December 2015

Written by

Basile Simon and Chris Woods

Major military developments

    November 2015 saw the greatest number of Coalition actions yet reported in the 16-month war, with 529 airstrikes in Iraq and 232 in Syria. Overall, a total of 5,638 air strikes had been carried out in Iraq, and 2,944 in Syria to the end of the month.

The 13 allies had between them cumulatively dropped 31,873 bombs and missiles against Daesh to month’s end, with a 20 per cent rise in the number of munitions released compared with October. In part, this spike was due to the Coalition individually targeting and destroying hundreds of individual ‘Daesh oil tankers’ in Syria.

    In the wake of the November 13th Paris terrorist atrocities, France stepped up its attacks on so-called Islamic State in Syria, and also sent back to the region the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
    After more than 5,000 airstrikes in Iraq, the US-led Coalition finally conceded on November 20th that it had ‘likely’ killed civilians in Iraq – six months after a similar admission for Syria. Seven or more civilians reportedly died in an airstrike at Hatra on March 13th – including two women and three children.

As Airwars noted at the time, it remains unclear why the Coalition delayed admitting the deaths for so long. A declassified CENTCOM document shows investigators had already concluded by early May of this year that “the allegation of CIVCAS [at Hatra] was likely credible.”

    Russia continued its own major air campaign in Syria, with heavy bombers being used for the first time. Once again there were reports of a significant number of civilians killed in Kremlin strikes (see below.)

    Two major Coalition bombing campaigns took place in November in Iraq. In the north, the Coalition supported a joint operation by the Peshmerga, the PKK, and the People’s Protection Units to retake Sinjar and regain control of Highway 47, a major Daesh supply route between Raqqa and Mosul. Coalition aircraft carried out 155 air strikes in the vicinity.

Two Syrian cities immediately across the border from Sinjar were also heavily bombed by the Coalition: 70 and 55 strikes were carried out respectively around Al Hawl and Hasakah.

In the centre of Iraq, the city of Ramadi also saw heavy bombings. The capital of the Anbar province had fallen to Daesh in May 2015. The Iraqi army has since encircled the town, giving a ‘last warning’ to civilians to leave the city before an assault. Coalition aircraft conducted 149 airstrikes in the near vicinity.

French combat aircraft in the Middle East November 2015 (Ministère de la Défense)

Coalition civilian casualties

    There were 18 alleged civilian casualty incidents in November 2015 reportedly involving Coalition aircraft – 13 in Iraq and five in Syria. Total claimed fatalities were 129 to 152 non-combatants killed.

Airwars presently assesses nine of these events as fairly reported: that is two or more credible sources, and Coalition strikes confirmed in the near vicinity. Between 67 and 90 civilians were reported killed in these incidents (with an estimated 48-68 deaths in Iraq and 19-22 in Syria.)

Seven further events are currently poorly reported; one is contested; and one incident appears to have been fabicated by so-called Islamic State.

    A number of major casualty incidents were attributed to Coalition aircraft for the month. On November 10th, nine named civilians from two families were reported killed in an alleged Coalition dawn strike at the small Syrian village of al Bootha – close to the scene of fierce clashes between Kurdish ground forces and Daesh.

Missile fragment reportedly found at scene of a lethal Mosul airstrike, November 16 2015 (via NRN)

On November 16th between seven and 12 civilians were reported killed following an alleged Coalition strike on the directorate of agriculture in Mosul. A further 28 to 39 people were reported injured. The incident took place in the Al Faisaliah area, and according to reports most if not all of those killed had no links to Daesh. An ISIL propaganda video showed some victims in their vehicles, with others including children taken to a local hospital.

Again in Mosul, on November 19th up to 10 workers at a dairy factory were reported killed after a Daesh IED facility next door was destroyed in a Canadian airstrike. In a later statement to CBC News, Canadian Forces Major General Charles Lamarre said the strike had been reviewed and “did not reveal any information to suggest that civilians had been harmed or killed… The nearest structure to the strike was well outside of the explosive radius of the weapons used‎.” However, graphic footage released by Islamic State showed not only the apparent destroyed IED facility but also a badly damaged adjacent building, including dead and injured persons.

