US underreports civilian deaths in Syria, Iraq, according to rights groups


Iraqi civilians walk through the rubble of western Mosul, May 15.

In a recent press release, CENTCOM said 484 civilians have died in anti-Daesh coalition airstrikes since 2014, while a London-based group that tracks civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq says the number is over 3,800

While the U.S.-led coalition has carried out more than 20,000 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq in less than three years in combatting Daesh, the terrorist organization has continued to expand and a few months ago, major military operations were launched on the ground in Iraq as well as Syria by Turkey, known as Operation Euphrates Shield. Due to Daesh’s stronghold in densely populated cities like Mosul and Raqqa, the number of casualties has increased, as Daesh militants use civilians as human shields and the U.S. coalition reportedly does not pay as much attention to this as it should.

According to a recent statement released by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), 484 civilians have died in coalition attacks in Syria and Iraq since mid-2014. “In the month of April, the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) received 43 new reports of possible civilian casualties resulting from coalition strikes supported by partnered force operations to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria. During this period, the coalition completed the assessment of 47 reports, 31 of which were assessed to be non-credible, and 16 of which were assessed to be credible resulting in 132 unintentional civilian deaths. To date, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses that it is more likely than not that at least 484 civilians have been unintentionally killed in coalition strikes since the start of [OIR],” the statement read.

However, the reports did not include contested attacks. For instance, an aerial attack on a mosque last March in Aleppo left dozens of people dead and no perpetuator was identified. Another incident happened in the Atmeh refugee camp, which left dozens of dead. Nobody has claimed these mass killings. Defending the capability of the military in its coalition to target terrorists, the statement said the possibility of civilian casualties is very low. “To date, based on data between August 2014 and April 2017, the coalition conducted a total of 21,035 strikes that included 44,330 separate engagements. During this period, the total number of reports of possible civilian casualties was 440. The total number of credible reports of civilian casualties during this time period was 118. The percent of engagements that resulted in a report of possible civilian casualties was 0.99 percent. The percentage of engagements that resulted in a credible report of civilian casualties was 0.27 percent,” it said.

Despite the U.S. statement, a London-based monitoring group says the numbers are much higher. Airwars, a collective of journalists and researchers, tracking civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, said more than 3,800 civilians have been killed since August 2014. The group said 21,975 airstrikes were carried out: 12,841 in Iraq and the rest in Syria, while 76,649 bombs were dropped.


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