible information we can gather about the incident, including information from organizations within Syria that document harm to civilians.” Saying that “the United States goes to extraordinary lengths to reduce the risk of non-combatant casualties,” the US official instead accused both Damascus and Moscow of striking “hospitals, clinics and medical personnel” in Syria.

Churkin said his US counterpart’s surprising reference to the role of civil organizations in investigating the deaths in Aleppo province made him believe that the truth would probably never be known and “everything [could be] swept under the carpet.”

“So are there no American drones, no American- and their allies’ special forces in Syria, no satellite intelligence capabilities of the US, no videos which are being made by all modern fighter jets when conducting a strike? I would not want to believe that the military condition of the US-led coalition is so poor,” Churkin told the Security Council meeting, adding that Russia’s Defense Ministry “instantly” conducts investigations when accusations against Moscow emerge – and makes all of the evidence public.

READ MORE: US-led coalition to probe civilian deaths in Syria – defense secretary

Last week, Damascus addressed the UN to ask it to take action following the killing of over a hundred civilians, including many women and children, during what it says were airstrikes carried out by the US-led coalition. Syria’s Foreign Ministry said the attacks were conducted by French and US war planes in and around the city of Manbij close to the Turkish-Syrian border, while complaining that the coalition “send their missiles and bombs to the civilians instead of directing them to the terrorist gangs.”

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter has said the coalition will investigate the allegations that its airstrikes caused civilian deaths in the Manbij area, while French President Francois Hollande said he has no precise information on the French air forces’ responsibility for civilian deaths there. Meanwhile, the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the head of Syrian opposition group, has urged the US-led coalition to suspend its aerial campaign in the region in the wake of reports of civilian casualties.