And on November 26th, local sources in Fallujah alleged that Coalition aircraft bombed a house with three families inside near Khalid Bin Al Waleed mosque, killing at least 12 and wounding six more – mostly children and women. The Baghdad Centre for Human Rights said that both Coalition and Iraq government aircraft had participated in the attack, while all other sources pointed only to the Coalition.

Aftermath of Canadian strike at Mosul November 19th which reportedly killed 10 civilians (via Nineveh Reporters Network)

    On November 25th, claims were made on social media that a ‘French airstrike’ had struck a primary school in Mosul, killing 28 children. However local activists and journalists strongly denied the claim, which appears to have been a crude propaganda attempt by Daesh. The Nineveh Reporters Network challenged the claimed attack, insisting that ‘there has been no Coalition strike in Mosul for the past three days.’ MNB also described the claim as Daesh propaganda, while an Iraqi official told Shafaaq there was “no truth as reported by some media about the killing of a number of pupils in an aerial bombardment of a primary school by French aircraft.”
    In Syria on November 18th, up to ten civilians were killed in an airstrike on a civilian fuel facility in the Brigade 17 area of the city. Most sources attributed the attack to the Coalition. However, the Russian Ministry of Defence has also reported destroying 500 fuel trucks in the Raqqa and Dayr az Zawr areas at the time, making attribution difficult.

Russian civilian casualties

    At Airwars we’ve now finished assessing Russian airstrikes in Syria to October 31st, and have as a result revised upwards our minimum estimate to 345-501 likely killed in the first 32 days of Russian strikes.

According to our Syria  researcher, based on field reports from monitoring groups and media and social media claims, there were 98 new civilian casualty incidents in Syria for November which allegedly involved the Russian Air Force. The total claimed casualty range for these new events was 394 to 414 killed.

However, due to the large number of ongoing alleged incidents involving Russia, we are still assessing these new events – and so are currently unable to make a provisional estimate of likely deaths. Other monitoring groups have published their own assessments, all of which indicate that many hundreds of civilians have now been killed in Syria by Russia:

– The Violations Documentation Centre estimates that in the two months to November 30th, Russia killed 835 non-combatants in Syria. This compares with 302 civilians the VDC believes have been killed by the US-led Coalition in Syria since September 2014.

– The Syrian Network for Human Rights reports that to December 1st, Russian strikes in Syria had killed 570 civilians, including 152 children and 60 women.

– And the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that to November 20th only, that “Russian airstrikes had killed 403 civilians, including 97 children under 18 and 69 adult women over 18 years of age.”

Bustan el-Qasr in Aleppo province, following an alleged Russian airstrike on November 3rd which killed eight civilians (via Shaam News)


▲ One of 40 vehicles destroyed in an alleged Coalition strike at Mosul which killed up to 17 civilians (via NRN)


October 2015

Written by

Basile Simon and Chris Woods

Major developments

    US-led Coalition strikes allegedly killed as many as 276 civilians in up to 25 problem events in Iraq and Syria in September 2015 In twelve of these events, there appears enough credible evidence  – coupled with confirmation of allied airstrikes in the vicinity – to suggest that a minimum of 86 civilians were killed by the Coalition in September Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict on September 30th did not bode well. Between 42 and 50 non-combatants, including 11 children, were reported slain in the Kremlin’s first day of strikes An overall total of 7,200 strikes had been carried out by the US-led coalition to the end of the month, according to Airwars estimates. Some 4,605 strikes in Iraq accounted for almost 64% of this total, while 2,595 strikes had targeted Syria The air war again changed form in September – with France and Australia now targeting Daesh in Syria as well as in Iraq, while Denmark ended its airstrikes

A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle pops a flare while departing after refueling over the Middle East (USAF/ Staff Sgt. Sandra Welch)

Civilian casualties

    Airwars continues to be concerned at the number of credible reports of civilians being killed in Coalition strikes. We added 25 new incidents of concern for September 2015 to our evolving database. These new events allegedly killed at least 86 and as many as 157 civilians.

