Civilian death toll from US-led anti-ISIS coalition strikes rises to 484

Civilian death toll from US-led anti-ISIS coalition strikes rises to 484

By Loree Lewis   
Published
Explosions rocked Mosul, Iraq, on April 1 during the Combined Joint Task-Force Operation Inherent Resolve-backed Iraqi security forces' offensive to liberate the city. CJTF-OIR is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (Staff Sgt. Jason Hull/U.S. Army)

WASHINGTON – The U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria said Friday that it has inadvertently killed at least 484 civilians by air and artillery strikes since operations began in late 2014.

The civilian casualty report, released monthly by Operation Inherent Resolve, found that an additional 132 people had been killed in 16 separate incidents. The bulk of this count, 105 people, came from a March 17 U.S. bombing of a building in West Mosul.

U.S. officials have said that partnered Iraqi forces called in an airstrike against a building from which two ISIS snipers were firing. The U.S. responded with a “GBU-38 delayed fuse munition” (a 500-pound bomb), without knowing that Iraqi civilians were sheltering in the basement. The explosion should have caused “no more than 16-20% damage to the structure, localized to the front of the second floor,” but instead collapsed the two-story reinforced concrete building – crushing at least 101 people inside. Four others were killed in an adjacent structure.

The U.S. has said it appears ISIS had strategically rigged a large number of explosives to blow upon impact from the airstrike, specifically to take down the structure. However, this account has been questioned by locals, according to The Washington Post.

Independent monitors and human rights groups have accused the U.S. of lowballing the number of civilians killed in the conflict. The U.K.-based monitor Airwars puts the current civilian death toll from U.S.-led coalition strikes at 3,817 people.

The majority of the newly acknowledged incidents happened in and around the city of Mosul, where fewer than 1,000 ISIS fighters now hold less than four miles (10 square kilometers) after months of fighting with Iraqi and allied forces. Several other incidents took place near Raqqa, where U.S.-backed forces are soon to breach the city limits.

Other credible reports came from Deir ez-Zor, Syria; al-Qaim, Iraq; and Tal Afar, Iraq. Operation Inherent Resolve investigators also deemed 31 reports of civilian casualties non-credible, meaning there was “not sufficient information available” to determine that civilian casualties more likely than not occurred.” The report said that 38 other reports of civilian casualties are still being assessed.

“Although the Coalition takes extraordinary efforts to strike military targets in a manner that minimizes the risk of civilian casualties, in some incidents casualties are unavoidable,” Operation Inherent Resolve said in the report.

Iraqi security forces have encouraged the 80,000 to 150,000 civilians remaining in the ISIS-held areas of Mosul to leave for the last stages of what is expected to be a tough and bloody battle. Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, said Thursday that some 4,000 people are leaving daily.

At the beginning of the Mosul fight, the Iraqi government told civilians to shelter in place rather than leave the city out of concern for the resources and logistics that would be needed to support displaced persons.

Going into the fight for Raqqa, however, Dillion said that the Syrian Democratic Forces  whom the U.S. is backing for the assault  have instructed civilians to leave the city. He said about 200,000 people have left, with 92,000 of them resettled in established refugee camps.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Sunday that the U.S.-led coalition is accelerating operations against ISIS and that civilian casualties are the unfortunate reality of war.

“Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation,” Mattis said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We do everything humanly possible consistent with military necessity, taking many chances to avoid civilian casualties at all costs.”

The following are descriptions of the incidents deemed credible by the Operation Inherent Resolve where “more likely than not” at least one civilian was killed or injured:

1. Jan. 31, 2017, near Dayr Az Zayr, Syria, via self-report: During a strike on ISIS construction equipment, after reviewing the post-strike video, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed when he entered the target area after the munition was released.

2. Feb. 25, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS VBIED [vehicle-borne improvised explosive device], it was assessed that five civilians were unintentionally killed.

3. Feb. 25, 2017, near Raqqah Syria, via self-report: During a strike on ISIS oil tanker trucks, after warning shots were fired to dislodge drivers from the vehicles, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed.

4. Feb. 28, 2017, near Al Qaim, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS dump truck filled with VBIED material, after firing warning shots, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed and one injured when they entered the target area after the munition was released.

5. March 9, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike to crater roads used by ISIS VBIEDs against Iraqi Security Forces, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally injured when he entered the target area after the munition was released.

6. March 17, 2017, near Mosul Iraq, via media report: During a strike on ISIS snipers firing on partnered forces, 101 civilians were unintentionally killed when the munition struck the building igniting ISIS-planted explosives that destroyed the structure and killed an additional four civilians in an adjacent structure.

7. March 21, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on ISIS fighters, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed and three injured when they entered the target area after the munition was released.

8. March 21, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS mortar position firing on Iraqi Security Forces, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed when he entered the target area after the munition was released.

9. March 28, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike to crater roads used by ISIS VBIEDs against Iraqi Security Forces, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed when he entered the target area after the munition was released.

10. March 30, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS command and control node and VBIED staging position, it was assessed that two civilians were unintentionally killed when they entered the target area after the munition was released.

11. March 30, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS headquarters, it was assessed that two civilians were unintentionally killed when they entered the target area after the munition was released.

12. April 4, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS mortar team egressing their firing position, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed by a secondary explosion caused when the target vehicle was hit.

13. April 4, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on ISIS fighters in a moving vehicle, it was assessed that one civilian pedestrian was unintentionally killed when the vehicle was struck.

14. April 5, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS firing position, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed when his vehicle entered the target area after the munition was released.

15. April 8, 2017, near Tal Afar, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS VBIED factory, it was assessed that three civilians were unintentionally killed.

16. April 13, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS VBIED engaging Iraqi Security Forces, it was assessed that six civilians were unintentionally killed when a group of fleeing civilians entered the target area after the munition was released.

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