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10 more civilians believed killed in RAF airstrikes over Iraq and Syria

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
New analysis by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has found that at least 29 civilians were killed in nine Royal Air Force (RAF) airstrikes in Iraq and Syria between 2016 and 2018 – at least 10 more civilian deaths than any previous analysis had concluded. AOAV’s research raises significant questions over the RAF’s civilian casualty recording and accountability, as the RAF had only accepted responsibility for one civilian death during this period. The investigation was done through cross-referencing 950 strike reports cited in RAF press releases with Pentagon airstrike data, alongside data collected by Airwars and AOAV’s own global explosive violence monitor. The strikes took place between March 2016 and March 2018, with five in Iraq and four in Syria, and the majority of incidents occurred in and around Mosul.

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REPORT
At least 29 civilians are thought to have been killed in nine Royal Air Force (RAF) airstrikes in Iraq and Syria between 2016 to 2018, new analysis by Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) has found. This is at least 10 more civilians killed than any previous analysis has concluded.

AOAV has identified nine airstrike incidents which look likely or very likely to have caused civilian deaths during Operation Shader – the RAF’s name for counter-Daesh operations in Iraq and Syria. None of these strikes have been claimed by the US, and all align with RAF press releases of strikes conducted on that day. The strikes took place between March 2016 and March 2018, and appear to have claimed the lives of between 29 to 35 civilians. The investigation raises significant questions over civilian casualty recording and accountability by the RAF who, to date, have only accepted one civilian death in 2018 (included in the above total). 


As AOAV has reported, the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) claims that RAF strikes have killed just one civilian throughout its 54 months of engagement in Iraq and Syria, despite the approximately 4,315 enemy combatants it claims to have killed and injured in these countries between September 2014 and January 2019. At a Chatham House meeting held by AOAV in December 2018, the claim that the RAF had a virtually 100% success rate in terms of avoiding civilian casualties was seen sceptically, especially in light of so many organisations reporting upon incidents that countered this claim.

AOAV’s new analysis adds weight to these reports, and furthers the doubts around the RAF’s transparency when it comes to casualty recording and accountability. This new research was done through cross-referencing 950 strike reports cited in RAF press releases with Pentagon airstrike data obtained by the New York Times, alongside data collected by the air-strike monitoring organisation Airwars, and AOAV’s own global explosive violence monitor. Five of the lethal strikes took place in Iraq, the other four in Syria. The majority of incidents occurred in and around Mosul.

KEY FINDINGS

  • At least 29 and as many as 35 civilians appear to have been killed in nine RAF strikes;
  • This constitutes at least 10 and as many as 16 previously unreported civilian deaths; 
  • The RAF has claimed responsibility for one death over the period examined; 
  • The majority of these air strikes were ‘self-reported’, meaning they were initially brought to the attention of the coalition through internal US-led coalition military channels;
  • All but one incident was deemed by the US Pentagon’s confidential assessments of reports of civilian casualties as CREDIBLE: this means US-led coalition civilian casualty (CIVCAS) channels acknowledged civilian casualties in these instances.
  • The RAF, except in one incident, have acknowledged zero civilian casualties;
  • In five of the incidents, the US Pentagon estimate was that the deaths were Highly Likely (22 deaths); in three incidents the US Pentagon estimate was that the deaths were Likely (between 6 and 12 deaths); in only one additional incident has the RAF accepted a death (1 death)
  • One third of the incidents occurred when strikes did not take into account secondary explosions, or where fighters or drones knowingly targeted live munitions located in civilian areas;
  • There was also a potential RAF strike on 19/04/2015 over Ar Rutba, Anbar Province, Iraq that seemed to have led to two civilians being injured.  

The lethal strikes were as follows:

Airwars has previously detailed eleven (11) strikes carried out by coalition nations (not just the UK) in which over 40 civilians were killed. The RAF has confirmed that it participated in at least three (possibly four) of these incidents, in which a total of 18 civilians were killed. 

Despite this admission, the RAF still refuses to take responsibility for these deaths.

These three incidents, included in this report, took place on 09/01/17 (two dead), 13/08/17 (12 dead) and 20/01/18 (four dead).