To the end of September 2015, Airwars had in total recorded 229 alleged civilian casualty incidents involving the Coalition dating back to August 2014. The overall alleged civilian fatality range was 621 to 1,859.

In the view of Airwars, 103 of these events are fairly reported and are of particular concern – with two or more sources and Coalition strikes confirmed in the near vicinity.  Some 621 to 857 reported fatalities across Iraq and Syria were associated with these credible incidents.

In contrast, after 24,861 bombs and missiles dropped the Coalition has only conceded two ‘likely’ civilian deaths in Syria so far – and none in Iraq.

    With few reported Coalition strikes in Syria for the month, Iraq was the focus for most claims of civilian deaths.  On September 14th for example, an alleged Coalition strike hit the marketplace at Ar Rutbah, Iraq killing five non-combatants according to local media. No Coalition strikes were publicly reported in the vicinity. On the same day Daesh claimed that the Coalition accidentally struck an armed vehicle belonging to Shia militia at Bayji. There were no confirmed casualties.

On September 18th at least 43 civilians were reported killed at Senyah in Iraq in a strike by unidentified aircraft. Tribal leaders called on the Baghdad government to “open an urgent investigation into the identity of the planes.”

Najeeb and Tuka al Rezzo (Photo used here courtesy of family)

On September 21st four members of a Mosul family – university professor Mohannad Al Rezzo; his 17-year old son Najeeb Mohannad Al Rezzo; Mr al Rezzo’s sister in law Miyada Rezzo and her 21-year old daughter Tuka all died in a reported Coalition strike which was initially ignored by international media. Yale professor Zareena Grewal later wrote of the deaths of her close relatives for the New York Times: “I desperately want the Islamic State to be defeated, but I wonder if our rage at it has made us blind to anyone we kill along the way, even those whose lives have been terrorized by the group.”

And on September 29th, a Coalition strike on a former Waqf [religious affairs] building in Mosul being used by Daesh also appears to have struck a nearby marketplace, killing between 11 and 29 non-combatants. Eyewitness Said Ali Mohammed, who works in the nearby market, told Gulf Online that he was inside his shop at the time, which is located just 500 meters from the Waqf building. He described the first explosion as “enormous… while we were preoccupied with tending to neighbors and some of the injured on the street, a second bombing targeted people who had rushed in to help the wounded.”

    Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict on September 30th caused devastating civilian casualties at a number of locations. At least 15 civilians died at Zafaraniya. At least 17 more non-combatants were killed at Talbisheh, and 8 or more at Al Rastan. Eleven children were among the dead.

None of the towns targeted by Russia were occupied by Daesh despite the Kremlin’s insistence it had “performed high accuracy strikes against international terrorist organization ISIS.”

Aftermath of Russian strikes at Talbiseh, Sept 30th 2015

Military actions

    September 2015 was the most intense month of bombings in Iraq so far, with 525 strikes carried out by the Coalition – setting another consecutive record after August 2015. As with August, Mosul and Ramadi were heavily bombed (87 and 67 strikes respectively).

In Syria however, only 127 strikes were carried out – making September 2015 the second least intense month of bombings. The small city of Mar’a, north of Aleppo, was targeted by 28 strikes.

An Iraqi army soldier moves away from a 120 mm mortar he fires during training at Besmaya Range Complex, Iraq, (US Army/ Cpl. Nelson Rodriguez)

    The United States remained the primary power in the international Coalition, having carried out 89 per cent of all strikes in Syria in September, and 72 per cent of all airstrikes in Iraq.
    In addition to 18 or more new airstrikes in Iraq in September, France carried out its first attack on Daesh inside Syria. President Hollande has described France’s role in Syria as “acting in self defence“, rather than helping the Assad regime.
    Australia also began airstrikes in Syria. After three Hornets reportedly destroyed their targets in eastern Syria, then-defence minister Kevin Andrew spoke with ABC Australia: “We work within very strict rules of engagement, and those rules of engagement are to ensure as far as possible that we don’t have unwanted civilian casualties.“

    ‘No circumstances.’ UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (Chris Beckett)

    While the UK remained heavily committed in Iraq, the government had yet to win Parliamentary approval for strikes against Daesh in Syria. Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, referring to the current refugee crisis in Europe, said that this “problem” needed to be dealt “at source,” with Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly hoping to obtain Parliamentary authorisation for airstrikes.

