A new report claims that the U.S. military hid 2019 airstrikes on Syria, which resulted in 64 deaths of children and women. This was a possible war crime committed during the conflict against Islamic State.

The two back-to-back airstrikes near the town of Baghuz were ordered by a classified American special operations unit tasked with ground operations in Syria, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

An analyst shocked by drone footage from the strike said to colleagues, via secure chat.

An assessment revealed that the actual death toll for the March 19th 2019 attack was much higher. It is possible that this incident could be one of the worst civilian casualties in US-led war against ISIS. 

Heavy smoke rises above the Islamic State (IS) group's last remaining position in the village of Baghouz on March 18, 2019, the same day as the alleged strikes that killed civilians

On March 18, 2019, heavy smoke rose above Baghouz, the last position of the Islamic State group. This was the day that the strikes which claimed to have killed civilians took place.

Smoke rises in the ISIS group's last remaining position on the eastern banks of the Euphrates River in the village of Baghouz on March 18, 2019

The last remaining ISIS position along the Euphrates River’s east banks in Baghouz, March 18, 2019: Smoke rising

A Syrian woman holds two little girls against her chest as they joined hundreds of civilians who fled the final ISIS stronghold in Baghuz on March 5, 2019, days prior to the bomb strikes

Two little Syrian girls were held against their chest by a woman in Syria. They joined thousands of civilians fleeing Baghuz, the last ISIS stronghold on March 5, 2019, just days before the bomb attacks.

The strikes, called in by the secretive special operations group Task Force 9, were carried out by American F-15E attack jets that dropped one 500-pound bomb and two 2,000-pound bombs.  

U.S. Central Command was responsible for overseeing U.S. operations in Syria. This week it acknowledged strikes and stated that they were valid.

Central Command reiterated to DailyMail.com the accounts it had given the newspaper, stating that 80 people died in the attacks. This included 16 Islamic State fighters as well as four civilians. 

Military claimed that it wasn’t clear whether the 60 other people in question were civilians.

According to Sunday’s statement the military claimed that strikes had taken place in ‘legitimate defense’, were proportional and that it was taking appropriate measures to prevent civilians from being present.

We are horrified at the loss of innocent lives and we will do everything possible to stop them. We self-reported the incident and investigated it according to our evidence. Central Command took full responsibility for any unintentional loss of life.

Although many women and children fled Baghuz (as seen above) before the final battle, the Pentagon says that some remained and took up arms

The Pentagon reports that although many Baghuz children and women fled Baghuz, before the last battle, some of them remained to take up arms.

The strike unfolded as ISIS fighters were making their final stand in a crowded, dirty camp (above) on the banks of the Euphrates River in Baghuz

ISIS fighters were making their last stand in the crowded and filthy camp on Baghuz’s Euphrates River.

The statement stated that ISIS had made the decision to endanger their family members when there were no escape routes. 

“It is important to also note that many women and children decided, either through indoctrination and choice, to join the fight and could therefore not be strictly classified as civilians. 

It was impossible to determine the number of civilians killed in the sixty fatalities because of multiple armed women and at most one child.

Central Command stated that the strikes occurred while the Syrian Democratic Forces were under heavy fire, in danger of becoming overrun and after the SDF reported that the area was clear of civilians.

According to the Times, the inquiry by the Defense Department’s Inspector General into the incident in 2019 was canceled. A thorough independent investigation never occurred. 

According to the newspaper, its reports were based on classified documents and descriptions of them as well as interviews with people directly affected.

Smoke rises behind destroyed vehicles and damaged buildings in the village of Baghuz in Syria's eastern Deir Ezzor province near the Iraqi border on March 24, 2019

On March 24, 2019, smoke rises from the remains of destroyed buildings and vehicles in Baghuz, Syria’s eastern Deir Ezzor Province.

Wreckage and the body of an ISIS fighter are seen after SDF forces wiped out the group's final stronghold in Baghuz on March 24, 2019

After SDF forces destroyed Baghuz’s last stronghold on March 24, 2019, wreckage and the bodies of ISIS fighters were seen.

A lawyer from the Air Force was at the operations center when the strikes were being conducted. The Air Force later alerted their inspector general and the Senate Armed Services Committee, but no action was taken.

In May, the Senate Armed Services Committee received a letter from Lt. Col. Dean Korsak (Air Force lawyer) that described the strike as well as what he considered a “systematic failure” in civilian casualty reporting.

Lt. Col. Dean Korsak believed the strikes were possible war crimes and raised alarms to internal investigators and Congress

Lt. Col. Dean Korsak believed the strikes were possible war crimes and raised alarms to internal investigators and Congress

It all happened as ISIS fighters in Baghuz were closing in on a cramped, filthy camp by the Euphrates River.

