US-led strikes in Iraq, Syria killed many civil­ians: re­port

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY VI­VIAN SALAMA AND ZEINA KARAM

U.S.-led airstrikes tar­get­ing the Is­lamic State group in Iraq and Syria likely have killed hun­dreds of civil­ians, a re­port by an in­de­pen­dent mon­i­tor­ing group said Mon­day. The coali­tion had no im­me­di­ate com­ment.

The re­port by Air­wars, a pro­ject aimed at track­ing the in­ter­na­tional airstrikes tar­get­ing the ex­trem­ists, said it be­lieved 57 spe­cific strikes killed at least 459 civil­ians and caused 48 sus­pected “friendly fire” deaths.

While Air­wars noted

the

dif- fi­culty of ver­i­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion in ter­ri­tory held by the Is­lamic State group, which has be­headed jour­nal­ists and shot dead ac­tivists, other groups have re­ported sim­i­lar ca­su­al­ties from the U.S.-led airstrikes.

“Al­most all claims of non­com­bat­ant deaths from al­leged coali­tion strikes emerge within 24 hours — with graphic im­ages of re­ported vic­tims of­ten widely dis­sem­i­nated,” the re­port said. “In this con­text, the present coali­tion pol­icy of down­play­ing or deny­ing all claims of non­com­bat­ant fa­tal­i­ties makes lit­tle sense, and risks hand­ing (the) Is­lamic State (group) and other forces a pow­er­ful pro­pa­ganda tool.”

The U.S. launched airstrikes in Iraq on Aug. 8 and in Syria on Sept. 23 to tar­get the Is­lamic State group. A coali­tion of coun­tries later joined to help al­lied ground forces in both coun­tries de­feat the ex­trem­ists. To date, the coali­tion has launched more than 5,800 airstrikes in both coun­tries. So far, the U.S. only has ac­knowl­edged killing two civil­ians in its strikes: two chil­dren who were likely slain dur­ing an Amer­i­can airstrike tar­get­ing al-Qaida-linked mil­i­tants in Syria last year. That same strike also wounded two adults, ac­cord- ing to an in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­leased in May by the U.S. mil­i­tary.

That strike is one of at least four on­go­ing U.S. mil­i­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­le­ga­tions of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties re­sult­ing from the airstrikes. One other probe into an airstrike in Syria and two in­ves­ti­ga­tions into airstrikes in Iraq are still pend­ing.

Air­wars said it iden­ti­fied the 57 strikes through re­port­ing from “two or more gen­er­ally cred­i­ble sources, of­ten with bi­o­graph­i­cal, pho­to­graphic or video ev­i­dence.” The strikes also cor­re­sponded to con­firmed coali­tion strikes con­ducted in the area at that time, it said.

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