At least 10 civilians were killed when U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets struck an oil facility and a gas processing plant in Syria on Friday, an observer group reports.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said seven civilians were killed at a Konoco gas factory in Der-Ezzor province, and three were killed in similar strikes on oil fields in the countryside around Shadadi. One was reportedly below age 18.
U.S. Central Command reported Friday the strikes had been against oil facilities controlled by Islamic State forces, known also as ISIS/ISIL.
One airstrike near Shadadi successfully struck ISIL oil collection equipment consisting of several "POL tanks" (petroleum, oil and lubricants) and a pump station, which represents part of the terrorist group's oil producing, processing and transportation infrastructure. This strike was intended to destroy a portion of ISIL's ability to operate oil tanker trucks at oil collection points. To conduct these strikes, the U.S. employed fighter aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations.
The United States and coalition forces engaged against IS have recently been criticized about civilian casualties.
On Sept. 23, seven Syrian civilians were killed in U.S. airstrikes in the village of Kafr Deryan in northern Idlib. On Sept. 1, 31 Iraqi civilians were killed in airstrikes conducted by the Iraqi government against IS targets in Al-Alam, just northeast of Tikrit.
Human Rights Watch criticized coalition forces for both incidents and demanded they be investigated.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Sept. 25 that the U.S. was looking into civilian casualties but had "no credible reporting from operational sources."
Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command, said at a Friday press conference in Fort Meade, Md., the strikes on IS oil facilities were proving effective.
"By striking these types of facilities, we reduce their ability to generate the funds and the fuel required to sustain their operations," Austin said. "And we are having the desired effects."
Austin said the coalition has been very careful to avoid civilian casualties.
"Had we killed a lot of innocent civilians, and specifically in Sunni areas, I think that it is fair to say that we would be in a much different place at this point," Austin said. "But because we've done this the right way, we've secured the support of our Sunni Arab partners in the region. And together, we are making progress."
By Fred Lambert
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