AOAV’s new findings point to an additional 10 to 16 civilian deaths potentially linked to RAF strikes across 5 more strikes in 2016 and 2017 (four in Iraq, one in Syria). 

These incidents were on the 24/03/2016 (at least one killed), 21/04/2016 (between four and ten people killed), 03/12/2016 (at least one person killed), 22/04/2017 (at least one person killed) and 19/05/2017 (at least three people killed).  These three incidents were all cited as having likely caused civilian deaths by the US Pentagon, as noted in the New York Times’ reporting.

The one incident where the RAF has accepted responsibility was on the 26/03/2018 in the Euphrates Valley in East Syria, where one person was killed. In April 2018, the MoD claimed that an RAF Reaper fired a Hellfire missile at three suspected Islamic State fighters. However, just before impact, a civilian on a motorbike entered the target zone and was also killed. This is the only death the RAF have claimed responsibility for. 

Seven out of nine of the total strikes outlined in this report were ‘self-reported’, meaning that a military personnel involved in the strike, British or otherwise, immediately warned the chain of command that civilian casualties may have occurred. Furthermore, all but one of these reports of coalition strikes causing civilian casualties were deemed by the Pentagon’s confidential assessments of reports of civilian casualties as ‘CREDIBLE’. 

One of these credible ‘self-reported’ strikes was on Sunday 13/08/2017 (as above). This strike was previously confirmed by the RAF to be theirs. Despite this, they still refuse to take responsibility for the civilian casualty caused by this attack.

Between 2014 and 2020 alone, the RAF bombing campaign within Iraq and Syria, codenamed Operation Inherent Resolve, saw over 4,409 bombs dropped from the air onto suspected ISIS targets. The majority of these bombs had an explosive payload of around 500lb (227kg) and a reported ‘casualty radius’ of between 200 and 300 feet (within which 50 per cent of people will be killed). During battles over Mosul or Raqqa, hundreds of these ‘precision’ weapon systems were dropped into densely populated urban environments by coalition warplanes. The US-led coalition stated in 2019 they had killed 1,302 civilians during the years’ campaign.

The fatal strikes in this report paint a stark but worryingly incomplete picture of civilian harm potentially caused by the RAF. While AOAV has done its best to track the effect of British airstrikes, the initial RAF publicly-available strike reports frequently lack crucial details such as the location or time of the strike, making it difficult for journalists and civil society to hold air combat missions to account. 

This research also indicates a concern that the RAF fail to account for secondary explosions in its targeting. In a third of the events listed above, mortar teams, vehicle borne IEDs (VBIEDs) and IED factories were knowingly targeted, creating a blast radius far wider than the weapon used. This ratio matches reporting by the New York Times, who reported that this specific oversight caused nearly a third of all civilian casualties acknowledged by the coalition.

Iain Overton, Executive Director of Action on Armed Violence, said of the report: “”While AOAV has done its best to track the effect of British airstrikes, the initial RAF publicly-available strike reports frequently lack crucial details such as the location or time of the strike, making it difficult for journalists and civil society to hold air combat missions to account. What this research shows, above all, is that there are some major questions that the RAF should answer in relation to civilian harm from its air strike missions, questions that all too often are ignored and rejected.”

The RAF, in turn, says it takes reports of civilian casualties seriously and claims it carefully analyses every attack, including assessing any reliable evidence of inadvertent civilian casualties. As it stands, the UK continues its operations to support the Iraqi authorities and the Syrian Democratic Forces in the region. The MOD has accepted that the risk of inadvertent civilian casualties is ever present in the complex and congested urban environment within which they operate. While the RAF has not seen evidence of causing civilian casualties, they acknowledge the possibility and will continue to take every care not to do so.

An MOD spokesperson said of AOAV’s report: “The MOD examines all the evidence available, including comprehensive analysis of the mission data for every strike, and has identified nothing to indicate that such civilian casualties were caused in Syria. The RAF always minimises the risk of civilian casualties through our rigorous targeting processes. We acknowledge that risk can never be entirely removed, especially given the ruthless and inhumane behaviour of adversaries deliberately using human shields, but no evidence has been identified in these instances.”

