4 civilians likely killed in U.S. airstrike against ISIS in Iraq

Story highlights

  • A memorandum outlining the findings of the investigation released by U.S. Central Command detailed that the strike occurred at an ISIS checkpoint
  • The acknowledgment came after a multi-month investigation first prompted by a non-governmental organization

Washington (CNN)The Pentagon admitted Friday that a U.S. airstrike on an ISIS target Iraq in March "likely" killed four civilians, one of whom might have been a child.

The acknowledgment came after a multi-month investigation first prompted by a non-governmental organization that informed the military that non-combatants might have been killed in the attack.
"We regret the unintentional loss of lives and keep those families affected in our thoughts," Lt. Gen. C.Q. Brown, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander, said in a written statement.
    A memorandum outlining the findings of the investigation released by U.S. Central Command detailed that the strike occurred at an ISIS checkpoint. The U.S. Air Force had the ISIS personnel in their sights when drivers of two vehicles pulled up and parked their cars.
    Their length of interaction gave the U.S. Combined Air Operations Center reason to think they were tied to ISIS and the aircrews received permission to proceed with the strike. But the investigation later determined that there were likely civilians in the car who were not combatants.
    "I think it's safe to say if we knew there were civilians, we would not have conducted a strike," Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, told reporters. "There was no indication until after weapons release that there could potentially be civilians on that site."
    According to the memorandum outlining the incident, which occurred on March 13 near Hatra, no positive identification on the gender or age of those killed can be made with reasonable certainty without further forensic examination or evidence.
    The strike was carried out by an A-10 aircraft.
    "The coalition continues to take all reasonable measures during the targeting process to reduce as much as possible risks to non-combatants," Brown said. "Our goal is to defeat (ISIS), a terrorist organization that continuously wraps itself around the population, and we do everything we can to prevent unintended deaths or injuries to non-combatants."
    In a briefing with reporters, Ryder noted that the United States began its investigation into the incident after an NGO passed on an email from an Iraqi civilian whose vehicle was hit in the strike and who said that other civilians were in the car.
    To date, there are now a total of six civilian casualties that have likely been killed in coalition strikes, Ryder said. There are a total of 26 such incidents currently at some stage of review, and six of those -- five in Iraq and one in Syria -- are currently within a formal investigation.
    Earlier this year, the U.S. military said two children had likely been killed in an airstrike in Syria in November 2014.