On Tuesday US military officials acknowledged that a drone strike carried out by the US last week on the third of this month may have killed a Syrian civilian as reported earlier by local sources on the scene following the strike.
Last Wednesday, May 3 a US drone struck Abdul-Latif Hassan Masto a 60-year-old shepherd in the northern Syrian town of Qurqanyah with a hellfire missile, killing him. On the day of the attack, the Syrian Civil Defense (White Helmets) released a statement reporting, “The death of a civilian, Abdul-Latif Hassan Masto … from an unidentified drone that targeted him while he was grazing sheep.”
However, a statement released that day by US Central Command (CENTCOM) had no mention of Masto or any civilians stating only that their forces, “conducted a unilateral strike … targeting a senior Al Qaeda (AQ) leader.”
Today, over a week after the killing occurred, CENTCOM spokesman, Maj. John Moore said, “We are aware of the allegations of a civilian casualty and the outcome of the confirmation process will inform if further investigation is necessary and how it should proceed.”
Moore also revealed the military was “in the process of confirming the identity of the individual killed,” and despite the reports of Masto’s death claimed that all operations are, “meticulously planned and executed to maximize success and minimize the risk of collateral damage and harm to civilians.”
Masto’s relatives and neighbors denied allegations that Masto was “a senior Al Qaeda leader,” saying he was a shepherd and had no ties to any armed groups in Syria, especially AQ. The victim’s brother, Muhammad said, “Everything that is rumored are all lies. He (Abdul-Latif) has nothing to do with (Al Qaeda), the Islamic State, or any of the other armed groups,” further exclaiming that his brother’s death was an unjust act of aggression. Masto’s neighbor of many years, Fayad Jamil Raji, told the press Masto “was a civilian. He had a farm with poultry, cows, and sheep.”