The US-led coalition said in an April 13 statement that a “misdirected” airstrike killed 18 Syrian Democratic Forces personnel near Tabqa on April 11.
“The strike was requested by the partnered forces, who had identified the target location as an ISIS fighting position. The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position.”
The cause of the friendly fire incident is being assessed, the statement said, and the coalition “will implement appropriate safeguards to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
The statement said the coalition remains “in close contact with our SDF partners who have expressed a strong desire to remain focused on the fight against ISIS despite this tragic incident.”
On Friday, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson Col. Joseph Scrocca told Grasswire that the coalition had vetted the partner force’s information prior to the strike.
“The information was vetted through ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and. Reconnaissance] surveillance and the Coalition checked with partner forces several times to ensure they were sure of the target identity.”
Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson Col. Joseph Scrocca
The spokesperson added that the ISR surveillance showed no civilians present in the area. The target area had weapons, according to him.
“That combined with the partnered force confirmation that they were not their own forces provide sufficient information to conduct strike,” Scrocca concluded. “Unfortunately the partnered force did not have updated information on their own force positions resulting in the death of 18 partnered forces.”
An SDF statement said that some of its personnel were killed and wounded but did not confirm numbers.
“The General Command of the Syrian Democratic Forces will coordinate with international coalition forces to investigate the incident to find out the reasons and circumstances that led to the incident and to prevent recurrence in the future.”
SDF statement (translated from Arabic)
In a Facebook update in English, the SDF press office said “we lost 18 SDF soldiers and several wounded during a coalition bombing,” adding that the cause was unknown.
The SDF on April 12 announced the beginning of the fourth phase of its Euphrates Wrath campaign to liberate Raqqa.
On April 12, BBC producer Riam Dalati tweeted that the Syrian Arab Coalition group Liwa Suqur al Raqqa (the Raqqa Falcons Brigade) had left the battlefield after 17 of its fighters were killed in an airstrike called in by Kurdish YPG fighters.
Rêdûr Xelîl, spokesperson for the YPG, told Grasswire that YPG members “are not responsible for giving any coordinates related to the misdirected bombing incident.”
The ANHA news agency published video of the funeral of 17 of those killed, saying that those buried were members of Liwa Suqur al Raqqa. The group’s leader, Abu Adnan, promised revenge.
A Facebook page purporting to belong to Liwa Suqur al Raqqa posted a picture on April 12 saying the group was around 1km from Tabqa.
#لواء_صقور_الرقةبدمائكم سنحرر أرض الفرات من رجس التكفيرينصقورنا الأبطال على بعد 1كم عن مدينة الطبقةوأقول للشامتين هذه الأرض لن يحررها سوى أبطالناوالرحمة لأرواحكم شهدائنا
Posted by لواء صقور الرقة on Wednesday, April 12, 2017
On April 13, Bassam Jaara of the London-based Al Quds Al Arabi newspaper tweeted that a military commander of Liwa Suqur al Raqqa said 17 members of the group were killed in the battle around Tabqa.
قائد عسكري من لواء صقور الرقة : مقتل 17 عنصرا من لواء صقور الرقة التابع لقوات سوريا القرباطية في معارك الطبقة
— بسام جعارة (@BassamJaara) April 13, 2017
—reporting by Fergus Kelly and Anna Varfolomeeva