The strike killed members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a local group of combatants that the US and a coalition of 67 other nations and organizations support in the shared goal of defeating ISIS.
The strike on Tuesday in Tabqah in the central part of the country was supposed to target militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, but instead hit Syrian Democratic Forces, according to a statement from Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve and shared by U.S. Central Command.
In an update on the USA -led coalition's offensive against ISIS in Raqqa, the joint task force's spokesman said Wednesday that the coalition was "clearing ISIS fighters from the territory in the vicinity of Tabqa".
The SDF said its leadership was working with the coalition to investigate the incident and prevent it from happening again.
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This area, which has strategic importance due to a dam located nearby, is witnessing heavy fighting between Islamic State extremists and the SDF units supported by the US-led coalition. The bombing marks the worst confirmed friendly-fire incident in the almost three-year-old war against the terrorist group. "The target location was actually a forward Syrian Democratic Forces fighting position", the US Central Command said in a statement Thursday.
It was unclear whether the strike came from a USA warplane or from one of the other coalition partners. CENTCOM called the strike an "unintentional, regrettable error", which was "primarily based on human factors".
This is the third time in a month that civilians or allies may have been wounded or killed by American-led airstrikes. The partnered forces believed that the SDF's position belonged to the Islamic State, the statement said. At the same time, he stressed that the USA must conduct an investigation to ensure its allies remain onside.