ISIS militants in Manbij, near Aleppo. File photo
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MANBIJ – The US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter rejected a proposal by the Syrian opposition to halt airstrikes against ISIS, after reports suggested that civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes on the Islamic State’s pocket of Manbij on the Syrian-Turkish border.
“We’re not stopping our support for the forces operating in Manbij,” Carter said, with reference to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are combatting ISIS in the border city of Manbij.
“We are and will conduct a thorough investigation of this incident [of civilian deaths] and be transparent about the results,” he added.
“As we continue to support forces operating in Manbij, we’ll continue to do what we always do, which is be scrupulous in trying to avoid civilian casualties and transparent when there are claims to the contrary about investigating them and reporting the results. And we’ll do that in this case, too,” Carter said.
The investigation into possible civilian casualties in Manbij airstrikes is still ongoing, the US Defence Secretary said. “The investigation hasn’t been completed, so I don’t have anything to add to that. The investigation is going on.”
“The only thing I can say, without prejudging, what we learned from the investigation is to just say again how seriously we take these things and how important it is to take them seriously, because we conduct ourselves in a civilized manner,” he added. “We go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. And if there’s a question about whether there are civilian casualties, we investigate that and we’re very transparent about that and we will be in this case,” he concluded.
This week, US-led coalition spokesman Colonel Christopher Garver told ARA News that airstrikes against ISIS have never stopped, and will continue.
Kurdish officials have rejected the statements by the Syrian opposition.
“This is like being the voice of ISIS, and is against humanity. They want the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] to stop [the Manbij operation],” Rezan Gullo, the Kurdish defence head of the Cezire canton told ARA News.
“This is propaganda for ISIS, they want to break the siege on ISIS, and that’s why they say the coalition is killing civilians,” he said.
“The coalition airstrikes are very precise,” he said. “The coalition is professional and killing ISIS emirs, that’s’ why they are unhappy. We are getting closer to cleaning the city [Manbij].”