Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

CS425

Incident date

January 3, 2017

Location

سرمدا, Sarmada, Idlib, Syria

Geolocation

36.18553, 36.72231 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

A major US airstrike on an al Nusra Front headquarters – a unilateral action – killed a significant number of militants. However, up to 26 Free Syrian Army prisoners held in the building were also reported killed, along with three children.

The US admitted responsibility for just one civilian death three years later.

Fatah al Sham blamed the international Coalition at the time, with spokesman Abu Anas al-Shami saying in a statement: “The headquarters targeted by the international coalition a short time ago are a main headquarters for that area and contains a number branch offices, leading to the killing of the brothers.”

Given that the target was al Nusra, this was thought most likely to be a unilateral US action. The Coalition’s spokesman Colonel John Dorrian later confirmed that the attack “was a US strike.”

As the Pentagon’s own spokesman Peter Cook also noted: ““Al-Qaida’s foreign terrorist fighter network used this headquarters as a gathering place, and their leaders directed terrorist operations out of this location. As you know, al-Qaida remains committed to carrying out terrorist attacks against the United States, our interests, and our allies and friends. We will continue to take actions to deny any safe haven for al-Qaida in Syria. We will not allow al-Qaida to grow its capacity to attack the United States or our allies around the world, and these strikes demonstrate that commitment.”

AFP cited the Syrian Observatory as saying that “Among the dead were leading members of the group formerly known as al-Nusra Front, who had been holding a meeting.” Almost all sources also reported civilian fatalities.

Idlib Media Centre reported “Civilian martyrs and wounded including prisoners, due to Coalition warplanes shelling a Fatah Al-Sham building in Samara.” Shaam News reported that the strikes “killed around 40 – the majority of whom are prisoners who were detained by Fatah Al-Sham.” Qasioun said the attack occurred at 3.55pm and injured “dozens.”

According to Al Khaleej, “44 were killed including 26 prisoners of the Free Syrian Army, 15 members of Fatah Al-Sham and three children and it’s not known whether the children were prisoners, or children of Fatah Al-Sham members.”

A local activist told Airwars the following: “Al-Nusra Front still denies the existence of civilian [prisoners] in its headquarters. But families were able to recognise a number of the bodies who were previous detainees and missing people, which confirms that the headquarters was transformed into a prison recently.” One of those victims – 10 year old Haytham – was reportedly being held on theft charges when he was killed.

However Al Souria insisted that the facility was not a prison, and that more than 20 members of Al Nusra were instead killed.

Syrian Revolution has named the four prisoners as killed. In addition, a local activist provided Airwars with five additional names of reported civilian fatalities.

On March 4th 2017 the Coalition claimed it did not have enough information to determine whether civilians died in the raid, noting: “Jan. 3, 2017, Sarmada, Syria, via social media report: The report contained insufficient information on the time, location and details of strike to assess its credibility.”

However in January 2020, the Coalition conceded one civilian death in the event, noting: “January 3, 2017, in Sarmada, Syria, via media report. US aircraft conducted an airstrike against an Al Qaida facility. Regrettably, one civilian was unintentionally killed as a result of the strike. 306/CS425 37SBA952069”.

In May 2020, the Pentagon also included this event in its annual civilian harm report to Congress.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

  • Wael Yasin Age unknown male From Kafr Dyan killed
  • Adnan Mohammed Suleiman Age unknown male From Ebien killed
  • Hajj Ibrahim Abdul-Aziz Jalloud Age unknown male From Sarmada killed
  • Hassan Mohammed Bakir Age unknown male killed
  • Majdi Alolo Age unknown From Maarat Misrin
  • Hussein Shahhoud Sharif Age unknown From Al-Atarib
  • Abdullah Al-Teyyawi Age unknown From Ziyara, Sahel Al-Ghab
  • Ahmad Al-Haji Age unknown From Dana
  • Haytham 10 years years old male From Al-Taman’a village in Khan Sheikhoun killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 children)
  • Civilians reported injured
    12–24
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda/HTS

Sources (35) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (17) [ collapse]

