US-led coalition bombs Syria mosque 'used as Islamic State headquarters'

US-led coalition bombs Syria mosque 'used as Islamic State headquarters'
While the law of war protects mosques, the coalition said its apparent use as a headquarters for IS caused it to lose that protected status.
2 min read
22 October, 2018
The mosque was believed to be used as headquarters for IS fighters [File photo: AFP]
The US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria bombed a mosque which was believed to be a militant command-and-control centre, the US said on Sunday.

The coalition said in a statement that while the law of war protects mosques, the use of the building as a headquarters by IS caused it to lose that protected status. It said a dozen fighters were killed.

US Army General Joseph Votel, the top American commander for the Middle East, said Sunday that he is very satisfied that commanders went through the proper procedures to determine that it was a legitimate target.

"The determination that was made by the leadership on the ground that this was this mosque was not being used as a mosque," Votel told reporters traveling with him in Qatar, according to Associated Press. "These aren't hastily made decisions."

Syrian state media and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said last week that a series of strikes in Sousa near the Iraq border killed and wounded dozens - civilians as well as IS fighters.

The coalition's statement, focused on the mosque, said monitoring of the building "made us aware" of when only IS fighters were present. It said the strike took place on Thursday when it was being used to coordinate attacks on the coalition and on US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Sousa is in the last IS-held pocket in Syria and Syrian Democratic Forces have been on the offensive for weeks trying to clear the area of the extremists.

The statement did not acknowledge or refute the reports of civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in the area. "We conduct inquiries into all credible allegations of civilian casualties," it said.

The coalition has been accused previously of indiscriminate bombing, killing hundreds of civilians.

Amnesty International said in July that the US-led military campaign to oust IS from Raqqa in 2017 killed hundreds of civilians from shelling, amounting to possible war crimes.

The military operation failed to take "adequate account" of civilians and the "precautions necessary to minimise harm" to them in the city, IS' de facto capital in Syria, the human rights group said in a report.

"Coalition claims that its precision air campaign allowed it to bomb IS out of Raqqa while causing very few civilian casualties do not stand up to scrutiny," the report concluded.