An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Press Release | May 2, 2024

May 3, 2023 Investigation Findings


May 2, 2024
Release Number 20240502-01

TAMPA, Fla. – On May 3, 2023, the United States conducted a unilateral counterterrorism air strike in Northwest Syria targeting a senior Al Qaeda leader. Soon after the air strike, reports surfaced the strike may have resulted in a civilian casualty.

Following initial reviews by subordinate elements, General Michael Erik Kurilla, Commander, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), directed Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF - OIR) to conduct a joint investigation on 6 June 2023 in accordance with Army Regulation 15- 6.

The investigation, which concluded on November 15, 2023, was conducted by Investigating Officer, Brigadier General John P. Cogbill, U.S. Army, and supported by a team of ten senior service members and civilian employees not directly involved with the strike with extensive subject matter expertise in intelligence, law of armed conflict, operations, and targeting matters.

The investigative team received both cognitive bias training and red team training. The team conducted site visits in the United States, Iraq, and Jordan, and interviewed more than forty witnesses. The investigative team also sought information from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The team reviewed classified and unclassified information held by DoD and other federal agencies.

The investigation determined U.S. forces misidentified the intended Al Qaeda target and that a civilian, Mr. Lutfi Hasan Masto (Masto), was struck and killed instead. Many of the facts and other findings of the investigation involve classified information and cannot be shared publicly. What we can share is the investigation concluded the strike was conducted in compliance with the law of armed conflict as well as Department of Defense and CENTCOM policies. However, the investigation revealed several issues that could be improved. We are committed to learning from this incident and improving our targeting processes to mitigate potential civilian harm.

U.S. Central Command acknowledges and regrets the civilian harm that resulted from the airstrike. We take all reports of civilian harm caused by U.S. military operations seriously and continue to employ thorough and deliberate targeting and strike processes to minimize civilian harm. This process includes a thorough review and vetting of lawful targets prior to a strike and another review after each strike. CENTCOM is fully engaged in implementing the objectives in the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan (CHMR-AP) and the DoD Instruction (DoDI) 3000.17, titled “Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response.”