  • Exact moments the alleged Coalition airstrike hit Sarmada. (via Hona Syria Hona Idlib)
  • White Helmets removing charred bodies from the rubble in the aftermath of the alleged Coalition airstrike on Idlib, 1st Jan 2017. (via White Helmets)
  • Prisoners were killed in Al-Nusra prison which was targeted near Sarmada: Wael Yasin, Kafr Dyan Adnan Mohammed Suleiman, Ebien Hajj Ibrahim Abdul-Aziz Jalloud, Sarmada Hassan Mohammed Bakir.
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Pictures for members of the front who were killed at the quarter in Sarmada. (via @fadihussein8)
  • Coordinate of the place bombed (via a private message with Airwars)
  • Aftermath of the strike (via a private message with Airwars)
  • Aftermath of the strike (via a private message with Airwars)
  • Aftermath of the strike (via a private message with Airwars)
  • One of the civilians killed (via a private message with Airwars)
  • Hassan Mohammed Bakro (via a private message with Airwars))
  • One of the civilians killed (via a private message with Airwars)
  • One of the people killed (via a private message with Airwars)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    One of the people killed (via a private message with Airwars)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    One of the people killed (via a private message with Airwars)
  • Translation: In the Name of Allah, The Most Merciful, The Most Graceful From your brothers in the Court in Sarmada Allah said in his Quran “ And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient, Who, when disaster strikes them, say, Indeed we belong to Allah , and indeed to Him we will return. Those are the ones upon whom are blessings from their Lord and mercy. And it is those who are the [rightly] guided.” Al-Baqara, verses 155-157. We give out condolences to Fateh Al-Sham and the families who lost their loved ones in the Court’s prison and we tell them that we ask Allah to accept their martyrs, heal their wounded and forgive our and your sins. And we would like to clarify the following points: 1- The court’s prison is totally separated from the brothers’ buildings of Fateh Al-Sham head quarter because the place is a long way at the top of the mountain and contains rooms separated from each other and a few months ago, we used two rooms and between these room and the rooms of the brothers in Fateh Al-Sham a distance onlookers can distinguish by looking, and it is clearly signed and reads “ Dar Al-Qada’a” (meaning the court). Nevertheless, the coalition despite their knowledge and investigations did not distinguish between a militant and a civilian as they believe they’re all terrorists. 2- Dar Al-Qada’a (the court) only deals with urgent and important cases such as murder, theft, kidnapping and when there’s an allegation of a big amount of money which is put in place to serve the people and insure their safety and this has been put in place for a couple of months now and is known by all the Muslims because we left the old place which was a school in order to keep people safe and not to give excuses. However, the murderer's’ hand still reaches everyone and doesn’t distinguish anyone. 3- Usually, the number of prisoners a couple of months ago reaches more than a 100, but there were only 24 at this time. May Allah accept those who were killed and heal those who were wounded. 4- Everybody knows that we have been and we are still looking to establish a private place for the court and a prison, we won’t leave this but we completely understand what people are going through and we know their urgent needs. 5- No-one can deny the huge effort the courts are doing in keeping order and minimising chaos in our society. Many offenders wouldn’t do anything fearing punishment. And yet, we do not ask for compliments or gifts in return (A very poetic sentence which means people do the things without asking for a thank you or a reward. AT) May Allah forgive those who offended, hurt or gossiped about others. We here do not deny our shortcomings, perfections is only for Allah, and we do not deny our brothers’ efforts in other courts and we highlight that it is a very important side of worship which helps strengthening our Muslims’ community. May Allah have mercy on everyone. We ask Allah to forgive our sins and treats us with his mercy and justice not by our deeds. Allah blessings and peace of our prophet Mohammed and his family. Wednesday 6/4/1438 (Muslim Caldnder) 4/1/2017 Stamp: Dar Al-Qada’a Sarmada Documentation office. (via a private message with Airwars)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    One of the people killed in the air strike (via Sputnik)
  • Table from May 2020 Pentagon report to Congress, conceding additional US civilian harm events in Iraq and Syria during 2017.

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Credible / Substantiated
    The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties regrettably occurred.
  • Given reason for civilian harm
    No reason given
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    1
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • Stated location
    Sarmada, Syria
    Nearest population center
  • Location accuracy
    100 m
  • MGRS coordinate
    37SBA952069
    Military Grid Reference System

Civilian casualty statements

US-led Coalition
  • Mar 4, 2017
  • Jan 2, 2020
  • January 3, 2017, in Sarmada, Syria, via media report. US aircraft conducted an airstrike against an Al Qaida facility. Regrettably, one civilian was unintentionally killed as a result of the strike. 306/CS425 37SBA952069

  • The report contained insufficient information on the time, location and details of strike to assess its credibility.

United States
  • May 6, 2020
  • Since last year’s Section 1057 report, CJTF-OIR assessed that an additional 21 reports of civilian casualties during 2017 were credible, with approximately 71 civilians killed and approximately 13 civilians injured as result of U.S. military operations. With these additional assessments, CJTF-OIR assessed that a total number of 191 reports of civilian casualties during 2017 were credible, with approximately 864 civilians killed and approximately 219 civilians injured. 3-Jan-17 Sarmada, Syria Air 0 civilians injured 1 civilian killed

Original strike reports

US-led Coalition

For January 2nd-4th the Coalition publicly declared no strikes in Sarmada. However unilateral US airstrikes on al Nusra are not reported by the Coalition.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 children)
  • Civilians reported injured
    12–24
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda/HTS

Sources (35) [ collapse]