However new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – historically anti-war – has said  he can think of “no circumstances” under which he would back any UK military intervention in Syria. A previous attempt to authorise airstrikes  (against the Assad regime) was defeated in Parliament 285-272, in August 2013.

    Denmark voluntarily and publicly revealed that one of its attacks “might have caused civilian casualties.” This set a new benchmark for transparency, wrote Airwars guest reporter Rasmus Raun Westh. A CENTCOM investigation later concluded the strike “most likely” did not kill civilians.

Denmark’s F-16s also ended their year long engagement after plane mechanics appealed to the public, warning of ongoing stress and overwork at their base in Kuwait, as well as cracks in the planes.

Danish aircrew load a 2,000lb bomb onto an F-16 for its last Iraq mission (Danish MoD/Ronny Rasmussen)


▲ A stunned survivor at the scene of an alleged Coalition strike on the Sunni Waqf building, September 27th 2015 (via NRN News)


September 18, 2015

Written by

Basile Simon

France became the first international partner to join the United States in its air war against Daesh back in September 2014.  Airwars reports on a year of action – as France insists its aircraft have not killed any civilians in more than 200 airstrikes. 

France’s Opération Chammal – named after the Arabic word for ‘wind from the North’ – effectively began on September 19th, 2014 with the bombing of an Islamic State “logistics storage area” around Mosul. That attack, “by order of the President of the Republic,” saw two Rafale combat aircraft bomb their target “between 09h40 and 09h58.” The strike followed four days of  reconnaissance-only missions above Daesh-held areas in Iraq. 

Since then, France has conducted 218 airstrikes according to the Ministère de la Défense – making it the fourth most active member of the Coalition after the US, the UK and the Netherlands. 

Despite recent revelations by Airwars that French aircraft have been implicated in one or more alleged civilian casualty incidents in Iraq, a Ministère de la Défense spokesman insisted this week that “nothing indicates that French forces might have been responsible for the death of a civilian.”

French power

Today, Operation Chammal is built around two key components: airstrikes, and aerial reconnaissance missions (also known as ISR or Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.)

So far France has flown more than 1,000 missions, including over 500 in Rafale-B fighters and 300 in Mirage combat aircraft. Strikes are both planned and unplanned (the latter also known as dynamic strikes or targets of opportunity.) 

France is also one of the few Coalition members with an ability to lead the Strike Coordination and Reconnaissance operations. From February to April 2015 for example, French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and her Task Force 473 led dozens of sorties a day with her 12 Rafale (Marine) and nine Super Étendards.

Elsewhere, six Rafales and one Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft, supported by a refueler, fly missions from the Gulf; while six Mirage 2000D/Ns bomb Iraq from their base in Jordan.

On land, more than 700 French personnel are presently deployed – including 100 in Baghdad and Erbil as military trainers. 

French anti-Daesh assets in the Middle East, Sept 2015 (Ministère de la Défense )

Transparency and civilian casualties

France initially provided a good level of public transparency for its war against Daesh, releasing within 24 hours details of all strikes. These identified both the locations and targets struck – crucial information if Coalition members are to be held to account should civilians be affected on the ground. 

However, over time French public accountability has deteriorated. The Ministère de la Défense moved to weekly reporting in mid-December 2014, and to more occasional reporting during summer 2015. France also no longer states except in general terms where it bombs, or on which exact dates. 

Airwars recently recommended that “France re-adopts its earlier policy of reporting regularly on where, when, and with what assets it carries out strikes in Iraq.” The French military has yet to respond to our suggestion.

