Ahmad Qassim and his wife were both injured in US airstrike.
Syrian Family Wounded in US Drone Strike
Australian Associated Press & Katie Wermus / Newsweek
(December 6, 2021) — A US airstrike targeting an al-Qaeda leader in northern Syria wounded a family of six, including a 10-year-old child who suffered serious head injuries, The Associated Press has learned.
Ahmad Qassim had picked up his family from his in-laws in northwestern Syria and was driving back home on Friday morning when an explosion occurred, riddling their vehicle with shrapnel.
Qassim, a 52-year-old farmer, his wife, two sons and two daughters suffered various wounds in the blast apparently caused by a missile fired from a US drone.
The drone was targeting a man on a motorcycle that Qassim was trying to overtake near the northwestern village of Mastoumeh.
The US military says it conducted a strike from a remotely piloted MQ-9 aircraft Friday near the city of Idlib targeting “a senior al-Qaeda leader and planner.” An initial review of this strike indicated the potential for possible civilian casualties, it added.
“We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent them. The possibility of a civilian casualty was immediately self-reported to US Central Command,” said Captain Bill Urban, CENTCOM spokesperson, adding the army was investigating.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the US drone fired three missiles in Friday’s attack, killing a former member of the al-Qaeda-linked Horas al-Din group, Arabic for “Guardians of Religion.”
Five family members have been discharged from the hospital but Qassim’s youngest son, 10-year-old Mahmoud, remains in the intensive care unit of a hospital in the city of Idlib, where he is being treated for serious head injuries.
Qassim said doctors told him his son could have permanent difficulties moving his left arm and leg because of trauma to his brain.
Qassim’s wife, Fatima Gargouh, 48, had her left leg broken while his daughters Hiba, 16, and Batoul 15, and 12-year-old son Walid suffered wounds that were not life threatening. He said one of his daughters has not been able to move since several pieces of shrapnel were removed from her body.
US Airstrike Targeting Al-Qaeda Leader
Wounds Civilian Family of 6 In Syria
Ahmad Qassim visits his wounded son in a Syrian hospital
(December 6, 2021) — During an airstrike the United States carried out on Friday in Syria, a missile fired from a drone targeting an Al-Qaeda leader instead wounded a family six, the Associated Press reported.
Ahmad Qassim, 52, his wife Fatime Gargough, 48, his daughters Hiba, 16, and Batoul 15, and 12-year-old son Walid suffered a variety of nonlife-threatening injuries. However, his 10-year-old son, Mahmoud suffered serious head injuries.
The US military said they knew the possibility of civilian casualties when carrying out a remote airstrike targeting “a senior Al-Qaeda leader and planner.”
Qassim said the drone was targeting a man on a motorcycle that he was trying to overtake when the explosion occurred, AP reported.
“I briefly felt nothing after that,” Qassim told AP.
The family of six was treated at a hospital in Idlib. Gargough broke her left leg and Qassim said one of his daughters hasn’t been able to move since she had several pieces of shrapnel removed. Five of the family members have been released from the hospital.
Qassim said Mahmoud is still in intensive care and could have difficulty moving his left leg and arm for the rest of his life because of brain damage caused by the blast.
Qassim said that all he wants now is for his son to get better and be discharged from the hospital, AP reported.
Qassim had picked up his family from his in-laws in northwestern Syria where they had spent four days and was driving back home Friday morning when an explosion occurred, riddling their vehicle with shrapnel.
The blast occurred near the northwestern village of Mastoumeh as the family drove back home to the northern town of Afrin.
Syria’s 10-year conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and left large parts of the country destroyed. The Friday morning attack occurred in Idlib province, the last major rebel stronghold in Syria and home to 3 million people, many of them internally displaced, like Qassim’s family.
The US military says it conducted a strike from a remotely piloted MQ-9 aircraft Friday near the city of Idlib.
“We abhor the loss of innocent life and take all possible measures to prevent them. The possibility of a civilian casualty was immediately self-reported to US Central Command,” said Captain Bill Urban, CENTCOM spokesperson. He added: “We are initiating a full investigation of the allegations and will release the results when appropriate.”
For years, the US military has used drones to kill top Al-Qaeda operatives in northern Syria, where the militant group became active during Syria’s civil war. Idlib at one point was described as having one of the largest Al-Qaeda concentrations since Osama bin Laden’s days in Afghanistan. Among those killed in Syria over the years were Al-Qaeda members who were close to the group’s founder and leader.
News of the civilian casualties comes days after US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin appointed a four-star general to investigate a deadly March 2019 strike in Syria that caused civilian casualties, including women and children. The general would have 90 days to complete his review of that strike, which occurred as the Islamic State militant group was making its last stand in Baghouz, eastern Syria. The New York Times reported earlier this month that the strike in Baghouz killed up to 64 women and children.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, said the US drone fired three missiles in Friday’s attack, killing a former member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Horas al-Din group, Arabic for “Guardians of Religion.” Horas al-Din are hardcore Al-Qaeda members who broke away from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the strongest insurgent group in the Idlib enclave.
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