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US general says Syria school airstrike hit militants not civilians

The top US general in Iraq told reporters on March 28 that his “initial read” was that an airstrike on a school near Raqqa on March 21 killed dozens of Islamic State militants and not civilians.

Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve was briefing reporters by telephone from Iraq.

On March 22, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 33 internally displaced people (IDPs) were killed in a US-led coalition airstrike on a school near Mansoura town, west of Raqqa.

Residents said around 40 displaced families from villages in Raqqa, Homs and Aleppo lived in the school.

Townsend was asked by Tara Kopp from Stars and Stripes about civilian casualty investigations in Syria and Iraq.

Referring to the school in Syria, Townsend said:

“I would tell you that we haven’t completed our assessment of that event yet. But my initial read is: not credible. I think that was a clean strike.”

“We had multiple corroborating intelligence sources from various types of intelligence that told us the enemy was using that school. And we observed it. And we saw what we expected to see. We struck it. We saw what we expected to see.”

“Afterwards, we got an allegation that it wasn’t ISIS fighters in there; got a single allegation it wasn’t ISIS fighters in there; it was instead refugees of some sort in the school. Yet, not seeing any corroborating evidence of that. In fact, everything we’ve seen since then suggests that it was the 30 or so ISIS fighters that we expected to be there.”

“So, I think that’s going to play out to be unfounded, and the enemy — we struck enemy fighters that we planned to strike there.”

Geo-locating the school

We geo-located the school hit by the airstrike:

Geo-locating “Al Badia” school near Raqqa, reportedly bombed by coalition aircraft

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