Mirage 2000D taxiing before take-off. Image courtesy of État Major des Armées/DICOD

France has also refused publicly to disclose details of any alleged civilian casualty incident involving its aircraft in Iraq. However, a declassified CENTCOM report recently obtained by Airwars shows that to early May 2015, French aircraft were implicated at least twice in claims of civilian casualties – on both occasions in the vicinity of Mosul in northern Iraq.

In one confirmed incident on February 3rd 2015,  an internal post-strike review for CENTCOM of video filmed during a French bombing raid showed a “possible child entering a targeted bunker and then disappearing out of the field of view (FOV) approximately 19 minutes before Strike.”

That dynamic airstrike was conducted by a Mirage 2000 using a GBU-49 bomb, killing an estimated five enemy fighters on the ground according to the Americans. Claims that a child had died were deemed “not credible” by military intelligence officers, who decided “that individuals struck were fighters.“

Airwars researchers could find no public references to an airstrike-related child fatality in Mosul for this date, although reports did note an intensification of Coalition strikes on the city.

Video filmed during a French bombing raid showed a ‘possible child entering a targeted bunker and then disappearing out of the field of view approximately 19 minutes before Strike.’

In a second possible incident on December 16th, 2014, an internal Battle Damage Assessment (BDA) reported “4 unknown persons potentially injured while moving into the engagement area,” during a Coalition airstrike on Objective Nebula – a targeted vehicle.

A subsequent review of video from the event showed that “the 4 individuals in question eventually fled the scene of the strike.” It was also noted there were no subsequent media reports of casualties. However, given the potential risk to civilians during the event, CENTCOM also reported that “TF [Task Force] is still conducting an investigation into decisions made relating to the strike.”

While no single nation was identified by CENTCOM as having carried out the attack, France reported at the time that it performed a targeted strike in Mosul on December 16th. It remains unclear whether this was the event in question.

Asked about these incidents, a spokesperson for the Ministère de la Défense told Airwars this week: “It should be noted that the French military, in pursuit of operations, do everything they can not to put civilian populations in danger. According to precise verification information, nothing indicates that French forces might have been responsible for the death of a civilian.”

The spokesman noted that the CENTCOM document also described claims of a civilian casualty in the February incident as “not credible.”

Rafale B with Damocles surveillance pod. (État Major des Armées/DICOD)

Expanding to Syria

At the beginning of the French campaign a year ago, polls indicated a majority of people (61%) were in favour of bombing Daesh in Iraq “to protect the Christians of Iraq and other minorities,” as opposition leader and former Prime Minister François Fillon described it at the time.

Today, the war continues to enjoy fair support from all sides: according to a recent poll published on September 7th, 61% of the French were in favour of ground operations in Syria – although President Hollande himself said on the same day that boots on the ground would be “irresponsible” and “unrealistic.”

France has militarily engaged jihadism in northern and sub-Saharian Africa as well as in the Middle East in recent years. A particular trauma and fear is reflected by the continuous application of the Vigipirate plan over many years – a broad set of measures dating from 1995 aiming at preventing (and potentially responding to) terrorism, some of them leading to a constant deployment of about 7,000 military personnel and 30,000 police in public areas.

The Paris attacks of January 2015 again reignited fears of jihadism on the homeland. One of the shooters was part of a famous Paris gang whose members now openly wage jihad and threaten France. Both Daesh and Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) publicly called the attackers “heroes” – a rare moment of agreement between Al-Zawahiri, whose group claimed responsibility for the attacks, and Al-Baghdadi.

All of these factors appear to have increased the French appetite for war with Daesh, and there are now plans to take the fight to Syria. French aircraft began flying ISR-only missions there on September 9th, with airstrikes expected to begin imminently. 

Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has stressed France’s independence in choosing its own targets in Syria, and has ruled out helping in any way the Assad regime.

Defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has stressed France’s independence in choosing its own targets, and has ruled out helping in any way the Assad regime, with which France has had no official contact since the departure of its ambassador in Damascus in 2012. “Reconnaissance flights over Syrian territory are currently taking place,” a spokesperson for the French military says. “They will allow us to consider French strikes in Syria against Daesh while keeping our decision-making autonomy.”

