Iraq still using barrel bombs on civilian areas, human rights group says


Iraqis inspect the damage to houses after an air raid by Iraqi Air forces in Fallujah on July 13. According to medical sources, at least ten people were killed, including women and children, and 20 others wounded in an air raid targeting different districts in Fallujah city. EPA/STR

The Iraqi military has killed dozens of civilians and wounded hundreds of others in indiscriminate air strikes since June 6, some of which include the controversial and illegal use of barrel bombs, a human rights organization charged Wednesday. The United States should stop providing weapons to the government in Baghdad “until it complies with international law,” the group said.

Human Rights Watch accused the Iraqi military of using barrel bombs at least six times in June and July. The primitive weapons rely on a mix of fuel and shrapnel packed into barrels and other cylinders to inflict damage cheaply, but are prone to injuring and killing civilians. They have been used widely by the regime in Syria, drawing condemnation from the international community.

The attacks in Iraq were launched as it fights to hold the line against militants with the Islamic State, an insurgent group that has taken control of broad sections of western and northern Iraq. The barrel bomb attacks occurred in the western city of Fallujah, Human Rights Watch said. The city fell to militants early in January.

The United States has given Iraq more than $1 billion in military equipment over the last decade, and is rushing hundreds of additional Hellfire missiles there as the Iraqi government attempts to beat back the insurgency.

The Islamic State also has ignored the laws of war as it takes over new territory, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday. Militants have taken over populated areas and failed “to take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties,” the human rights group said.

The Iraqi military’s actions were scrutinized more closely, however. Human Rights Watch said it interviewed 30 witnesses, victims, medical staff and family members of people killed in Fallujah, Beiji, Mosul, Tikrit and al-Sherquat. Of the 75 deaths the organization said it confirmed, 17 were the result of barrel bombs, including seven women and two children.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
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Dan Lamothe · July 23, 2014