Airstrikes on September 17 by the US-led coalition, which killed 62 and injured 100 Syrian soldiers in Deir ez-Zor, were the result of an “unintentional, regrettable error,” the US Central Command has said.
The mistake was “primarily based on human factors,” Brigadier General Richard ‘Tex’ Coe, who headed the CENTCOM investigation, told reporters in a teleconference on Tuesday.
Strikes by the US-led coalition were stopped after Russian military officials called the Americans with a request to desist. The US gave Russia inaccurate information on the planned operation in Deir ez-Zor, Coe said, according to Sputnik.
The four airstrikes targeted Syrian forces near Deir ez-Zor the airport, a vital supply conduit for the enclave besieged by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) forces. Damascus has accused the US of deliberately targeting Syrian troops in order to scuttle the ceasefire negotiated in Geneva. The Pentagon has maintained the airstrike was an accident, and that IS was the intended target.
“It was not an accident by one airplane; it was four airplanes which kept attacking the position of the Syrian troops for nearly one hour or maybe a little bit more,” Syrian President Bashar Assad told AP on September 22, adding that IS forces attacked the Syrian Army at the same time.
“The Syrian government puts all the responsibility for aggression on the US, as the facts show that it was a deliberate attack, but not a mistake – even if America says the opposite,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said in September at the UN General Assembly, adding that this act of “vile aggression” proved the US and its allies were “accomplices of Islamic State and other terror groups.”
The September 17 airstrikes unraveled the truce agreed to on September 9 in Switzerland by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry. The ceasefire envisioned the creation of US-Russian joint implementation centers, but the Pentagon refused to even consider the idea.