Pentagon ‘No Longer Confident’ Syria Drone Strike Killed Al-Qaeda Leader


Although it has claimed to be fighting Daesh* and other terrorist groups in Syria since 2014, the US military has never received permission from the Syrian government to operate there. In addition, US forces continue to help occupy the eastern third of the country under the guise of supporting allied Kurdish forces.

Having previously claimed that a May 3 airstrike in northwestern Syria killed a top Al-Qaeda** leader, the Pentagon is now expressing doubts.

“We are no longer confident we killed a senior AQ official,” a senior US Department of Defense official told a Washington, DC, newspaper on Friday.

However, the same paper reported that other Pentagon officials were still maintaining they had killed a member of the terrorist group.

The strike was carried out on May 3 near the town of Qorqanya in northern Idlib Governorate, an area of Syria still occupied by Al-Qaeda-aligned militias and Turkish troops. US Central Command claimed it had killed “a senior Al Qaeda leader” using a Hellfire missile. However, the family of the victim soon identified him as Lotfi Hassan Misto, a 56-year-old shepherd and former bricklayer with no ties to Al-Qaeda.

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“He had nothing to do with the revolution. … He had nothing to do with the Al-Nusra Front or with the Islamic State” or any other terrorist group, Lotfi’s brother, Mohamed, told reporters. Al-Nusra was a former front group for Al-Qaeda that merged with other similar groups to form Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in 2017.

After Misto’s story spread, the Pentagon said on May 9 it was “in the process of confirming the identity of the individual killed in the strike.”

This is far from the first time the US has made such a mistake. During the final days of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021, a US airstrike inside the city of Kabul purported to kill a Daesh-Khorasan suicide bomber en route to attack civilians massed outside the city’s main airport. However, CENTCOM admitted several weeks later that the strike had killed Zemari Ahmadi, an employee of a US-based aid group, and nine other members of his family, including seven children.

*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist organization outlawed in Russia and many other states.

**Al-Qaeda and al-Nusra Front (Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham) are terrorist organizations banned in Russia and many other countries.

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