METHODOLOGY
Data on the incidents review above was first obtained from RAF/MOD press reports spanning 2014-2021. These reports were triaged by their level of helpful detail. The most concerning of these reports were cross-referenced against AOAV’s explosive violence database; Airwar’s Civilian Casualty Database; the New York Times’ 2021 Civilian Casualty Files on the Pentagon’s confidential assessments of reports of civilian casualties; and reports released by the US-led coalition at the time of the strike. 

The New York Times had obtained hundreds of confidential CIVCAS (civilian casualty) assessments from the Pentagon regarding reports of civilian casualties resulting from U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The documents revealed deeply flawed intelligence, rushed and imprecise targeting, and the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, including children. The Times obtained the documents through Freedom of Information requests and subsequent lawsuits filed against the Defense Department and the U.S. Central Command. The Times received more than 1,300 reports examining airstrikes from September 2014 to January 2018, totalling over 5,400 pages. While The Times’ independent reporting largely matched the information from the documents, discrepancies and oversights were found in some instances. Nonetheless, the documents serve as an important record for researchers seeking to understand the Pentagon’s internal processes.

By cross-referencing details within the RAF/MOD press reports to matching details in the CIVCAS reports on these databases, instances of civilian casualties caused by likely RAF strikes became clearer. 

Details used to identify strikes include the date; the time; the location; the weather conditions; the type of aircraft used; the munition used; the initial target; the sequence of events; the number of civilians killed; what had collectively been targeted by coalition aircraft on a set day. These details help to ‘measure’ the likelihood of a strike that AOAV deems notable through ‘words of estimative probability’ (WEPs), using the terms ‘Highly Likely’ and ‘Likely’ to assess the probability of these RAF strikes. 

No claims are made that this data captures every incident or casualty of RAF airstrikes during this period.

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STRIKE #1

DATE: 24/03/2016 

LOCATION: Qaiyara, Iraq

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: 1 civilian killed

What did the RAF say?
[Thursday 24 March] Tornados were again active over Qayyarah; working in close cooperation with a coalition surveillance aircraft, they were able to successfully engage with a Paveway a Daesh mortar team that had opened fire on Kurdish forces.

What has been reported?

Airwars
Airwars recorded an incident in which “CENTCOM confirmed the death of a civilian in an airstrike near Qayyarah. Their November 2016 report noted: “near Qayyarah, Iraq, during a strike against an ISIL target, it is assessed that one civilian was killed.””

CIVCAS report (NYT)
A CREDIBLE report on this date states that an ISIS mortar team was targeting “Iraqi Army and tribal security forces located in the village of Karmardi”. The aircraft is described to target their escaping truck with a “a laser-guided munition, […] the aircraft released the laser- guided munition and the weapon struck the moving truck just as the vehicle passed by a transient person. The strike destroyed the vehicle and likely caused a civilian casualty.” This report notes that tracking the mortar team moved between two mortar firing points before engaging with them. 

US-led Coalition Report
For March 24th-25th 2016, the Coalition reported “near Qayyarah, two strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed two ISIL mortar positions, an ISIL supply cache, an ISIL vehicle, an ISIL fighting position, and denied ISIL access to terrain.” These were the only strikes around that area on that date. 

Likelihood
The description of the events in the CIVCAS report match with the RAF report, including the target, and description of the ISIS forces firing upon “Kurdish”/”Tribal” security forces. Considering two mortar positions seemingly targeted by one strike were mentioned in the US-led coalition report, the CIVCAS report either references one of them or both. Considering this, it is likely that the RAF were responsible, if not involved in the targeting which led to civilian casualties. 

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STRIKE #2

DATE: 21/04/2016 – 22/04/2016 (the strike occurred after midnight on the 21/04/2016)

LOCATION: Abu Kamal, Syria

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: 4-10 possible civilians killed

What has the RAF said?
Two RAF Reapers operating over Syria conducted strikes on Friday 22 April. Near Abu Kamal, one Reaper provided surveillance support to a successful coalition attack on an improvised weapons factory, then used two of its own Hellfire missiles to demolish a nearby workshop used for constructing car-bombs. 

