US Admits to Accidentally Killing a Farmer, Not an al-Qaeda Leader

( – The U.S. military has admitted to an incident of misidentification, saying that at target they thought to have killed in a drone strike has turned out to be a farmer, not a leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist group they initially thought he was.

The strike, which was conducted in Northwest Syria, was targeting what would have been a “senior al-Qaeda leader,” but killed Lufti Hasan Masto, a local shepherd, instead. In a statement addressing the incident, US Central Command said that “U.S. forces misidentified” the target, resulting in the civilian casualty.

The misidentification incident was first reported on by the Washington Post last year, but the U.S. military launched its own investigation shortly after the report came out. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said that the investigation unearthed “several issues” in the operation that resulted in Masto’s misidentification and death, but did not provide any details on how or why the misidentification occurred. However, CENTCOM’s investigation indicated that misidentification aside, the strike was compliant with the law of armed conflict, and followed the protocols and policies of the U.S. Department of Defense and Central Command.

There have also been no details of who the actual intended target was or if any personnel will be held accountable for the mistake.

In its statement, CENTCOM said that it “acknowledges and regrets the civilian harm” the military operation caused but also added that it will continue to use “thorough and deliberate targeting and strike” methods in order to “minimize civilian harm.”

This is not the first time that U.S. forces have misidentified targets. During the U.S. troop pull-out of Afghanistan in 2021, another drone strike that targeted a supposed “imminent threat” killed an aid worker and several civilians, including seven Afghan children. U.S. troops targeted the vehicle of Zemari Ahmadi, an aid worker, and fired a Hellfire missile at it. Officials defended the mistake, saying that they believed at the time that the car contained explosives and would be used to attack U.S. forces.

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