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World U.S. military denies reports of high civilian casualties in coalition airstrike in Syria

A Civil Defence member looks at the sky fearing another airstrike as he searches for survivors at a damaged site. Activists said a barrel bomb dropped by forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad hit a school and a residential building in Seif al-Dawla neighbourhood of Aleppo on May 3, 2015.

HOSAM KATAN/REUTERS

The U.S. military denied Monday reports that civilians were killed in U.S.-led coalition airstrikes last week on a village controlled by the Islamic State group in northern Syria. Meanwhile, the rights group which first reported the civilian casualties said the death toll has risen to 64, including at least 31 children.

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the conflicting reports in the village.

Two videos and several photos purporting to show the aftermath of the strikes on the remote mixed Arab and Kurdish village were mostly produced by the Islamic State group's media arms.

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The strikes happened overnight Thursday on the Syrian village of Bir Mahli, near the border city of Kobani, the Britain-based based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Observatory director Rami Abdulrahman said that the death toll rose to 64 Sunday after missing persons were found dead. He said the airstrikes hit civilians, all of them Arabs, in their homes.

Abdulrahman said the dead include 16 girls and 15 boys, as well as 19 women. The Observatory relies on a network of activists on the ground.

The U.S.-led coalition confirmed there were airstrikes at the same time near Kobani, adding that they destroyed seven Islamic State group positions and one of the group's vehicles. The airstrikes also hit 50 fighters.

"We currently have no indication that any civilians were killed in these strikes," U.S. Central Command spokesman, Maj. Curtis Kellogg told The Associated Press in an email.

Kurdish fighters, backed by coalition airstrikes, pushed the IS militants out of Kobani earlier this year.

The militants still control other nearby villages and have continued to battle the largely Kurdish opposition in the area.

Kellogg said that prior to the airstrikes, Kurdish forces in the area said the village has been emptied of civilians for at least two weeks.

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Shorsh Hassan, a spokesman in Kobani for the main Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units had earlier told AP that Bir Mahli was emptied of civilians.

In a video released by the pro-IS Aamaq News Agency, a man walks between children allegedly wounded in the airstrikes.

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