What has been reported?

Airwars
Airwars recorded between four to ten deaths on this date and at this location, stating “according to the Deir Ezor Observatory there were three Coalition strikes on the city, all after midnight. And News of the Revolution reported that “International coalition planes last night carried out four raids targeting the cement factory, the Krash factory, al Sina’a [industrial area], al Hizam Al Akhdar [the green belt], and there is news of the martyrdom of an entire family.”

At the time the MoD told Airwars: “We cannot make any definitive assessment of possible UK presence from the evidence you have provided, but I can confirm that there was no indication of any civilian casualties in our own detailed assessments of the impact of each of our strikes over the period concerned”. In the past the MoD and RAF have quickly identified the locations of their strikes when the RAF have been falsely accused. 

CIVCAS report (NYT)
A NON-CREDIBLE report on this date responds to the accusation of civilian casualties put forward by Airwars. The report confirms that strikes occurred near the area in question. The report states that “both targets were assessed as [redacted]. No transients or collateral damage were evident. [redacted (The weapon)] landed 30 ft short of the VBIED facility, but no collateral damage from the weapon was evident with the nearest collateral concern 106 ft from weapon impact. 

US-led Coalition Report
“The Coalition reports for April 21st-22nd 2016 that “Near Abu Kamal, two strikes struck a bed down location and an ISIL vehicle borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) facility.” No other strikes were reported between these dates in this area.

Likelihood
The VBIED factory described in the RAF report directly matches up with the description of the strike in the CIVAS report. While the CIVCAS report is deemed non credible, ten news sources support Airwars initial report which is deemed Fair. Lastly, the target in question was the only one of its kind on that date at that location. Therefore, it is likely that the RAF were responsible, or, at the very least, involved in the targeting which led to civilian casualties. 

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STRIKE #3

DATE: 03/12/2016

LOCATION: Mosul, Iraq

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: 1 civilian killed

What did the RAF report?
Very bad weather, including violent thunderstorms, seriously hampered air operations for several days. However, conditions improved sufficiently for a Reaper to resume operations over Mosul on Saturday 3 December. It conducted one attack, using a Hellfire, against a mortar, and was able to alert other coalition forces to the location of a large number of civilians potentially at risk in the area.

What was reported?

Airwars
Airwars reported that a coalition strike likely killed one civilian. They state: Their February 2017 civilian casualty report noted “During a strike on ISIL fighters firing a mortar on partnered forces it is assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed.”

CIVCAS report (NYT)
A CREDIBLE self-report on the same date and at the same location states “three adult males interacting with an identified mortar tube” firing against security forces was targeted. […] “The initial battle damage assessment was one mortar tube destroyed, one enemy KIA, and one possible civilian KIA” which occurred when a civilian vehicle passing by the target was also hit. 

The US-led coalition Report
At the time, the Coalition publicly noted for December 3rd-4th that “Near Mosul, three strikes [1 British] engaged two ISIL tactical units; destroyed a mortar, a weapons cache, four ISIL-held buildings, a command and control node, an explosives factory, and a heavy machine gun; damaged a land bridge, an ISIL-held building, and 16 supply routes; and suppressed an ISIL tactical unit.” These were the only strikes around that area on that date.

Likelihood
Only one strike on a mortar happened on that date and at that location. The RAF report matches directly with the description of events on the CREDIBLE CIVCAS report. It is highly likely the strike described in the CIVCAS report was executed by the RAF.

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STRIKE #4

DATE: 09/01/17

LOCATION: Mosul, Iraq

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: 2 Civilians killed

What have the RAF said?
A pair of Tornados patrolled north of Mosul on Monday 9 January, assisting Iraqi forces as they cleared Daesh positions near Nineveh. […] A coalition aircraft had meanwhile identified a lorry-bomb nearby. Our Tornados destroyed the target with a second Brimstone. RAF aircraft then turned their attention to southern Mosul, where an armoured truck had been spotted. The truck was destroyed with a further Brimstone missile.

What has been reported?