Once vast, the caliphate had reduced its territory to a mere few miles. The last hard-core ISIS fighters, along with their families, made one final stand. They were surrounded by US forces.

ISIS was planning a desperate offensive against coalition lines on the morning before the bombing. Task Force 9 sent in drone strikes in an attempt to stop them. 

The F-15E strikes were apparently called in after all drones in the area had exhausted their ordnance. Task Force 9 justifies the bombing of this area as an immediate response to a threat.

The battle was won by the bombing. The last remnants of ISIS were either captured or killed within days. 

The Pentagon admitted in September that it had committed a grave error by admitting to the killing of 10 civilians including 7 children, during a drone strike on Kabul.

DailyMail.com reported the civilian deaths already. 

Full statement by CENTCOM on the March 18th 2019 Baghuz airstrike

Captain Bill Urban, US CENTCOM spokesperson, provided the following statement to DailyMail.com on November 14, 2021: 

“In the middle to late March 2019, the U.S. coalition and Syrian Democratic Forces had removed the last remnants of ISIS’ territorial caliphate of Baghouz in Syria. ISIS pockets included thousands upon thousands of ISIS fighters as well as their family, including children and women. ISIS’ remaining fighters, which included some child and women combatants, and many ISIS family members including those likely to have been held against their will decided to take a strong stand in the area, which was filled with tunnels, buildings and cliffs. ISIS refused multiple requests for families to be allowed to flee the area, so thousands of loved ones remained.

“On March 18, 2019, just five days prior to the conclusion of the battles, 200-300 ISIS fighters began a determined counterattack against the SDF and Coalition forces. It started at 4 AM local time and lasted many hours, with more than 30 SDF deaths. Many U.S.-manned and unmanned strike platform had been evacuated from the scene after six hours of fighting, dozens of strikes and more. This was due to their having exhausted all of their ordinance. ISIS fighters caused high casualties to the SDF with small arms, rocket propelled bombers, indirect fire, and improvised explosion devices.

The SDF called for airstrikes to stop ISIS fighter positions after 10 AM local time. SDF fighters declared the area free from civilians. U.S. Special Operations Forces on the ground reported no civilians were present in the vicinity. Only one U.S.-operated unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), was left in the vicinity at the time. It could only provide FMV (standard definition) and the other high-definition UAVs had already left the station. The last U.S. UAV, which had been equipped with all hellfire missiles, was now unarmed. 

‘The U.S. UAV on station was unable to discern any civilians in the area at the time of the SDF request. A U.S. F-15 equipped with precision-guided 500- and 2000-pound bombs was the only armed strike plane on the scene when the SDF request was made for air support. The special operations strike cells authorized two strikes against ISIS positions using two precision-guided munitions weighing 2,000 and 500 pounds, respectively, after the entire area was cleared of civilians and SDF positions were under attack. It was determined that the strikes had killed at least 16 ISIS fighters who were involved in attacking SDF positions.

“Several hours later, the coalition UAV operator who operated a UAV in an area of high-definition, full motion video, reported to U.S. Special Operations Forces that it had seen civilians around the strike area. The U.S. Special Operations Forces did not have access the feed of their strike team because the U.S. strike unit was unaware that the UAV had been present. U.S. special operation forces commanders responded by initiating an assessment of the credibility of the civilian casualties report. They determined that it was credible, and warranted a 15-6 investigation.

The civilian casualty assessment and the 15-6 found that strikes had likely caused lethal effects in many locations not observed by U.S. UAVs with children, men and women. These strikes resulted in at least four civilian deaths and eight injuries. However, the investigation could not definitively identify more than 60 additional casualties from these strikes. This uncertainty stems from the fact that several armed women, at most one child and armed men were seen in surveillance video. It was impossible to determine the precise mix of unarmed and armed personnel.

It is likely that the majority of those killed were combatants during the strike. However, it is possible that other civilians were killed as a result of these strikes.

“The 15-6 investigation determined that both strikes were valid self-defense strikes to support the SDF forces in fire. The proportionality of these strikes was due to the lack of small ordinance at the request. Also, appropriate precautions were taken not to exclude civilians from the scene of the strike. The investigation suggested that high-definition video be required for future strikes and that the strike cell must coordinate with all coalition surveillance assets. These recommendations were followed. In accordance with these findings, the investigation officer concluded that no discipline was necessary.

“We are horrified at the loss of innocent lives and will take every possible measure to stop them. The strike was reported by us and we investigated it according to our evidence. We are fully responsible for any unintended deaths. ISIS put the lives of their families in danger when they had all options. Important to remember that ISIS did not allow any women or children to join the fight through either indoctrination, choice, or both. As such, they could not be considered civilians. Although the U.S., SDF and coalition forces were able to defeat ISIS in a decisive manner on March 23, 2019, it was not without significant losses for the U.S. or its partners and the tragic loss of civilian lives.