American military forces carried out a drone attack on an Al-Qaeda leader Friday. Reports indicate that civilians may have been injured due to the attack.
Captain Bill Urban issued a statement on CENTCOM that indicated there was a strike near Idlib, Syria, on a senior Al-Qaeda leader. Urban said that the drone attack was conducted remotely from an MQ-9 Reaper aircraft. The Reaper drone aircraft has a variety of military uses, including surveillance and long-range precision attacks by remote control.
Urban said that based on the first review of the strike, the “potential for possible civilian casualties” was indicated. He added that a full investigation is planned to look into the possibility of those injuries.
Urban said that the military “abhors the loss of innocent life,” and all possible measures are taken to avoid such injuries. He said that the responsible unit reported the “possibility of a civilian casualty” to CENTCOM immediately upon the strike. He said that further details would be released when appropriate as the investigation into the strike goes forward.
Lt. Col. Karen Roxberry with CENTCOM confirmed that the person targeted by the attack was killed. She said that the target’s name could not be released because of concerns for intelligence sources and possible additional operations in the area. She said she would not speculate on civilian casualties during the pending investigation.
The Friday attack is the third known mission in Syria in recent months. A target identified as a senior Al-Qaeda leader was killed in a drone strike in northwest Syria on October 22. Another Al-Qaeda target was killed near Idlib on September 20. Neither of those two earlier missions resulted in reported civilian casualties.
Civilian casualties from drone attacks came to public attention earlier this year after an American drone strike during the Biden administration’s withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan killed ten civilians. Among those killed in that attack were seven children. An investigation revealed that the vehicle targeted in that attack on August 29 was not a security threat.