Watch this fascinating reconstruction of a deadly US airstrike on an Aleppo mosque

Published April 18th, 2017 - 12:26 GMT
A screengrab from the Forensic Architecture reconstruction of the mosque attacked in Aleppo. (Forensic Architecture)
A screengrab from the Forensic Architecture reconstruction of the mosque attacked in Aleppo. (Forensic Architecture)

Activists said 46 civilians died in and around the mosque. The US denied that they had hit it, saying that they had targeted an al-Qaeda meeting next door. Today, however, a coalition of investigatory groups have combined witness testimony, photos and architectural modelling to show that it was a mosque that was targeted.

The report, by Human Rights Watch, Forensic Architecture and Bellingcat, has found that the US airstrike struck the Omar Ibn al-Khatab mosque near al-Jinah, Aleppo, on March 16.

The groups say that the US failed to properly identify the building as a mosque and that prayers were about to begin, meaning hundreds of civilians were in the vicinity of the building.

No evidence was found that al-Qaeda or any other armed group was meeting in the mosque.

“The US seems to have gotten several things fundamentally wrong in this attack, and dozens of civilians paid the price,” said Ole Solvang, deputy emergencies director at Human Rights Watch. “The US authorities need to figure out what went wrong, start doing their homework before they launch attacks, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

You can watch Forensic Architecture’s reconstruction of the attack here:

The group said that they had spoken with the builder of the mosque, several survivors of the attack and the director of the Syrian Civil Defence who conducted the rescue operation. The group say that their findings contradict that the US’s assertion that the building hit was a “partially constructed community hall”.

“We believe that the civilian casualties caused by this strike are partially the result of the building’s misidentification,” the group said in a statement.

Human Rights Watch spoke to witnesses who described the attack as taking place between the sunset and evening prayer, while a religious study group was in session. A second wave of bombing following the first attack, killing those who were trying to flee.

The organization said that at least 38 people were killed in the attack, and that the attack may constitute a war crime.

“The US authorities’ failure to recognize the most fundamental aspects of the target and pattern of life around the target raises the question of whether individuals were criminally reckless in authorizing the attack.”

The US authorities have said that they believe the strike was lawful, but told Human Rights Watch that they’d be reviewing their report.

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