WASHINGTON DC - The U.S.-led coalition has targeted a number of mosques and a religious building in the past week in Syria.
A mosque in the Deir ez-Zor province of Syria was completely destroyed in an airstrike on Monday, according to a top pentagon official.
The mosque was deliberately targeted by U.S. forces because it was being used as a command center by Daesh, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning.
Daesh is also known as IS, ISIS, ISIL and Islamic State.
"When ISIS deliberately chooses to use the building as a command and control facility, ISIS caused it to lose its protected status," Manning said.
Surveillance of the mosque to ensure civilians were not present enabled the strike to proceed as U.S. forces were able to ensure "only ISIS fighters would be present," Manning said.
The official confirmed it was the second airstrike in a week targeting a mosque, referring to a strike on another mosque in Deir ez-Zor.
However local sources say three mosques have been hit by coalition forces.
The U.S. led coalition issued a statement Monday referring to an airstrike on Monday. It is unclear whether it is the same strike referred by the Pentagon spokesman Rob Manning. If not, then the figure is four.
"A coalition strike destroyed several buildings used by Daesh to launch attacks. One of those facilities used by Daesh was a mosque that was being used as a defensive fighting position and command center," a statement from the coalition on Monday said.
"The strike killed several Daesh as they were actively firing on coalition partner forces, which eliminated another Daesh capability from the battlefield," the statement added.
The strike took place in As Susah, Syria, the Coalition statement said.
Separately, a coalition airstrike targeted a mosque in Al-Susah in eastern Deir ez-Zor during the weekly Friday prayers, killing 16 people, according to local sources.
On Thursday, thirty civilians, including 2 children, were killed in an airstrike on Ammar ben Yasir mosque in Al-Susah. U.S. Army Col. Sean Ryan, the spokesperson for Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), confirmed the strike to Kurdistan 24.
"This strike resulted in 12 Daesh terrorists killed in action, and disabled a key Daesh operational headquarters critical to Da'esh's defense of its last remaining territory," he said.
"The facility was a mosque, which the law of war protects from targeting unless it is used for a military purpose."
The US Army Col. said the extremist group's deliberate use of the building "as a command and control facility…caused it to lose its protected status."
"The group was actively coordinating attacks on the SDF and Coalition Forces from the command and control center at the time of the strike," he said.
U.S. Army Col. Ryan said IS' "misuse of the mosque is another example of their violation of the law of war," adding this made the religious site "a valid military target."
"Our in-depth monitoring of Da'esh's use of the structure as a command and control center made us aware of when only Da'esh fighters would be present," he said.
According to the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, dozens of civilians died in the strike. The US-led coalition said it would investigate such claims."We conduct inquiries into all credible allegations of civilian casualties," Col. Ryan said.
Thirteen were killed in the same town of Al-Susah on Wednesday.
Six more civilians were killed in another strike which hit a local religious institute in Hajin City in the same province, sources said.
Since Wednesday, according to Anadolu Agency at least 65 civilians have been killed in the province from airstrikes carried out by U.S.-led forces.
In other news just in from Syria, two civilians including an 8-year child were killed when a car exploded in the al-Qosur neighborhood in Idlib city, according to the Syrian Onservatory for Human Rights.
The agency also reported:
- unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle, shot a displaced person in Zardana town in the northern countryside of Idlib, which killed him instantly.
- two fighters, one of them a foreign national, were killed when a car exploded at al-Qosur neighborhood in Idlib city.
- five members of the Syrian regime forces and their allied militiamen were killed as a result of shelling and clashes with the "Islamic State" organization and factions.
- at least 3 members of the "Islamic State" organization and foreign fighters allied with them were killed in air raids involving warplanes and helicopters.