WASHINGTON The Pentagon on Friday denied accusations by a Syrian rebel group that the United States had targeted a mosque in Syria and, in a rare move, showed an aerial image to illustrate the mosque was intact and the building destroyed was in fact across the street.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, addressing a Pentagon news conference, said he believed dozens of al Qaeda fighters were killed in the Thursday strike by manned and unmanned U.S. aircraft on an al Qaeda meeting place in the village of al-Jina, Aleppo.
Davis said the U.S. military had not yet seen any credible allegations of civilian casualties, including on social media.
The Pentagon said it would soon release to the public the image it showed to reporters: a black and white aerial image showing the mosque still standing across the street from a building that had been reduced to rubble by the strike.
Next to the charred plot where the al Qaeda militants had met was another building, which was also still intact.
“We struck a meeting of senior al Qaeda terrorists, some of these were likely high value individuals, we’re currently assessing that,” Davis said.
Davis was unable to say what the purpose was of the building that was destroyed, beyond serving as a meeting place for al Qaeda.
It is unclear how long after the strike the image was taken and Reuters was unable to independently verify whether the mosque may have suffered any structural damage from the blast that could be difficult to see from an aerial image.
Ahrar al-Sham, a powerful Syrian rebel group, on Friday said the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State was behind a deadly mosque attack near Syria’s Aleppo that a war monitor said killed dozens of people.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said jets hit around a mosque in al-Jina village near Atarib in the western part of Aleppo province, a few miles (km) from Idlib province on Thursday, killing at least 46 people, mostly civilians.
The United States has been leading a coalition in an air campaign against Islamic State while also carrying out air strikes against al Qaeda in Syria, which it says sought to take advantage of the chaos from Syria’s civil war to reconstitute itself in ungoverned towns.
Syrian military and Russian jets have also carried out numerous air strikes against targets in Idlib and western parts of Aleppo province, which are held by rebels seeking to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)