For the moment Coalition strikes in Syria remain almost exclusively American – with Airwars data showing that 99% of attacks in August were by US aircraft, for example. With Australia recently beginning its own airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria – and a UK vote expected on the issue shortly – the nature of the air war against Daesh may change significantly in the months ahead. 

As for France, it describes its involvement in the war as being “for the long run.“

Sur ordre du Président de la République : un an d’opération Chammal

La France est devenue le premier allié à rejoindre les États-Unis dans leur guerre contre l’Etat islamique (EI) en septembre 2014. Airwars raconte un an d’action, alors que la France insiste que ses avions n’ont pas tué de civils au cours de plus de 200 frappes aériennes.

L’Opération Chammal – baptisée après le mot arabe pour ‘vent du nord’ – a commencé en pratique le 19 septembre 2014 par le bombardement d’un dépôt logistique de Daech dans la région de Mossoul (Irak). Cette frappe, “sur ordre du Président de la République,” a été menée par deux Rafale, qui ont touché leur cible “entre 09h40 et 09h58.” Cette attaque faisait suite à quatre jours de missions de reconnaissance au-dessus de régions sous le contrôle de Daech en Irak.

Depuis, la France a produit 218 frappes aériennes, selon le ministère de la Défense – faisant d’elle le quatrième membre le plus actif de la Coalition, après les États-Unis, le Royaume Uni, et les Pays Bas.

Malgé les récentes révélations par Airwars de l’implication d’avions français dans au moins un incident ayant potentiellement causé des victimes civiles en Irak, un porte-parole du ministère de la Défense a insisté cette semaine que “rien n’indique que les forces françaises puissent être responsables de la mort d’un civil.”

La force française

Aujourd’hui, l’opération Chammal est construite autour de deux composantes-clé : des missions de reconnaissance aérienne (aussi appelées ISR, ou Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance), ainsi que des frappes aériennes.

La France a à ce jour effectué plus de 1100 missions, incluant plus de 500 menées par des Rafale-B et 300 par des Mirage. Leurs frappes sont parfois planifiées, parfois d’opportunité (ces dernières étant aussi appelées ‘frappes dynamiques.’)

La France est également l’un des rares membres de la Coalition à posséder la capacité de ‘Coordination et Contrôle.’ De février à avril 2015, le porte-avions français Charles de Gaulle et sa Task Force 473 ont par exemple mené une douzaine de missions par jour, avec ses 12 Rafale Marine et neuf Super Étendards.

Ailleurs, six Rafale et un patrouilleur maritime Atlantique 2, soutenus par un ravitailleur en vol, volent depuis le Golfe ; tandis que six Mirage 2000D/N bombardent l’Irak depuis leur base en Jordanie.

Sur terre, plus de 700 militaires sont déployés, dont 100 à Bagdad et Erbil, en tant qu’instructeurs.

Les forces françaises anti-Daech au Moyen Orient, sept 2015 (Ministère de la Défense )

Transparence et victimes civiles

Initialement, la France faisait preuve d’un bon niveau de transparence dans sa guerre contre l’EI, publiant sous 24 heures le détail de toutes ses frappes. Les lieux et cibles frappées étaient ainsi identifiées. Ces informations sont cruciales, si les membres de la Coalition doivent être tenus responsables pour le cas où des civils seraient affectés.

Toutefois, la transparence française s’est détériorée au cours du temps. Le ministère de la Défense est passé à une publication de rapports hebdomadaire à la mi-décembre 2014, et à des rapports plus occasionnels au cours de l’été 2015. De plus, la France ne décrit plus qu’en termes généraux où et quand elle frappe.

Airwars a récemment recommandé que “la France ré-adopte sa politique antérieure de publier régulièrement où, quand, et avec quels matériels elle réalise ses frappes en Irak.” Les forces françaises n’ont pas répondu à notre suggestion pour le moment.

