Syrian townspeople insist U.S. airstrike killed civilians

McClatchy reports: Mohammad Na’us was one of the most respected men in al Bab. He was the undertaker who washed the bodies of the dead prior to burial, a pious Quranic scholar who issued the sundown call to prayer in the Syrian town near the Turkish border, and for the past year, a seller of bread in his neighborhood.

But on Dec. 28, the bakery’s delivery was late and he missed the prayers at sundown. Religious police arrested Na’us, a father of five in his 50s, and ordered him to spend one night in prison.

It was his last.

At 7:20 p.m., a U.S. airstrike leveled al Bab’s al Saraya government center. Townspeople say dozens of people, including Na’us, died in the strike. U.S. officials, while acknowledging the strike, deny that any civilians died.

“That night you could hear the screams and wailing of women in the town when they heard al Saraya was bombed,” said Abu Hussein, who lived near the government center and passed it daily on his way to pray at the local mosque. “They knew their sons and relatives were in the building.”

The speaker, a 55-year-old man interviewed in Antakya, Turkey, asked to be identified by a pseudonym that means “Hussein’s father,” fearing retribution by the Islamic State should he return to al Bab.

McClatchy first reported on Jan. 11 that at least 50 civilians in the prison had died in the U.S. airstrike. Three days after that report, the U.S. Central Command said a review of the airstrike had determined that allegations of civilian casualties “are not credible.”

McClatchy, however, has found more substantiation for its initial report from refugees who fled al Bab and now inhabit towns in southern Turkey. With the help of relatives, neighbors and friends, McClatchy has assembled a list of the full names of 10 civilians who reportedly died in the airstrike and the family names of another 14. [Continue reading…]

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