Small Wars Journal

Coalition Admits 1K-plus Civilian Deaths From Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria

Coalition Admits 1K-plus Civilian Deaths From Airstrikes in Iraq, Syria

Rikar Hussein – Voice of America

The U.S.-led coalition Thursday acknowledged the deaths of 1,059 civilians from its aerial bombings against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

The coalition, which has run a military campaign against IS's self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria through Operation Inherent Resolve, said its jet fighters conducted 29,826 strikes between August 2014 and June of this year.

The statement said the anti-IS coalition took necessary precautions to ensure its strikes followed the law of armed conflict, but “unintended civilian casualties regrettably occurred.”

“Throughout our air and ground campaigns, we have used deliberate targeting and strike processes to minimize the impact of our operations on civilian populations and infrastructure,” the coalition statement read.

The announcement came amid calls for updated figures from rights organizations, which have long accused the coalition of significantly undercounting the number of civilians it has killed during years of fighting against IS.

Amnesty International Account

Amnesty International, a global rights group, last week released a statement on civilian casualties in Syria’s Raqqa, saying evidence on the ground contradicted the coalition’s “artificially low” death toll. It added that the coalition’s reporting was inadequate, vague and dismissed almost all civilian casualty allegations as “non-credible.”

“The coalition's knee-jerk reactions are long on rhetoric and short on detail,” Donatella Rovera, Amnesty's senior adviser, said in a statement last week.

“They lay bare how deeply in denial the coalition leadership is about its failure to protect civilians caught in conflict. Unless the coalition learns from its mistakes in Raqqa and Mosul beforehand, it will be doomed to repeat them, with civilians again paying a devastating price,” she added.

Last month the organization released its investigation, War of Annihilation: Devastating Toll on Civilians, Raqqa — Syria, and reported “mistakes” and “unsuccessful airstrikes” that resulted in “huge human and material losses.”

Airwars, a U.K.-based monitor group, estimates that between 6,488 and 9,947 civilians are likely to have died in coalition attacks in both Iraq and Syria.

But the coalition has denied those findings.

In its Thursday statement, the coalition said it finished assessing 125 civilian casualty reports and determined 16 of them were credible, three were duplicates, and the other 106 were not credible.

Another 234 reports are still being investigated, according to the coalition.

The coalition and local allies have recaptured most of the territory once controlled by IS militants in Iraq and Syria. Coalition officials estimate the group now controls only about 300 square kilometers in Syria.