Russia urges US comment on reports of fatal Syria mosque strike
The Russian Defense Ministry has urged a comment from the US after photos of a purported US missile fragment found in the rubble of a bombed Syrian mosque emerged online. The Pentagon denies that their forces hit the mosque.
“A photo showing a fragment of an air-to-surface AGM-114 Hellfire missile has emerged. It leaves no chance for the US-led coalition to remain silent as usual and for diplomats to spout anti-Russian rhetoric,” Major-General Igor Konashenkov said Friday.
The airstrike on a mosque in Syria’s Aleppo province happened overnight into Friday, March 17. At least 40 civilians are feared killed.
“I think we should expect comments from the US partners anytime soon,” Konashenkov noted.
The news of the strike was broken by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the White Helmets activists who shared the first pictures from the scene. Some news outlets were quick to lay the blame for the attack on Moscow or Damascus.
Tragic mistakes that claim lives of civilians do happen at war, the Russian spokesman said, however adding that “before releasing anti-Russian false stories, they [media sources] should do their job as professionals by thoroughly studying the facts and getting to the bottom of things.”
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There is no doubt the US missiles were intended for terrorists, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday.
“We have no doubt that the US forces were aiming at terrorists,” Zakharova said.
“Unlike some of our opponents, we are not going to blame them for ‘intentional’ killing of civilians and destruction of infrastructure,” she noted, adding that there is still a need to understand what really happened in Al-Jinah.
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The authenticity of the photo supposedly showing a metal piece of a missile with a serial number inscription is yet to be confirmed.
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) March 16, 2017
Russian and Syrian forces, as well as the US-led coalition air powers are known to be conducting operations in the affected area.
The US admitted to targeting a building located next to the mosque where an Al-Qaeda meeting was allegedly taking place, noting that the mosque itself was not hit, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said, showing an image of the targeted building.
Davis added that there were no civilian casualties.
Pentagon releases photo of post-strike in Al Jinah in Aleppo province. Mosque, US mil says, is in upper left corner - left largely untouched pic.twitter.com/dl6ZIQJIys— W.J. Hennigan (@wjhenn) March 17, 2017
“We did not strike nor did we hit the mosque that was within 50 feet of the half of the building that we struck where a meeting of Al-Qaeda in Syria was taking place,” said CENTCOM spokesman Colonel John Thomas, according to AFP.
US forces “targeted an Al-Qaeda gathering across the street from a mosque,” Major Josh T. Jacques, media operations chief at the US Central Command Communication Integration, told RT in a statement.
“We did not target, nor did we strike a mosque... The mosque does not appear to be damaged following the strike. We are aware of the reports of civilian casualties and we are looking into it,” Jacques said.
Jumping to unverified conclusions and laying the blame on Moscow and Damascus by several news outlets these days is “common practice,” Ammar Waqqaf, political analyst specializing on the Middle East, told RT.
Waqqaf doesn’t think that the relatives of the dead civilians will see any justice, saying that it’s also a “common practice” that was seen in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the US will attempt to get out of the incident “as clean as possible.”
“You will have collateral damage, the problem is that it was prayer time and a lot of people should have been expected to be gathering in that particular mosque,” Waqqaf said.