U.S. Central Command launched an official investigation into a May 3 drone strike in Syria that may have resulted in the death of a civilian, the combatant command confirmed to Military Times.
“The review of the allegations of a civilian casualty from the U.S. Central Command May 3, 2023, strike in Syria has transitioned to an AR 15-6 investigation,” Maj. John Moore, a CENTCOM spokesperson, said in a statement.
The investigation will examine the drone strike in early May that aimed to target a senior al-Qaida leader but instead may have killed a civilian with no terrorism ties. The man reportedly killed was Lutfi Hassan Masto, according to The Associated Press. His brother described him as a farmer with no involvement with armed groups.
The incident poses questions over compliance with the military’s civilian harm mitigation plan, which the Department of Defense developed in 2022 following various reports of U.S. strikes that resulted in civilian deaths.
CENTCOM’s Brig. Gen. John Cogbill has opened an investigation, which spokesman Moore said could last 30 days or more.
CENTCOM commander Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla ordered an announcement of the strike on social media without confirmation of exactly who was killed in the operation, CNN reported.
“At 1142 am local Syrian time on 3 May, U.S. Central Command forces conducted a unilateral strike in Northwest Syria targeting a senior Al Qaeda leader,” the tweet said. “We will provide more information as operational details become available.”
The investigation comes after The Washington Post reported doubt over who was killed in the strike.
CENTCOM reported it had conducted 38 missions in May alone against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, killing eight alleged ISIS operatives and detaining 31. This strike was not included in that roundup, Moore noted.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media