Twenty-one organizations have sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin calling for the Pentagon to conduct a transparent investigation into a May 3 drone strike that killed a civilian in northwest Syria’s Idlib province.
When the strike was first launched, US Central Command claimed it killed a “senior al-Qaeda leader,” but there were immediate indications that a civilian was hit. Pentagon officials later told CNN that CENTCOM did not know who they killed when they made the claim.
The victim of the drone strike turned out to be 56-year-old Lotfi Hassan Misto, a father of 10 who was killed while herding his sheep in the Idlib countryside. Relatives and neighbors said he had no affiliation with al-Qaeda or any militant group, and terrorism experts told The Washington Post there was no evidence that he did.
The letter’s signatories include Amnesty International and the monitoring group Airwars, and they call on the Pentagon to conduct a “robust” investigation into the strike. The Pentagon has announced a probe into the incident, but previous investigations into strikes that killed civilians have claimed no wrongdoing and did not result in any accountability.
The groups want the investigation to be transparent and released to the public. “We ask that you publicly release the full investigation and its findings. Public institutions can only be held to account when external parties, including the general public, can review and independently assess their actions,” the letter reads.
The letter also calls for the US to “make amends” for the strike. “If the Department finds a civilian was killed, we ask that you provide acknowledgment and amends in consultation with his family or representatives, as envisioned by your new plan to improve civilian harm response,” the letter says.