Displaced civilians near Mosul, May 2017. (Maranie R. Staab)

Airwars is a member of the Casualty Recorders Network – part of Every Casualty Counts. Our methodology has been assessed as highly conformant with Every Casualty’s Standards for Casualty Recording.

We track and assess claims of casualties and ‘friendly fire’ deaths from international military actions – primarily air and artillery strikes. We also monitor and archive official military reports of the conflicts we monitor so that they can be measured against the public record. Our data is drawn from a number of sources outlined below.

Read more about our casualty recording work:

In June 2023, at the Human Rights Council’s 53rd session, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) presented its report on the impact of casualty recording on the promotion and protection of human rights, which included a number of references to Airwars’ casualty recording efforts.

Our work has also been researched by academics at the University of Sydney, Heather Ford and Michael Richardson, in their paper: Framing data witnessing: Airwars and the production of authority in conflict monitoring. You can read an executive summary of their findings here.

Our sources

A key aim of Airwars is to assess all known claims of civilian harm across the conflicts we monitor. Though we often use the term ‘civilian’ as shorthand it should always be assumed – unless otherwise stated – that we are referring to civilian non-combatants who were taking no active part in hostilities.

Airwars conducts daily monitoring of local language media and social media sites for civilian casualty claims. We permanently archive all reports and follow up on allegations with belligerents wherever possible.

When flagging potential civilian deaths or injuries, Airwars draws on a wide range of sources. These can include international and local news agencies and NGOs; and more fragmentary social media sites including local residents’ groups, Facebook pages (for examples martyrs’ pages), YouTube footage of incidents, and tweets relating to specific events. On occasion, we also include links to militant and terrorist propaganda sources which are directly pertinent to an event. These are always clearly marked as such.

Many credible claims of non-combatant deaths are reported by casualty monitoring NGOs, who often also members of Every Casualty’s Casualty Recorders Network.

Extensive additional civilian casualties are caused by other parties to the conflicts we monitor. These include government forces and allied militias; and militant and terror groups.

It is important to note that realtime conflict casualty monitoring presents significant challenges. Airwars reports known information on alleged strikes and casualties in good faith, though we are often unable to follow up or to further verify such claims.

Grading system

We publish a provisional assessment, based on our findings, of likely civilian casualties for each alleged incident reportedly involving actions by a belligerent.

Because of wide variations in the quality of casualty recording, Airwars employs a provisional grading system for events alleging non-combatant deaths or injuries from military actions. This represents our own assessment of allegations, and we urge those using the site to make their own judgement based on available sources. Our own grading system is as follows:

A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for the killing or injuring of non-combatants or allied forces in a particular incident.

Where, in the view of Airwars, there is a reasonable level of public reporting of an alleged civilian casualty incident from two or more credible sources (often coupled with biographical, photographic or video evidence). Crucially, this includes likely or confirmed actions by a belligerent in the near vicinity for the date in question. We believe these cases, in particular, require urgent investigation.

These are presently single source claims. Nevertheless, they often feature biographical details of victims along with visual evidence from a reputable source – and with international strikes confirmed in the near vicinity for the date in question.

These occur where there are competing claims of responsibility: multiple belligerents are reported, or casualties are also attributed to ground forces. For example, both US-led Coalition and Russian aircraft might be blamed for an attack in Syria.

Incidents where our researchers or others can either demonstrate that those killed were combatants; or that other parties (e.g. the Iraqi Armed Forces or Syrian Regime) were most likely responsible. This categorisation also applies if we determine that an incident likely did not result in any civilian casualties.

No civilian harm reported
With significant public interest in all US counter-terrorism strikes outside the regular battlefield, this category enables us to report on strike allegations whether involving civilian harm claims or not. We may also on occasion include incidents in which civilian infrastructure was reportedly targeted – even if casualties were not claimed.

Geolocation Methodology 

Each incident of civilian harm that is assessed by the research team is geolocated to the highest possible degree of accuracy by our geolocators and geolocation volunteers. We only geolocate locations that are related to incidents where civilians have been harmed, as per Airwars’ incident identification process (see above). The geolocation team follows a standardised approach that is applied to all conflicts tracked by Airwars.

Exact Locations (Airwars)

Exact Locations are the highest degree of location accuracy within our archive. An Exact Location is any location that we can prove, through the generation of visual evidence from imagery available to us within the civilian harm assessment. Therefore, Exact Location coordinates are always provided with tagged imagery from sources as well as an interactive annotation of satellite imagery to prove those coordinates.

An Exact Location can only exist if there is visual evidence that proves that Exact Location. Sometimes there will be civilian harm incidents that clearly mention a specific building such as a school, or a mosque. This is not enough to qualify these locations as an Exact Location. Although these locations might be easily locatable on Google Maps or Wikimapia, unless we have visual imagery that clearly shows a strike there, these do not qualify as Exact Locations. Any such locations that fall under this technicality are scaled up to Nearby Landmark. This is because there is no way to check whether the strike happened directly on the building, or in the vicinity.

See ISPT0784, RUK079 and ISPT0153 for example.

