Report: U.S.-led strikes in Iraq, Syria killed 459 civilians

U.S F-18 fighter refuels at the back of a KC-135 refueling aircraft over Iraq (AP Photo/Razan Alzayani)

U.S.-led airstrikes targeting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Iraq and Syria have likely killed at least 459 civilians over the past year, a report by an independent monitoring group said Monday. The coalition had no immediate comment.

The report by Airwars, a project aimed at tracking the international airstrikes targeting the extremists, said it believed 57 specific strikes killed civilians and caused 48 suspected "friendly fire" deaths. It said the strikes have killed more than 15,000 ISIS militants.

While Airwars noted the difficulty of verifying information in territory held by ISIS, which has kidnapped and killed journalists and activists, other groups have reported similar casualties from the U.S.-led airstrikes.

The U.S. launched airstrikes in Iraq on Aug. 8 and in Syria on Sept. 23 to target the ISIS. A coalition of countries later joined to help allied ground forces combat the extremists. To date, the coalition has launched more than 5,800 airstrikes in both countries.

The U.S. has only acknowledged killing two civilians in its strikes: two children who were likely slain during an American airstrike targeting al-Qaida-linked militants in Syria last year. That same strike also wounded two adults, according to an investigation released in May by the U.S. military.

That strike is the subject of one of at least four ongoing U.S. military investigations into allegations of civilian casualties resulting from the airstrikes. Another probe into an airstrike in Syria and two investigations into airstrikes in Iraq are still pending.

Airwars said it identified the 57 strikes through reporting from “two or more generally credible sources, often with biographical, photographic or video evidence.” The incidents also corresponded to confirmed coalition strikes conducted in the area at that time, it said.

The group is staffed by journalists and describes itself as a “collaborative, not-for-profit transparency project.” It does not offer policy prescriptions.
In Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition includes France, Britain, Belgium, Netherlands, Australia, Denmark and Canada. Jordan has also carried out airstrikes in Iraq as well as in Syria, although it has released no further information about the dates or locations of its attacks.

The coalition conducting airstrikes in Syria include the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Canada began its own strikes in April, while Britain carries out routine reconnaissance-only drone missions above Syria, and British pilots have carried out airstrikes while embedded with U.S. forces.

Other groups also have reported on major casualties suspected of being caused by the U.S.-led airstrikes. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of on-the-ground activists, said 173 Syrian civilians have been killed since airstrikes began. They include 53 children under the age of 18. Most of the civilians were killed in airstrikes near oil refineries and oil fields in the northern provinces of Hassakeh, Raqqa, Aleppo and Deir el-Zour.

The Observatory said the deadliest incident was on May 4, when a U.S.-led airstrike on the northern Islamic State-controlled village of Bir Mahli killed 64 people, including 31 children. A Pentagon spokesman at the time said that there was no information to indicate there were civilians in the village. The death toll was confirmed by other opposition groups in Syria.

Two videos and several photos released by a media arm of the ISIS group purport to show the aftermath of the strikes in the mixed Arab and Kurdish village showed children allegedly wounded in the airstrikes.

In another incident on June 8, an airstrike likely conducted by the U.S.-led coalition on the ISIS-held village of Dali Hassan, also in northern Syria, killed a family of seven, the Observatory said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:45 - GMT 06:45
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