Soon after an airstrike by the U.S. military in northern Syria against an al Qaeda target Thursday evening, the military denied targeting a mosque deliberately, where at least 42 people were killed, reports said. Some human rights activists and monitors alleged that the U.S. had targeted the mosque, but a senior U.S. military official told NBC News that it was not their intention to hit the place of worship, which was about 50 feet from their target.
The mosque was located in the rebel-held village of al-Jinnah in Idlib province. Military officials said that they have photographic evidence showing that the mosque was not hit and that it was still standing just after the airstrike, NBC reported.
"We did not target a mosque, but the building that we did target -- which was where the meeting took place -- is about 50 feet (15 metres) from a mosque that is still standing," said Colonel John J. Thomas, spokesman for US Central Command, according to AFP.
Al-Jinnah is located in the country's northwest — a region that includes Idlib province and the western parts of Aleppo province.
In recent months and years, Al-Jinnah has been flooded with refugees, according to U.N. agencies. People are leaving Aleppo and fleeing to Idlib as the former has been witnessing fierce battles between the rebels and the Islamic State group around al-Bab, NBC reported.
Idlib is rarely targeted by warplanes and helicopters, unlike Aleppo’s northern countryside. However, moving to Idlib is yet to solve the problems of the former Aleppo residents who came there hoping for a better life. Several hurdles, such as unemployment, have worried the newcomers, since there are not many opportunities, as thousands of Syrians have moved to the city in the past two years, Al-Monitor reported in December 2016.