US admits strike on ‘Al-Qaeda meeting’ in Syria amid reports of deadly mosque attack nearby
Dozens of worshipers have reportedly been killed in an airstrike on a mosque in Syria’s Aleppo province. While the Pentagon only admitted to striking a nearby terrorist gathering in the bordering Idlib, some reports suggest US missile debris were recovered from the mosque’s rubble.
Details of the strike on the Al-Jinah mosque are scarce, but over 50 people might have been killed in the incident, according to various reports. Images from the scene shared on social media show the wide-scale destruction.
Video showing scale of devastation and huge crater just outside the Mosque of Al-Jinah in SW #Aleppo countryside. pic.twitter.com/TFUCAEXLuf— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) March 16, 2017
None of the forces present in the area have taken responsibility for the strike yet. Both Russian and Syrian planes in addition to American-led air power are conducting operations against terrorist units in the area.
WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
At least 58 killed more than 100 wounded after an air raid on mosque during evening prayers in #Atarib near #Aleppo#Syria#WarCrimespic.twitter.com/BnDUdoy9n7— Selami Haktan (@slmhktn_eng) March 16, 2017
Some rushed to blame Moscow or Damascus for the carnage, after activists of the so-called White Helmets rescue organization and no less the notorious UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights shared first images from the scene.
"We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target -- which was where the meeting took place -- is about 50 feet (15 meters) from a mosque that is still standing," said Colonel John J. Thomas, spokesman for US Central Command according to AFP.
Journalist Samuel Oakford, who was previously UN correspondent at Vice News, said that the US central Command confirmed it had carried out a strike in relative close proximity to the mosque.
“US official says that they were targeting an 'Al Qaeda meeting place" that was across from the mosque in Aleppo. 'We took the strike'”, he tweeted. Earlier, the reporter claimed the US Central Command told him the Americans conducted a strike on a target just several miles away, in the bordering Idlib province, and was looking into the Aleppo suburb mosque strike.
US official says that they were targeting an "Al Qaeda meeting place" that was across from the mosque in Aleppo. "We took the strike."— Samuel Oakford (@samueloakford) 16 марта 2017 г.
CENTCOM spokesperson, Maj. Josh Jacques, told the London-based Airwars monitoring group that the target was “assessed to be a meeting place for al Qaeda, and we took the strike.”
“It happened to be across the street from where there is a mosque,” said Jacques, specifying that the mosque was not the target and that it wasn’t hit directly.
CENTCOM statement: airstrike on Al-Qaeda was in Idlib.— Christiaan Triebert (@trbrtc) March 17, 2017
But geolocation shows building was in Aleppo gov (though 4km from Idlib gov). Why? pic.twitter.com/e5jGreIzJ4
“To be clear: this was a unilateral US strike, not part of anti-ISIS Coalition activities,” Oakford emphasized in another tweet.
Meanwhile Sakir Khader, who identifies himself as a journalist with a focus on Syria, Turkey, and the wider Middle East, posted a picture of the missile debris, which he claims to have come from the rubble of the destroyed mosque.
Photo shows the remnants of a bomb used in the airstrike on the ‘Umar ibn Al-Khaṭṭāb mosque in the rebel-held village of al-Jinā, w-Aleppo. pic.twitter.com/aGsqMjcWIJ— Sakir Khader (@sakirkhader) 16 марта 2017 г.
While the location and authenticity of the photo are yet to be independently investigated, the picture shows latin inscription on a metal plate alleged to be a piece of the missile.
Neither the Russian nor the US militaries, as well as Damascus, have yet to officially comment on the incident.