UK claims IS airstrikes in Syria and Iraq killed just one civilian

UK claims IS airstrikes in Syria and Iraq killed just one civilian
RAF airstrikes in Syria and Iraq killed just one civilian, according to the UK ministry of defence, a figure that is being challenged by monitors.
3 min read
07 March, 2019
The RAF carried out 1,000 airstrikes in Raqqa and Mosul [Getty]
Airstrikes by British fighter jets on Islamic State group-controlled territories in Syria and Iraq killed over 4,000 enemy combatants during a four-and-a-half years period, but only one civilian, the UK government has claimed.

The ministry of defence said that the data covers the Royal Air Force's (RAF) air campaign against Islamic State group militants from September 2014 up to January this year, according to the BBC on Thursday.

The figures are "the best available post-strike analysis" using data collected from photo and videos taken from the air, the ministry's report states, following a Freedom of Information request by charity Action on Armed Violence.

"The RAF's claim of a ratio of one civilian casualty against 4,315 enemies must be a world record in modern conflict," Iain Overton, executive director of the charity told the BBC

It also claimed that of the 4,315 casualties in the report, 4,013 were killed (93 percent of the total) and 302 were injured (seven percent).

In Iraq, 2,994 militants were killed in the RAF airstrikes - carried out by Reaper drones and Typhoon, Tornado jets - while it reported 1,019 militant deaths in Syria from the UK's anti-IS campaign. 

Action on Armed Violence said the figures given by the ministry of defence could not be true due to around 1,000 RAF airstrikes taking place in the densely-populated former IS strongholds of Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq.

The US-led coalition, which includes the UK, has admitted to 1,190 civilian deaths during the anti-IS campaign, while the US has also admitted in the past to at least 1,000 non-combatants being killed.

These figures have been disputed by civilian casualty monitors, who believe the real figure is much higher. Footage of Mosul and Raqqa have shown parts of the former IS-held cities being utterly destroyed in airstrikes.

Amnesty International have said that the US-led coalition air campaign in Syria and Iraq could amount to war crimes.

"The UK is claiming to have carried out massive aerial bombing of densely populated cities with virtually zero civilian casualties. This beggars belief and shows just how deeply in denial the MoD actually is over its role in the mass bombing of Mosul and Raqqa," said Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Advisor Donatella Rovera

"Australia's military carried out far fewer strikes than the British, but, under pressure from Amnesty International and others, it has publicly admitted to killing civilians in Iraq. The US-led Coalition has admitted killing hundreds in Iraq and Syria. Why can't the British own up to their role in this?"

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi - who directed his country's fightback against IS - claimed on Wednesday that only eight women and children were killed during the battle to retake Mosul, which ended in 2017.

An AP report that year estimated around 9,000 civilians were killed in the battle to retake Mosul, with hundreds or thousands of bodies lying under rubble in the western half of the northern Iraqi city, which included the densely-packed old town.

IS took over much of Iraq and Syria in 2014, until US-backed campaigns against the militants pushed them out of their territories.

IS now control just the encircled village of Baghouz in eastern Syria, and a few other small enclaves in the country's central and eastern desert.

The militants have managed to launch bomb and gun attacks on Iraqi military forces and civilians, while US security experts have warned of a potential insurgency being launched by the group in Syria.