US Central Command claimed they killed a senior al-Qaeda leader in a May 3 drone strike when announcing it on Twitter even though they had no confirmation of who died, CNN reported Tuesday.
The victim of the drone strike turned out to be 56-year-old Lotfi Hassan Misto, a father of 10 who was killed while herding his sheep in the Idlib countryside. Relatives and neighbors said he had no affiliation with al-Qaeda, and terrorism experts told The Washington Post there was no evidence that he did.
The announcement made by CENTCOM on Twitter said: “At 11:42 am local Syrian time on 3 May, US Central Command Forces conducted a unilateral strike in Northwest Syria targeting a senior Al Qaeda leader. We will provide more information as operational details become available.”
Unnamed Pentagon officials told CNN that the announcement was ordered by Gen. Erik Kurilla, the commander of CENTCOM. One official said Kurilla’s subordinates urged him to hold off on the tweet until they knew who they killed, although two other officials denied that happened.
The command still claims that it doesn’t know if it targeted a civilian. CENTCOM did not launch an investigation on the strike until May 15 despite the fact that evidence surfaced immediately that a civilian was killed.
CENTCOM’s deception follows a familiar pattern as the US military is notorious for undercounting civilian casualties or lying about them. There is also a clear history of US drone strikes killing civilians despite them being framed as precision strikes.
In 2015, documents leaked by whistleblower Daniel Hale revealed that during a five-month period between 2012 and 2013, 90 percent of the people killed by US drones were civilians. Hale is currently serving a 45-month sentence for revealing the information.