BBC
The BBC visited the suspected site of this strike in 2018 after being told of likely civilian casualties by a whistleblower inside the coalition. At the time the MoD said all those killed were “highly likely” IS fighters. But following the BBC investigation the US now says: “Two civilians were unintentionally killed.”

AOAV
AOAV explosive violence data indicates that 3 civilians were killed by suspected coalition airstrikes in the Officers neighbourhood near the university on this date in Mosul. 

Airwars
Airwars also reported this strike, noting “in an incident not previously tracked by Airwars, the Coalition later confirmed the deaths of two civilians in an event in northeast Mosul. The event was later confirmed as a British airstrike.”They note that the MoD insisted their ‘very careful analysis’ had concluded that those killed were ‘highly probably’ IS fighters. In its May 2018 civilian casualty report, the Coalition noted: “During a strike which destroyed Daesh vehicle-borne improvised explosive device used to attack Coalition and partner forces two civilians were unintentionally killed.”

CIVCAS report (NYT)
A CREDIBLE report on this date and at this location notes that “during a strike which destroyed Daesh vehicle-borne improvised explosive device used to attack Coalition and partner forces two civilians were unintentionally killed.” There is no CIVCAS document attached with this press release.

Likelihood
This strike which killed civilians is highly likely to be the fault of the RAF. RAF reports on targeting a truck bomb matches up directly with the CIVAS press release of this attack. This strike has been covered intensively by the BBC and Airwars who both agree the RAF was responsible.

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STRIKE #5

DATE: 22/04/17 

LOCATION: Al Hamrat, Mosul, Iraq

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: 1 child killed

What have the RAF said?
Tornados took part in a Coalition attack on Daesh accommodation and vehicle sheds south-east of Rawah, and two engineering vehicles in Mosul…Tornado patrols over Mosul continued on Saturday 22 April, when the aircraft used Brimstone missiles to destroy two vehicles used by Daesh.

What has been reported?

Airwars
Airwars reported that on this date and within Mosul, “the Coalition confirmed the death of a civilian in an event near Mosul. Their July 2017 civilian casualty report noted: “During a strike on ISIS construction equipment, after reviewing post-strike video, it was assessed that one civilian who was not observed during the engagement was unintentionally killed.””

CIVCAS report (NYT)
A CREDIBLE self-report on this date states that “after a collective self-defense strike on a front end loader (FEL) actively building a defensive fighting position a woman was observed running to the scene of the strike and carrying away a limp child.”

US-led Coalition Report
For April 21st-22nd: “Near Mosul, seven strikes engaged eight ISIS tactical units; destroyed six fighting positions, two VBIEDs, two mortar systems, two tactical vehicles, a weapons cache, a front-end loader, a rocket-propelled grenade system and an ISIS warehouse; damaged 22 ISIS supply routes and two fighting positions; and suppressed an ISIS tactical unit and rocket team.” These were the only strikes around that area on that date. 

Likelihood
Only one FEL was targeted on this day in this area. The RAF report clearly states it targeted at least one engineering vehicle within this area, while the CIVCAS report notes that the “[redacted] munition” had to be requested – this is unusual within these reports and may point to the use of the Brimstone, a specific weapon used infrequently during this operation, used to strike armoured targets. Considering these factors, it seems that likely the RAF carried out this strike. 

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STRIKE #6

DATE: 19/05/2017

LOCATION: Mosul, Iraq

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: At least 3 killed and 3 injured

What have the RAF said?
Friday 19 May … The following day [May 19th] , Tornados provided further support to the Iraqi ground forces, despite very challenging conditions as a dust storm raged. Again, a mixture of Brimstones and Paveway IVs were used to engage seven Daesh positions within the city, including a sniper team and a mortar, despite the Iraqi forces being extremely close to the targets on occasion. In Syria, Typhoons supported the SDF and bombed a group of terrorists caught in the open a few miles to the east of Raqqah.

What has been reported?

Airwars

Airwars reported on this date that “an entire family was killed and another family was severely injured as a result of airstrikes on their houses in Najjar neighbourhood, in West Mosul.”

