The US military has reportedly walked back its claim that it had taken out a top al-Qaeda boss in a recent drone strike that was carried out in Syria. Officials quickly changed their story after it was discovered that the man who had been killed had no links to terrorism, and instead was tending to his sheep when the Hellfire missile was dropped, per the Daily Mail.
The family of the man who was killed, Lotfi Hassan Misto, stated that he was a former bricklayer who lived in the quiet town of Qorqanya. However, US Central Command, CENTCOM, released a statement after the missile was dropped, saying that they had carried out a strike “targeting a senior Al Qaeda leader.”
The statement announcing the attack said: “At 1142 am local Syrian time on 3 May, U.S. Central Command forces conducted a unilateral strike in Northwest Syria targeting a senior Al Qaeda leader,”
“We will provide more information as operational details become available.”
The Daily Mail noted that the statement quoted General Michael ‘Erik’ Kurilla, CENTCOM Commander, saying: “This operation reaffirms CENTCOM's steadfast commitment to the region and the enduring defeat of ISIS and Al Qaeda.”
However, two officials who spoke to the Washington Post under anonymity suggested that they were no longer confident that they had struck a key al-Qaeda leader. One of the individuals said: “We are no longer confident we killed a senior AQ official.”
The second individual said: “Though we believe the strike did not kill the original target, we believe the person to be al-Qaeda.”
However, since the attack, the US has not yet released the name of the person they were targeting in the attack. The Daily Mail also noted that the US has “refused to say how the alleged error occurred,” or whether it was possible that a terrorist leader managed to escape.
CENTCOM spokesperson, Major John Moore, said earlier this month that the US is “in the process of confirming the identity of the individual killed in the strike.”
He concluded: “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.”