U.S. Didn't Know It Bombed Syrian Mosque In March, Investigation Found

A picture taken on March 17, 2017, at the site of a reported airstrike on a mosque in the village of Al-Jineh in Aleppo province, shows a damaged motorcycle outside as Syrian civil defense volunteers, known as the White Helmets, conduct rescue operations and dig through the rubble. Getty Images/OMAR HAJ KADOUR

A top Army general admitted Wednesday that the U.S. was "unaware" it was conducting a March airstrike on a mosque in northern Syria while stating only one civilian had been killed after initial reports stated dozens died from the drone and aircraft strike, the Washington Examiner reported.

A spokesperson for U.S. Central Command confirmed to Newsweek in emailed statements that an F-15 fighter aircraft and MQ9 remotely piloted aircraft, or drone, had hit its intended target but also caused "superficial" damage to an adjacent mosque. A second strike also occurred against militants.

"Unfortunately, the evidence gathered during the investigation indicates that the strike likely resulted in the death or injury of one non-combatant, who may have been an adolescent," part of the statement read. "The investigation also determined the target building should have been on the 'No Strike List', which is a register of buildings or entities that must be more carefully evaluated at a higher level before an approval to strike due to their characterization."

Still, while the strike was lawful, the investigation also found that there were "critical information gaps" and a "lack of understanding of the situation," according to the statement.

The investigation into March 16's strike in a rural Raqqa Province area found two dozen al Qaeda members and one civilian were killed during a meeting at a mosque, but based off gathered intelligence the U.S. did not know the struck building's religious significance prior to the strike., Brig. Gen. Paul Bontrager, deputy director for operations of U.S. Central Command, said according to the Examiner.

Initially, the Pentagon denied the strike hit a mosque and said it had struck a building 40 feet away from the mosque. Central Command later said the building it struck was part of a "mosque complex," CNN reported May 5.

Bontrager said no negligence was found but that the meeting place should have been on the no-strike list, which usually includes places like schools and hospitals. But according to CNN's report, there are ways to remove such a place from the no-strike list if it's later found to be in use by terrorists and civilians aren't there.

In Central Command's daily strike release report, coalition military forces conducted 19 strikes and 51 engagements on the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq on March 16. Twelve of those strikes and 14 of the engagements occurred in Syria on that date, including eight on six ISIS tactical units. The report indicated that three fighting positions were destroyed, as well as a vehicle, an "ISIS-held building" and an oil refinement still.

There have been conflicting reports over the number of civilians killed in the strike from both local media accounts as well as a human rights group.

The deadly strike in question, according to residents and Syrian state television, claimed at least 30 Syrian civilians, the New York Times reported March 22.

An initial report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed at least 49 people were killed and more than 100 injured in the village of al-Jina outside of Aleppo, according to ABC News on March 17.

"If fighters were among those killed, they were attending a religious lecture, not fighting or preparing to fight," director of the Syrian Observatory Rami Abdulrahman said to ABC.

U.S. Didn't Know It Bombed Syrian Mosque In March, Investigation Found | World