Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition

Pentagon adds to US airstrikes’ civilian toll

- By W.J. Hennigan whennigan@tribpub.com

IRBIL, Iraq — U.S. airstrikes have “likely resulted” in the deaths of 20 civilians and injuries to 11 others in Iraq and Syria since last fall, the Pentagon announced Friday.

The figure brings to 41 the Pentagon’s total official civilian death toll from U.S. airstrikes since the Obama administra­tion launched its air war against the Islamic State group nearly two years ago.

That tally of deaths is far lower than independen­t monitors say were caused by errant bombs or poor targeting. Human rights and humanitari­an aid groups insist that the Pentagon has vastly underestim­ated the number of civilians killed or wounded.

“We deeply regret the unintentio­nal loss of life and injuries resulting from those strikes and express our deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and those affected,” U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, said in a statement.

The military is investigat­ing 23 other allegation­s of civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, officials said.

Human rights and humanitari­an aid groups estimate that several hundred civilians have been killed or wounded in the more than 11,750 airstrikes launched by the U.S. and its allies since August 2014.

Airwars.org, a nonprofit group that relies on social media and witness accounts, estimates that coalition airstrikes have killed at least 1,000 civilians.

The military said that the airstrikes complied with laws on armed conflict and that “all appropriat­e precaution­s” were taken to prevent civilian casualties.

Central Command did not release its investigat­ion of civilian casualties. It instead summarized the findings in a news release that did not identify any of the victims and provided few details.

According to the release, two civilians were killed on Sept. 10, 2015, during an airstrike on an Islamic State checkpoint near Hit, Iraq. It said “their vehicle appeared in the target area after weapons were already in flight.”

On Oct. 5, eight civilians were killed in an airstrike on a mortar position in Atshanah, Iraq. The release did not say why civilians were there.

On Nov. 12, an airstrike targeting militants in the Iraqi city of Ramadi killed one civilian. Another was killed on Dec. 10 near Raqqa, Islamic State’s selfdeclar­ed capital in Syria.

Five civilians were killed two days later at a suspected militant checkpoint in Ramadi. They appeared in the target area “after weapons were already in flight,” the release said.

A civilian on a motorcycle was killed on Dec. 24 in Tishreen, Syria, during an attack on a nearby vehicle.

On Jan. 11 of this year, a civilian was killed near Mosul, Iraq, during an attack on a “cash distributi­on station” used by militants. And on Feb. 2, a civilian was killed in Al Ghazili, Syria, during an attack on a vehicle.

 ?? NAJIM RAHIM/AP ?? A Doctors Without Borders worker surveys the damage inside a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanista­n, hit last year by a U.S. airstrike. Some of the air raids have killed civilians.
NAJIM RAHIM/AP A Doctors Without Borders worker surveys the damage inside a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanista­n, hit last year by a U.S. airstrike. Some of the air raids have killed civilians.

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