Mirage 2000D en taxi avant décollage. Image: État Major des Armées/DICOD

La France a aussi refusé de divulguer publiquement tout détail ayant trait à un quelconque incident ayant potentiellement causé des victimes civiles et impliquant un de ses avions en Irak. Toutefois, un document déclassifié de CENTCOM (CENTral COMmand, le commandement américain en charge du Moyen Orient et de l’Asie Centrale) récemment obtenu par Airwars montre qu’en mai 2015, des avions français avaient été impliqués au moins deux fois dans de tels incidents. Dans les deux cas, dans les environs de Mossoul, au nord de l’Irak.

Dans un incident daté du 3 février 2015, un examen post-frappe pour CENTCOM de la vidéo filmée pendant un bombardement français a montré “qu’un potentiel enfant est entré dans un des bunkers visé avant de disparaître du champ de vision, approximativement 19 minutes avant la frappe.”

Cette frappe dynamique était conduite par un Mirage 2000, utilisant une de ses bombes GBU-49. Il a été estimé qu’elle a tué cinq combattants ennemis au sol, selon les Américains. Les allégations selon lesquelles un enfant est mort ont été considérées “non crédibles” par des officiers en charge du renseignement militaire, qui ont décidé que “les individus frappés étaient des combattants.”

Les chercheurs d’Airwars n’ont trouvé aucune référence à la mort d’un enfant au cours d’une frappe à Mossoul à cette date, quoique plusieurs rapports ont noté une intensification des frappes de la Coalition sur la ville.

Dans un second incident potentiel, daté du 16 décembre 2014, une évaluation interne des dommages de bataille (Internal Battle Damage Assessment) rapportait que “quatre personnes inconnues ont potentiellement été blessées en se déplaçant dans la zone d’engagement” pendant une frappe de la coalition sur un Objectif Nebula – un véhicule visé.

Un examen ultérieur de la vidéo de l’événement a montré que “les quatre individus en questions ont en fait fui la zone de la frappe.” Il est aussi noté qu’aucun article dans les médias n’a fait mention de victimes. Toutefois, prenant en compte le risque causé à des civils pendant cet événement, CENTCOM a aussi mentionné que “la Task Force est toujours en train de mener une enquête quand aux décisions prises ayant rapport à cette frappe.”

Considérant qu’aucune nation partenaire n’a été identifiée par CENTCOM comme ayant menée cette frappe, la France a de son coté indiqué qu’elle avait menée une attaque sur Mossoul le 16 décembre. Il n’est toutefois pas clair si cette frappe est l’incident en question.

Interrogé à propos de ces incidents, un porte-parole pour l’état major français a dit à Airwars: “Sachez déjà que les soldats français dans la conduite des opérations font tout pour ne pas mettre en danger les populations civiles. Selon des informations précises de vérification, rien n’indique que les forces françaises puissent être responsables de la mort d’un civil.”

Le porte-parole a insisté sur le fait que le document de CENTCOM décrivait cette allégation de victime civile survenue au cours de l’incident de février comme “non crédible.”

Rafale B avec pod de surveillance Damocles. (État Major des Armées/DICOD)

L’extension à la Syrie

Au début de la campagne française, il y a un an, les sondages indiquaient qu’une majorité de Français (61%) était en faveur de bombarder Daech en Irak “pour porter assistance aux Chrétiens d’Irak menacés d’extermination comme aux autres minorités,” comme l’a indiqué l’ancien premier ministre François Fillon.

Aujourd’hui, les Français soutiennent toujours la guerre : selon un sondage publié le 7 septembre, 61% des Français sont en faveur d’une intervention militaire au sol contre l’EI – alors que le président Hollande a affirmé le même jour qu’une telle opération serait “irresponsable” et “irréaliste.”

La France s’est engagée militairement contre le djihadisme en Afrique du nord et sub-Saharienne, tout comme au Moyen Orient récemment. Un traumatisme, une peur particulière se reflètent dans l’application continue depuis 20 ans du plan Vigipirate – un ensemble de mesures datant de 1995 visant à prévenir (et potentiellement à réagir) au terrorisme, certaines menant à un déploiement constant d’environ 7000 militaires et 30000 policiers et gendarmes dans des lieux publics.

