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The Department of Defense has confirmed that it accidentally killed a civilian during a 2023 airstrike in Syria after US military members misidentified the individual. 

The Pentagon disclosed on Thursday that in an operation targeting a supposed senior al-Qaeda leader, US forces mistakenly struck and killed Lufti Hasan Masto, a 56-year-old shepherd. This revelation comes after an internal investigation by US Central Command (CENTCOM), which concluded the airstrike was conducted in alignment with existing conflict law and policies, though it admitted the error.

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The inquiry into the May 3 strike in northwest Syria identified critical mistakes in the targeting process, noting that Masto was wrongly identified due to miscommunication and oversight. Despite complying with the legal and operational frameworks, CENTCOM recognized the need to improve its procedures to prevent future civilian casualties. “We are committed to learning from this incident and improving our targeting processes to mitigate potential civilian harm,” CENTCOM stated.

The incident initially reported as a successful elimination of an al-Qaeda figure, came under scrutiny after a May 18 report by The Washington Post highlighted inconsistencies in the military’s claims, prompted by testimonies from Masto’s family denying his involvement with terrorist groups. Following the report, CENTCOM initiated a thorough review in June and concluded it in November. 


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