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RAF implicated in 16 civilian deaths from airstrikes – new evidence

The US military believes there to be “credible” evidence that RAF airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria have resulted in civilian casualties, reports have suggested. According to the BBC, as many as 16 civilians have been killed, and at least six injured, by RAF air strikes over Iraq and Syria since 2014.

Since the RAF began its airstrikes against Islamic State six years ago, it has deployed 4,409 bombs and missiles. Previous reporting by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) found that while the RAF claimed 4,315 enemy combatants had been killed and injured in Syria and Iraq, they had acknowledged only one civilian death. Such a claim were greeted with scepticism by experts.

The airstrikes-reporting body Airwars, an organisation which works closely with AOAV, have obtained details of 11 airstrikes carried out by European nations in which over 40 civilians were killed. The RAF has confirmed that it participated in three of these incidents; however, it still maintains that there were no civilian casualties from such. In contradiction to this, the US military believes that the RAF were involved in at least 16 civilian deaths and six civilian injuries in these incidents.

The first of these incidents occurred on the 9th January, 2017, in Mosul, Iraq when an RAF Tornado hit a truck bomb. Following an investigation by the BBC, the US now state that two civilians were unintentionally killed in this strike.

The second incident happened on 13th August 2017 in Raqqa, Syria, when a strike targeted enemy fighters using a mortar system in a building. While the MoD continues to state they have seen no evidence of civilian casualties, the US believe that 12 civilians were killed and six injured in this incident.

The third incident occurred in Bahrah, Syria, on 20th January 2018. An RAF Reaper fired a hellfire missile on an IS fighter. However, the missile had to be diverted in the air when another individual appeared in the target zone. The MoD believe this individual was also likely to be an extremist and was carrying a weapon. The US, however, stated that this individual was a civilian.

The previous incident that RAF have claimed responsibility for occurred in April 2018. The MoD claim that an RAF Reaper armed with a Hellfire missile fired at three suspected Islamic State fighters. However, while this happened, a civilian on a motorbike entered the target zone and was also killed. This is the only incident the RAF have claimed responsibility for.

The BBC’s reporting of the US military’s assessments of RAF airstrikes adds a further  possible 15 civilian deaths and 6 civilian injuries to this single death count.

These new findings call into question how the RAF assesses civilian casualties and accountability mechanisms in place in the UK.

AOAV’s Executive Director Iain Overton said of the new findings: ‘We call upon the MOD to act on these concerns and to provide transparent reassurances that they have robust systems in place to ensure that civilian casualties are both avoided and reported upon.”

AOAV has been lobbying the British government to ensure the MOD sets up a civilian casualty reporting cell and show more transparency over alleged air-strikes harm.