Exact Locations (Other)

There are also cases where an assessment in our archive has already been geolocated and published online by individuals and/or organisations. In these cases, we verify and cross check the accuracy of their coordinates and use these as our geolocation. These are identifiable under the category of  Exact Location (Other). Credit is attributed within the geolocation notes when possible.

See ISPT1669 for example.

Non-Exact Locations

In cases where there is not enough information to provide an Exact Location, we scale up to the nearest possible degree of accuracy. Our Non-Exact Locations are Nearby Landmark, Street, Neighbourhood/Area, Village, Town, City, Subdistrict, District and Province.

See USYEMTr131, RUK074 and ISPT0028 for example.

Conflict specific methodology notes

While in general we apply the same casualty recording methodology to all our conflicts, we are also starting to build a series of bespoke methodology notes that explain in more detail how our standard approach applies given different information environments. You can find these here, and by selecting ‘Methodology Note’ from the output types under our Research page.

Military sources

General munition and strike statistics are primarily sourced from regular military briefings from allies participating in the US-led Coalition in Iraq and Syria, and from the Russian Ministry of Defence regarding Syria. US strikes in Libya are reported by AFRICOM, while the Libyan National Army has also issued regular data.

These daily, weekly and monthly reports are then cross-referenced against reported civilian fatalities and are archived to provide a permanent record of military claims.

Reporting issues: Coalition strikes, sorties and locations

Members of the US-led Coalition use different methods when reporting on military actions in Iraq and Syria. The primary counting method is the ‘airstrike’ – employed for example by the Coalition as well as by the US, the UK, France and Canada. This reporting language can be problematic, however. The term ‘airstrike’ is one the US Air Force does not employ internally, given its imprecise nature. The preferred USAF metric is actually ‘Sorties with at least one weapon release’ – see for example AFCENT’s ongoing Airpower Summaries. As the Coalition itself notes of airstrikes in every daily press release:

“A strike, as defined in the CJTF releases, means one or more kinetic events that occur in roughly the same geographic location to produce a single, sometimes cumulative effect for that location.  So having a single aircraft deliver a single weapon against a lone ISIL vehicle is one strike, but so is multiple aircraft delivering dozens of weapons against a group of buildings and vehicles and weapon systems in a compound, for example, having the cumulative effect of making that facility (or facilities) harder or impossible to use.  Accordingly, CJTF-OIR does not report the number or type of aircraft employed in a strike, the number of munitions dropped in each strike or the number of individual munition impact points against a target.”

Any officially given locations for airstrikes must also be treated with some caution. The US-led Coalition generally only cites the largest population centre in a province for example, with Russia only identifying actions by governorate. Reports should be taken only as guides to where strikes may have taken place.

Naming casualties and our use of images

Airwars has a policy of naming wherever possible civilian non-combatants reportedly killed. In addition, we often publish photographs of victims in association with specific events, along with reported images of the locale. Most of these images are sourced via social media claims, from local media organisations and activists, and via monitors such as the Violations Documentation Center. Families have also approached Airwars on a number of occasions, asking us to include photographs and other details of their loved ones.

We believe there is a significant merit in publicly marking those killed – particularly given repeated denials of responsibility by belligerents. Even so, we understand that some family members may be distressed at the presence of particular images on our website.

If you are a family member who lost loved ones in an airstrike listed on the Airwars site and would like to get in touch – or would like to ask us to remove a photo or to add another – then please contact us at info [at] airwars [dot] org.

إذا كنت من عائلة  فقدت  أحد أفرادها الاحباء في غارة جوية كتبنا عنها هنا أو في أي منشور على موقع airwars و تود الاتصال بنا – او طلب إزالة صورة للضحية أو اضافة اخرى – يرجى الاتصال بنا على

Errors and corrections

We strive for accuracy and transparency of process in our reporting and presentation. Our casualty monitoring is continually evolving, representing our best current understanding of any alleged incidents.

If you have new information about a particular event; if you find an error in our work; or if you have concerns about the way we are reporting our data, then do please reach us at info [at] airwars [dot] org.

Leveraging our work for strategic litigation

As a casualty recording organisation, our work has always been intended as a starting point for others to carry out their own investigations and research. As interest in the application of our archive has grown amongst those working in criminal proceedings however, Airwars sought the advice of the Utrecht University Law Clinic to review our methodology and practices, and identify areas where our documentation might best be leveraged by others for a variety of potential legal proceedings.

The result was a legal memo finalised in June 2024, and includes a series of recommendations relating to the collection of evidence and how our data on patterns of harm might be used to support various areas of inquiry.

Airwars is not a legal organisation and does not litigate cases ourselves. We do not take a position on any of the findings, analysis or recommendations provided in the memo.

Read the memo here.

With thanks to: Dmytro Cherneha, Maia Del Priore, Sofiia Ivanova, Carolina Trejos Carvajal, Jana Van Megeren, María Candelaria Vito Farraperia, Gaia Zobol and Utrecht University Public International Law and Human Rights Clinic Director, Jessica Dorsey.