CIVCAS report (NYT)
A CREDIBLE self-report on this date described a strike on a mortar position that likely killed three civilians. It states ‘three civilians near the target location directly prior to impact. One civilian was directly in front of the target location, and two civilians were walking away from the target location’ … ‘The explosion from the munition striking the mortar site was large enough to conclude that any person in the blast radius was seriously injured or killed in the strike.’

US-led Coalition Report
For May 18th-19th the Coalition publicly stated: “Near Mosul, five strikes engaged five ISIS tactical units and a sniper; destroyed 13 fighting positions, three rocket systems, two heavy machine guns, two medium machine guns, a VBIED, and a mortar system; and damaged seven fighting positions and three ISIS supply routes.”

Likelihood

On this date around Mosul, only one strike on a mortar team took place. This matches up with the singular strike on a mortar team described in the RAF report and with the 3x civilians killed in the CREDIBLE CIVCAS report. It is highly likely the RAF are responsible for these civilian casualties. 

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STRIKE #7

DATE: 13/08/2017

LOCATION: Raqqa, Syria

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: 12 civilians killed

What have the RAF said?
Typhoons eliminated three terrorist positions in Raqqa, including machine-gun and mortar teams…then conducting attacks on Sunday [Aug 13th] which eliminated three more terrorist positions in the city, including a strongpoint adjacent to the now-abandoned Daesh “Immigration Office”, and machine-gun and mortar teams.

What has been reported?

Airwars
The MoD described it as a strike on enemy fighters using a mortar system in a building. Airwars in collaboration with the BBC documented numerous reports from the ground of as many as 10 civilians killed – including a father and his young daughter, Walid Awad Al Qus and Limar Awad Al Qus. The MoD said it has seen no evidence of civilian casualties. But the US military said: “regrettably 12 civilians were unintentionally killed and six were unintentionally injured as a result of the blast.”

CIVCAS report (NYT)
A CREDIBLE report states that on “13 August 2017, CJTF-OIR CIVCAS Cell received a self-report of potential CIVCAS as a result of a Coalition strike. After describing targeting 6x ISIS mortar team members the report notes that “a thorough review of all available strike records indicates that it is more likely than not that three civilians were killed and one civilian was injured as a result of a Coalition strike.” This report states that only three civilians were killed and one injured.

US-led Coalition Report

For August 12th-13th the Coalition reported “Near Raqqah, 15 strikes engaged 14 ISIS tactical units and destroyed three command and control nodes, two ISIS headquarters, an ISIS UAS launch site and a vehicle.” It additionally reported that “On Aug. 12, near Raqqah, Syria, 21 strikes engaged 16 ISIS tactical units and destroyed a fighting position, an anti-aircraft artillery system, and a mortar system.”

Likelihood
The RAF report matches up with the details in the CIVCAS report. There was only one mortar targeted on that day in that area. This incident has already been thoroughly researched on the ground by the BBC and Airwars and therefore the number of dead is more likely to be 12 than 3. Therefore, it is highly likely that the RAF are responsible for this incident. 

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STRIKE #8

DATE: 20/01/2018

LOCATION: al-Khashmah, Syria

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: 4 civilians killed

What have the RAF said?
The following day [Jan 20th], a Reaper used a GBU-12 guided bomb to demolish a Daesh-held building north-west of Abu Kamal, and provided targeting and surveillance support to four coalition air strikes, including one which destroyed a munitions stockpile detected when the Reaper spotted terrorists delivering weapons to the building. A flight of Typhoons were also active over the area, and they used a Paveway to destroy a further Daesh-held building.

What has been reported?

Airwars
Airwars identified that on this date the Coalition confirmed the deaths of four civilians in an event near al-Khashmah. “In its April 2019 monthly civilian casualty report, the Coalition noted: “Coalition aircraft conducted multiple engagements against Daesh forces. Regrettably, four civilians were unintentionally killed due to their proximity to the targets.”” Airwars also identified that the RAF were responsible for these strikes, stating that “In March 2020, Airwars and the BBC published an investigation revealing that the UK was refusing to accept responsibility for civilian harm in this and two other events – despite confirming that the RAF had conducted the strikes.”

