At least one young man was killed and between six and seven civilians, including up to four children, were injured in a declared US drone strike on the Al-Mastouma Ariha road on December 3rd, 2021. Sources are conflicted as to whether the young man killed was an active or former member of the Guardians of Religion Organization, an Al Qaeda affiliate group.
In a press briefing on December 6, 2021, the Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told reporters “a senior leader with Hurras al-Din, which is an Al-Qaeda affiliated group, by the name of Musab Kinan was the person targeted and killed in a kinetic strike by U.S. forces near Idlib on the 3rd of December. It was a strike conducted from an MQ-9 unmanned aircraft. The initial review of the strike did indicate the potential for possible civilian casualties. They’ve [CENTCOM] launched a civilian casualty assessment report, which they have to do when they think there’s a potential and as far as I know that’s still ongoing. I don’t know what the results might be.”
Associated Press reported that at least four members of the Qasoum family were children – 16-year old Hiba Qasoum, 15-year old Batoul Qasoum, 12-year old Walid Qasoum and 10-year old Mohammad Qasoum. Fatima, 48, was also reported seriously injured in the strike alongside her husband Ahmed Qasoum who sustained light injuries. One source (@jabha_sy) reported different ages (included in brackets in victim details below).
The Middle East Eye (MEE) also reported on the Qasoum family, including an interview with father Ahmed Qasoum who told MEE that one of those injured was his 10-year old son: ““The motorcycle was going in front of me and I decided to pass it, when I got parallel to it, I felt a lot of pressure pushing the car to the left of the road….It was horrible,” Qasoum said. “We didn’t hear any sound of the explosion. The shrapnel hit the left side of the car, tearing through that side, which acted as a sort of filter for a lot of it.”
“My 10-year-old son has had a fractured skull and is now in a very serious condition in the intensive care at a hospital in Idlib. Doctors have told me that he would have nerves problems on his right side in the future,” Qasoum said, speaking to MEE via WhatsApp.”
Mr. Qasoum added that his 15-year old daughter was also seriously injured after shrapnel struck her head, and that it might take her a week to be able to walk again.
In an interview with Associated Press published December 6th, Mr. Qassoum said that he was driving 10km every day to visit the hospital where his son, Mahmoud, was being treated for his head injuries.
Step News Agency reported that the Qasoum family had been displaced from the village of Kafr Batikh after regime forces took control of the area.
@humam_isa identified the young man, “Musab Khaled Kanaan” (a first-year Turkish language student) as being one of the people killed by Coalition missile strikes on the Idlib-Al-Mastouma road, while Syrian Network for Human Rights and Shaam News referred to Musab as being a former Hurras al Din (Guardians of Religion) fighter.
A tweet from @SunaUnique reported that a drone struck a car traveling on the Al-Mastouma Ariha road, killing those inside, but didn’t specify how many were traveling in the car.
According to @Click_Syria, a drone alleged to belong to the Coalition struck a motorcycle belonging to a military official from the Guardians of Religion Organization and also hit a Santa Fe car passing by on the same road, the Ariha-Mastouma highway, injuring six people in the car. @syr_television added that the family of six people in the car were “lightly” injured. Euphrates Eye put the number killed at two and identified them both as Guardians of Religion.
Syrian Civil Defense put the number of injured civilians at five, including three women and a child.
A tweet from @FreshFM90MHZ referred to those killed and injured as being “civilians”.
A video posted by @syr_television shows the moment that the drone strike hit the motorcycle from the perspective of the car where the six family members were injured. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights identified that three missiles were involved in the attack.
@NotWoofers pointed out that this is the first time in a while in Idlib that there have been civilian casualties from a Coalition drone strike.
The Military Times reported that “the command [CENTCOM] would not say whether such operations will pause during the investigation” into civilian harm allegations.
Limited local media coverage was noted by the Middle East Eye, who reported that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the armed group in control of Idlib, seized the Qasoum family car after the attack “under the pretext of checking the car’s papers”, and “prevented the media from filming the damage at the scene”.
The incident occured at approximately 10:00 am local time.