US officials initially denied the reports, saying a target near the mosque was hit, not the mosque itself. They have since admitted the mosque was hit, but say it was unintentional.
It is believed the attacks killed “dozens” of active members of al-Qaeda, according to Navy Captain Jeff Davis, speaking on behalf of the Pentagon. But a number of locals, as well as an independent monitoring group claim the strike included a Mosque in which dozens had gathered for religious purposed. According to these groups, up to 46 people are dead, with many more trapped in the debris.
Witness accounts immediately began to spring up. ” ‘The mosque in al-Jinah was destroyed. Bodies filled the space’ said Mohamed al-Shaghal, a journalist who arrived at the scene shortly after the attack.” According to The Syrian Observatory for Human rights, most of the nearly 200 people gathered in the Mosque were civilians. They describe the scene as a “massacre.”
It remains unclear whether the Mosque was directly targeted, or if it was was collateral damage. The Washington Post explains:
“Whether U.S. drones directly targeted the mosque at al-Jinah as some allege — or it was instead caught up in a U.S. drone strike in the immediate vicinity — a significant number of civilians died at the scene, according to the White Helmets, local media and casualty monitors,” said Chris Woods, director of Airwars, a Britain-based group that tracks allegations of civilian casualties.
The organization said the rate of civilian deaths caused by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, as well as unilateral U.S. actions, was rising “steeply” in both Syria and Iraq.
“Minimizing harm to noncombatants on the battlefield needs to remain a central priority, not an afterthought,” said Woods.