U.S. Drone Strike in Syria Erroneously Kills Civilian Instead of Al Qaeda Operative

 May 2, 2024

In a tragic misstep in military operations, a U.S. drone strike in Syria resulted in the wrongful death of a civilian.

On May 3, 2023, a U.S. drone erroneously killed Lufti Hasan Masto, a 56-year-old shepherd in Syria, after mistaking him for an Al Qaeda operative.

Daily Mail reported that Lufti Hasan Masto was not a militant but a father of 10. He lived in the rural Syrian town of Qorqanya, where he was primarily engaged in shepherding. The fatal strike happened shortly after he enjoyed a tea session with his brother, Mohammed Hassan Masto.

Investigation Reveals Tragic Error in Drone Strike Targeting

Following the incident, the Central Command (CENTCOM), under scrutiny, launched a comprehensive internal review. Their findings confirmed that Masto was mistakenly identified based on flawed target information.

The Pentagon acknowledged the error in the wake of the CENTCOM report. The official statement confirmed that Lufti Hasan Masto was wrongfully identified as a threat associated with Al Qaeda. However, the Pentagon also stated that the operation was executed within legal parameters and decided against disciplining any personnel involved.

Fatal Drone Strike Utilized Advanced Military Technology

An MQ-9 predator drone armed with a Hellfire missile was deployed in this tragic incident. At the time of the strike, Masto was in the fields around his home — an ordinary man in his daily routine, grossly misidentified.

The Pentagon's decision not to compensate Masto's family has fueled ongoing debates regarding the U.S. drone program's accountability measures, especially in light of civilian casualties.

This incident is part of a distressing pattern, including a similar misjudgment in Kabul in August 2021, where a drone strike killed 10 civilians. Such events have intensified scrutiny and criticism of the U.S. approach to drone warfare, specifically the processes governing target identification and the aftermath of operational failures.

Community Reaction to the Drone Strike

Masto's brother, Mohammed Hassan Masto, recounted their final moments together to the Washington Post, emphasizing the mundane and peaceful setting just before the strike. Mohammed Hassan Masto said, "We were having tea just 20 minutes earlier."

Despite the Pentagon's stance on the legality of the operation, the ongoing failure to capture the actual Al Qaeda target, who remains at large, poses questions about the efficacy and ethical implications of such military strategies.

The CENTCOM report clarified that there was a critical misidentification during the mission that led to the unfortunate death of Lufti Hasan Masto.

The mistake opens a broader discourse on the use of drone strikes in military operations. The reliance on remote technology to carry out critical decisions that determine life and death from thousands of miles away summons grave ethical considerations. Visual evidence from the strike's aftermath in Masto's village showed the stark reality of the error — a plume of smoke where life was erroneously taken.


The U.S. drone strike on May 3, 2023, in Syria signifies a grave mistake in the fight against terrorism. Lufti Hasan Masto, a shepherd and father of 10, lost his life due to a grave misidentification. The CENTCOM investigation underscores the critical need for robust verification processes in drone operations to prevent future civilian casualties. Despite the operation's legality, it raises imperative questions about ethical responsibility and just recompense in the aftermath of military errors.

About Victor Winston

Victor is a freelance writer and researcher who focuses on national politics, geopolitics, and economics.

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