Amnesty: US-led assault on Raqqa killed more civilians than previously thought

Amnesty: US-led assault on Raqqa killed more civilians than previously thought
2 min read
25 April, 2019
An investigation by Amnesty International and Airwars reveals that the civilian death toll from the coalition assault on the former IS stronghold of Raqqa is much higher than previously believed
Workers exhume bodies from a mass grave in Raqqa in 2018 (Getty)

Intensive US-led coalition bombardment on the Syrian city of Raqqa killed more than 1,600 civilians over the four months from June to October 2017, according to a report released on Thursday. This death toll is much higher than the previously reported one.

The report is the result of an unprecedented investigation by Amnesty International and the Airwars monitoring group.

An Amnesty International statement said that 80% of Raqqa was “left uninhabitable” as a result of the bombing and that Raqqa is “widely considered the most-destroyed city of modern times”.

A US military official previously said that 30,000 artillery rounds were fired during the assault on Raqqa, which means one strike every six minutes on average.

The Amnesty International and Airwars investigation took two years to complete, analysing multiple data streams during and after the assault on Raqqa.  More than 3,000 digital activists took part in a project to identify when each of the 11,000 destroyed buildings was hit.

"Many of the air bombardments were inaccurate and tens of thousands of artillery strikes were indiscriminate. Coalition forces razed Raqqa, but they cannot erase the truth,” said Donatella Rovera, crisis response advisor at Amnesty International.

The human rights organisation urged top coalition members to show more transparency and accountability.

1,000 of the victims have been identified by name. One survivor of a strike which took place on 25 September 2017, Ayat Mohammed Jasem, told a TV crew: "Planes were bombing and rockets were falling 24 hours a day, and there were ISIS snipers everywhere. You just couldn’t breathe. I saw my son die, burnt in the rubble in front of me. I’ve lost everyone who was dear to me. My four children, my husband, my mother, my sister, my whole family. Wasn’t the goal to free the civilians? They were supposed to save us, to save our children."

Raqqa was previously the de-facto capital of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria, before being captured by the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) at the end of the coalition assault in October 2017.

Read more: Syria in maps - How eight years of revolution changed the country