CIVCAS report (NYT)
A CREDIBLE report states that on “Jan. 20, 2018, near al-Khashmah, Syria, via self-report. Coalition aircraft conducted multiple engagements against Daesh forces. Regrettably, four civilians were unintentionally killed due to their proximity to the targets.” No detailed CIVCAS assessment was attached to this report. 

What is the likelihood that RAF assets were responsible for these casualties?
When looking at RAF activity on other days around this area, all of it seems to be centred in and around Abu Kamal. This location is only a few miles away from the centre of the town. However, as the RAF report notes, there were other coalition jets within that area on that date. Despite this, it is almost certain that the RAF were at least complicit in civilian casualties, if not directly responsible. 

Likelihood
The RAF have claimed the strikes linked to civilian casualties are theirs but refuse to take responsibility for the civilians killed. It appears from the CIVCAS report that on this day multiple strikes in different locations killed civilians across the area. 

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STRIKE #9

DATE: 26/03/2018

LOCATION: Euphrates Valley, Syria

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: 1 civilian killed

What have the RAF said?
‘A Reaper tracked a group of terrorists in a vehicle in the Syrian Euphrates valley on Monday 26 March, and successfully destroyed it and its occupants with a precision Hellfire missile attack. Following a detailed investigation, it is assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed in the strike.’.

Likelihood
The RAF have said they were behind this death. 

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CIVILIAN INJURY STRIKE #1

DATE: 19/04/2015

LOCATION: Ar Rutba – Anbar Province, Iraq

POSSIBLE CIVILIANS INJURED/ KILLED: 2 Civilians injured

What did the RAF say?
‘On Sunday 19 April, in western Iraq: terrorists were spotted attempting to position an IED, but were hit by a Hellfire missile which detonated the bomb. The same aircraft then engaged an ISIL vehicle carrying heavy weaponry.’

What has been reported?

Airwars
Airwars reported that “In a likely US or British drone strike, a truck was inadvertently hit during an airstrike at Ar Rutbah, according to a declassified CENTCOM report. “2 seconds prior to weapon impact, a large truck inadvertently arrived at the checkpoint. The back section of the truck was possibly damaged during the strike.” The driver was observed fleeing.” They also noted that a RAF drone strike was reported to have caused  civilian injuries on this day by the Guardian and several foreign media news outlets.

CIVCAS report (NYT)
A report dated on April 19th, 2015 was deemed CREDIBLE and was described as a ‘self report’, the civilian harm caused warranted ‘no investigation’ into the incident. The description of the incident was identical to Airwars who had brought this incident to attention. The report also noted that “the weapon used was an [redacted] most typically used by [redacted] has confirmed carrying out the date in question “in western Iraq.” It also notes despite the report being found CREDIBLE, “we recommend NO INVESTIGATION as it would provide no useful information not overcome by 561st FB on [redacted] scan techniques.

US-led Coalition Report
For April 19th-20th 2015 the Coalition reported that “Near Ar Rutbah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.” This was the only strike around that area on that date.

Likelihood
The CIVCAS report cites Airwar’s assessment and deems the coalition’s responsibility in causing these civilian’s injuries CREDIBLE. The sequence of events described in the CIVCAS report directly matches the RAF strike report, down to the wording of “Western Iraq”. This was the only strike in that area at that time. It therefore seems highly likely the RAF are responsible for these casualties. 

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Conclusion
AOAV’s report raises significant concerns as to the true number of civilians collaterally killed during the RAF’s operations in Iraq and Syria. These nine lethal strike reports paint a picture of concern relating to the RAF when targeting supposed armed actors with significantly heavy ordinance. Of note, both RAF and Coalition Reports appeared to show little concern for the human impact of these strikes on civilian casualties, instead appearing to be a necessary collateral consequence for strike operations deemed some of the most precise in history. 

Despite the RAF having been criticised previously with these new findings, AOAV calls upon the RAF to investigate these strikes. The RAF must no longer hide behind the anonymity of Coalition CIVCAS reports and reveal the full results of their investigation, showing they have a capable casualty recording system in place.

Addtional reporting: Marine Rigole and Chiara Torelli