On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, the US Department of Defence announced that those responsible for a March 2019 airstrike that killed 70 civilians in Baghouz, Syria, committed “no fault”, contrary to reports in the New York Times. As a result, no one will be penalized.
The Pentagon announced that those responsible for a 2019 airstrike that killed 70 civilians in Syria committed no fault, did not “deliberately” kill civilians, nor show “indifference unjustified”.
The Pentagon’s internal investigation into the March 18, 2019 bombing of Baghouz, Syria, was launched in November after the publication of a New York Times article that accused the US military of trying to conceal the presence of non-combatant casualties.
The daily said that 70 people, including women and children, had been killed in this operation in Baghouz, and that a military lawyer had described the incident as “a possible war crime “.
But the investigation, led by Army General Michael Garrett, concluded that the commander of US forces on the ground received an urgent request for air support from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that day, the coalition of Western-backed anti-ISIS fighters in northeast Syria.
The commander “obtained confirmation that there were no civilians in the firing zone” and authorized the strike, said General Garrett in his conclusions made public by the American Department of Defence.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said no one would be punished for Baghouz’s victims. The investigation established that no one had “acted in violation of the laws of war”, he said, and instead concluded that there had been “no malicious intent”.
“We don’t do everything perfectly, but we try to improve,” assured the spokesperson. “We try to be as transparent as possible about the lessons we learn.”
However, a legal officer earlier flagged the bombing as a possible war crime that required an investigation.
The military’s inquiry followed a New York Times investigation describing allegations that officials sought to conceal dozens of civilian casualties.