A drone strike hit a vehicle traveling on a rural road in rebel-controlled northwestern Syria on Monday, killing at least one person, rescue workers and a war monitor said.
The Civil Defense team, known as White Helmets, said the unidentified body was lifted from the car along the Idlib-Binnish road east of Idlib province. The charred vehicle, split in the middle, lay on the side of the rural road in an orchid.
Spokesman Col. Wayne Marotto said the coalition was not behind the attack.
But U.S. Central Command said later that American forces conducted a “kinetic counterterrorism strike” near Idlib province targeting a senior leader of the militant group al-Qaeda.
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“Initial indications are that we struck the individual we were aiming for, and there are no indications of civilian casualties as a result of the strike,” said Navy Lt. Josie Lynne Lenny in a statement. No additional details were released.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Britain, said the vehicle carried a militant from one of the radical groups operating in the province. The Observatory didn’t identify the group but said it was linked to al-Qaida.
The U.S. has carried out attacks in Idlib before, targeting al-Qaida militants and the leader of the Islamic State group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was hiding in the province after fleeing from eastern Syria.
Large parts of Idlib and neighboring Aleppo province remain in the hands of Syrian armed opposition, dominated by radical groups including the once al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. There are also over 4 million civilians living in the area, most of them displaced from previous bouts of violence in Syria's 10-year conflict. The Syrian government has vowed to restore control of all of territories outside of its control, but a cease-fire negotiated last year in Idlib has tenaciously held.