US Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, has called for the investigation into a 2019 American airstrike in the town of Baghouz in eastern Syria that killed 70 people, including dozens of women and children.
In a letter to US Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed on Friday, Warren called for the panel to “immediately launch” a formal inquiry into the attack.
Her letter came after the New York Times published an exclusive report on Saturday in which the newspaper accused the US military of a cover-up, revealing that an independent probe into the deadly attack – a potential war crime -- was never conducted.
According to the Times, the strike was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents in the US war in Syria but had never been publicly admitted by American military officials.
“The Senate Armed Services Committee must seek answers about this strike and its aftermath and hold anyone found to be in violation of law or established procedures to account,” wrote Warren, who is a member of the panel.
The Times report said the airstrike launched on March 18, 2019 in Baghouz targeted a large gathering of suspected Daesh militant targets despite drone footage showing the presence of civilians there.
The newspaper investigated the strike based on confidential documents, classified reports and interviews with personnel who were directly involved. It reported that top US military officers and civilian officials tried to hide the casualties.
Three bombs were dropped by US fighter jets on the large gathering, according to the Times, and a subsequent investigation into the incident was "stripped" of any mention of the strike.
"Leadership just seemed so set on burying this. No-one wanted anything to do with it," Gene Tate, an official who worked on the case and was later sacked from his job, told the newspaper.
US Central Command admitted on Tuesday that the strike killed multiple civilians.
Senator Warren said the Senate committee should “compel testimony” from officials who had authority over the strike and any subsequent investigations that followed it.
She also asked the panel to probe the legal justifications of the US attack, the civilian harm that it caused and the military’s response to the reported casualties.
The US and its allies invaded Syria in 2014 under the pretext of fighting the Daesh terrorist group. The outfit had emerged as Washington was running out of excuses to extend its regional meddling or enlarge it in scale.
The military interference was surprisingly slow in confronting the terrorists, despite the sheer size of the coalition that had enlisted scores of Washington’s allied countries.
Numerous reports and regional officials would, meanwhile, point to the US’s role in transferring Daesh’s elements throughout the region and even airlifting supplies to the terror outfit.
In 2017 and in the height of the coalition's military campaign in Syria, Russia drew a parallel between the destruction that was being caused by the US-led forces and the wholesale bombing campaign on the German city of Dresden during World War II.