U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria killed eight civilians and wounded an additional three during a period between April 12 and July 4 last year, the Pentagon said in a statement Friday. The release marks the third time the Pentagon has acknowledged civilian casualties since its air campaign against the Islamic State began in August 2014.
“We are sharing this information with the public as part of our commitment to transparency. We continue to review additional claims of civilian casualties and will provide additional information in the future,” the release states.
In December, the Pentagon said a number of Iraqi forces around Fallujah had been killed in a friendly fire incident.
In May 2015, the U.S. Central Commanded, or CENTCOM, admitted to killing two children in Harim City, Syria after an airstrike against the Khorasan Group triggered secondary explosions. In November 2015, CENTCOM said that an errant A-10 Warthog strike killed four civilians at a checkpoint in Iraq. Friday’s document details five separate incidents in both Syria and Iraq that resulted in civilian deaths and injuries, though unlike in other releases, the Pentagon did not offer additional information outlining specifics of how and why the strikes occurred.
Regarding two incidents — one in April Huwayjah, Iraqin al On an April 12 and June 11 2015 incident in al Huwayjah, Iraq and Soluk Syria respectively, CENTCOM gave no reason for the death of five civilians in total–three at each site. On July 4, in Raqqa, Syria, three civilians were killed during a strike on an Islamic State “High Value Individual.” CENTCOM blamed the death on the fact that the civilians appeared in the target area after the weapon had already been released from the aircraft. In the other documented incidents in which civilians were wounded, CENTCOM attributed their injuries to similar reasons.
By CENTCOM’s counts, U.S. forces have killed 14 civilians since the military began bombing in Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014. This number, according to the advocacy site AirWars.Org, is grossly inaccurate. According to a statement on their site, between Aug. 8 2014 and Jan. 12 2016, “815 and 1,149 civilian non-combatants appear likely to have been killed in 135 incidents where there is fair reporting publicly available of an event, and where Coalition strikes were confirmed in the near vicinity on that date.” AirWars.org accounts for coalition strikes, thus including the other countries participating with the United States in the air war against the Islamic State. This, however, does not include Russia, which has been accused by various international rights groups of targeting civilian population during its bombing campaign in Syria.
“The US and its coalition partners clearly remain too dependent upon aerial-only surveillance in such cases – and must widen their investigations to include credible evidence from external media, NGOs and monitors,” said Chris Wood, the head of AirWars.Org. “Airwars also remains concerned that only the United States among thirteen Coalition partners has so far admitted to causing any civilian casualties….We urge other partners to follow CENTCOM’s transparency lead, so enabling greater accountability for affected civilians on the ground in Iraq and Syria.”
According to a Pentagon site, as of Jan. 10 2016, the U.S. military has carried out 7,390 airstrikes in Syria and Iraq.