Warren calls for Senate probe of 2019 Syrian airstrike that killed dozens of civilians

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHillicon Valley — Presented by Connected Commerce Council — Incident reporting language left out of package Exporting gas means higher monthly energy bills for American families Senators turn up the heat on Amazon, data brokers during hearing MORE (D-Mass.) called Friday for the Senate Armed Services Committee to investigate a 2019 airstrike in Baghuz, Syria, that killed 70 people, including dozens of women and children.

In a letter to panel Chairman Jack ReedJack ReedDemocrats seek to avoid internal disputes over Russia and China Overnight Defense & National Security — Quick vote on defense bill blocked again Rubio blocks quick votes on stalemated defense bill MORE (D-R.I.), Warren called for the committee to “immediately launch” a formal inquiry into the strike, which was first reported by The New York Times on Saturday.

According to the Times, the strike was one of the largest civilian casualty incidents in the war against the Islamic State, but had never been publicly acknowledged. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 airstrike took place on March 18, 2019, according to the Times, which investigated the incident based on confidential documents, classified reports and interviews with personnel who were directly involved.

The newspaper reported that top military officers and civilian officials tried to hide the casualties. A lawyer for the Air Force flagged the strike as a potential war crime, but a thorough investigation never happened.

U.S. Central Command confirmed on Tuesday that the strike killed multiple civilians. Defense Secretary Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — Biden: US troops to Ukraine 'not on the table' Gillibrand slams committee leadership, Pentagon for military justice reform cuts Overnight Defense & National Security — Preparing for the Biden-Putin call MORE has been briefed on the strike by U.S. Central Command head Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, who oversaw the strike, Pentagon press secretary John KirbyJohn KirbyOvernight Defense & National Security — Lawmakers clinch deal on defense bill Biden to offer warning to Putin Overnight Defense & National Security — Preparing for the Biden-Putin call MORE told reporters.

Warren said the panel should “compel testimony” from officials who had authority over the strike and any subsequent investigations that followed it.

ADVERTISEMENT

She also called for the panel to investigate the legal justifications of the strike, the civilian harm that it caused and military’s response to the reported casualties.

The Hill has reached out to the committee and the Department of Defense for comment. 

Warren’s letter comes as the Pentagon embarks on two reviews probing how it conducts airstrikes and possible harm to civilians. 

Updated 6:04 p.m.