Pentagon chief orders new review of US airstrike that killed dozens of women and children in ISIS's final stronghold

Smoke after the shelling of the Islamic State's last holdout of Baghouz in 2019.
Smoke after the shelling of Islamic State’s last holdout of Baghouz in 2019 by Kurdish-led forces backed by US warplanes.Olmo Couto/Getty Images
  • The defense secretary ordered a new investigation into a U.S. airstrike that killed dozens in Syria, according to the New York Times.

  • An NYT investigation earlier this year found the 2019 airstrike killed as many as 64 civilians.

  • The new investigation will also examine how military officials handled previous investigations into the airstrike.

The Pentagon will launch a new investigation into a 2019 U.S. airstrike that reportedly killed dozens of civilians in Syria, according to a New York Times report.

The investigation is expected to be led by Gen. Michael Garrett, the head of the Army's Forces Command. The new investigation will examine the strike, as well as the handling of previous investigations conducted by higher military leaders and the Defense Department's inspector general's office.

Earlier this month, the strike was the subject of a bombshell New York Times report that said military officials worked to hide the airstrike that killed 80 people including as many as 64 civilians.

The Times report found the airstrike occurred on March 18, 2019, near the town of Baghuz, as the US was concluding its fighting against ISIS in Syria. A US drone was seeking out ISIS fighters, and tracked some towards an area on the river bank where women and children had been sheltering.

After two bombs were dropped on the crowd, a military analyst asked in a secure chat, "Who dropped that?" According to two sources who spoke with The Times, another person said: "We just dropped on 50 women and children."

The Defense Department only acknowledged the strike occured after the Times report was published.

In a statement to Insider, US Central Command said the strikes were launched defensively after Syrian Democratic Forces said they were under heavy fire from ISIS fighters and requested aid, adding that the area was believed to clear of civilians.

"We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent them," CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said. "In this case, we self-reported and investigated the strike according to our own evidence and take full responsibility for the unintended loss of life."

Some sources told the Times they felt military officials were actively trying to cover up the airtstrike.

"The death toll was downplayed. Reports were delayed, sanitized and classified. United States-led coalition forces bulldozed the blast site. And top leaders were not notified," The Times wrote.

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