US Military Probing Reports It Killed a Civilian in Recent Syria Airstrike

CENTCOM claimed it killed an al-Qaeda leader, but locals say a sheep herder was killed

The US military says it’s looking into reports that it killed a civilian in a recent airstrike it launched in northwest Syria.

When US Central Command (CENTCOM) first reported the strike on May 3, the command claimed it killed a senior al-Qaeda leader. But CENTCOM did not name the person and released very little detail about the strike.

Reports immediately surfaced that the strike hit a farm and killed a civilian in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province. According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the US launched a drone strike that killed Lutfi Hassan Masto, a 60-year-old sheep herder not affiliated with any militant groups.

The Associated Press spoke with Masto’s brother, Mohamed Masto, who said the claims the 60-year-old was affiliated with al-Qaeda were lies. “He had nothing to do with the revolution. … He had nothing to do with the Al-Nusra Front or with the Islamic State,” he said.

AP also spoke with Fayad Jamil Raji, a neighbor of Masto. “The man was a civilian. He had a farm with poultry, cows, and sheep,” he said.

Maj. John Moore, a spokesman for CENTCOM, said the command is trying to confirm the identity of the person they killed. “We are aware of the allegations of a civilian casualty and the outcome of the confirmation process will inform if further investigation is necessary and how it should proceed,” he said.

The US military is notorious for undercounting civilian casualties or lying about them. The Pentagon is also known for investigating itself and finding no wrongdoing, even in instances of significant civilian deaths, such as the August 2021 Kabul drone strike that killed 10 civilians, including seven children.

Author: Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp is the news editor of, follow him on Twitter @decampdave.