Les attentats de Paris en janvier 2015 ont réanimé les peurs d’une attaque djihadiste sur le sol français. Un des tireurs faisait partie d’un gang parisien célèbre dont les membres font publiquement le djihad et menacent la France. Daech et AQMI (Al Qaïda au Maghreb Islamique) ont également qualifié les tireurs de “héros,” dans un rare moment d’entente entre Al-Zawahiri, dont le groupe a revendiqué l’attentat, et Al-Baghdadi.

Tous ces facteurs ont apparemment accru l’appétit français pour la guerre contre Daech, et les plans s’étendent actuellement à porter des attaques en Syrie. Les appareils français ont commencé à y mener des missions de reconnaissance le 9 septembre, et les premières frappes sont considérées imminentes.

Le ministre de la Défense Jean-Yves Le Drian a souligné l’indépendance de la France dans le choix de ses cibles

Le ministre de la Défense Jean-Yves Le Drian a souligné l’indépendance de la France dans le choix de ses cibles, et a exclu d’aider de quelque manière que ce soit le régime d’Assad, avec lequel la France n’a pas eu de contact depuis le départ de son ambassadeur à Damas en 2012. “Actuellement, des vols de reconnaissance ont lieu au dessus du territoire syrien,” a affirmé un porte-parole de l’état major français. “Ils permettront alors d’envisager des frappes en Syrie contre Daech en conservant notre autonomie de décision.”

Pour le moment, les frappes de la Coalition en Syrie reste presque exclusivement américaines – les chiffres d’Airwars montrant que 99% des frappes en août provenaient d’avions américains. Avec les premières frappes en Syrie de l’Australie, et un vote du Royaume-Uni attendu bientôt, la nature de la guerre aérienne contre l’EI va peut-être changer considérablement dans les mois à venir.

En ce qui concerne la France, elle décrit son implication dans la guerre “dans le temps long.“


September 2015

Written by

Basile Simon and Chris Woods

Major Developments

    6.548 Coalition airstrikes had been carried out to the end of August 2015 according to an Airwars count. Of these, 62% targeted Daesh in Iraq (4,080 strikes) with 2,468 airstrikes in Syria In total, Coalition aircraft had dropped 22,478 bombs and missiles on Iraq and Syria to August 31st Airwars recorded 12 new alleged civilian casualty incidents attributed to the Coalition for August. At least 62 non-combatants reportedly died in these events A report by  Syrian casualty monitor SN4HR claimed that at least 225 civilians were killed by the Coalition in Syria alone to July 31st, 2015 Denmark set a new transparency benchmark, announcing within days that its aircraft may have been involved in a civilian casualty incident in Iraq in late August Turkey became the 13th nation officially to join the coalition, as Denmark announced its own operations would temporarily end on October 1st

Civilian Casualties

    We added 12 new incidents of concern for August 2015 to our evolving database, which to the end of the month had recorded 188 such events.  Between them these new incidents were alleged to have killed at least 62 civilians.

Two August incidents at Ar Rutbah in Iraq were denied by the Coalition, which insisted it had not carried out strikes on the town on the days in question. A further six cases are presently weakly reported.

Four events warrant particular attention. On August 11th US aircraft bombed the western Syrian border town of Atmeh. Nine named civilians – including seven children – died according to multiple eyewitness and survivor reports.

A single civilian was reported killed in a possible Coalition strike at Al Qaim in Iraq on August 18th, while on the following day a missile reportedly struck a public celebration in Mosul, killing as many as 18 people including local dentist Dr. Samir Ibrahim (pictured.)

The fourth incident was self-reported by the Danish military, and is currently being investigated by CENTCOM. This involved potential civilian casualties in the Irbil area of Iraq – most likely the villages of Kisik or Sultan Abdallah.

    In total, to the end of August 2015 Airwars had identified 187 alleged civilian casualty incidents involving Coalition aircraft, and 10 ‘friendly fire’ cases. These represented a total alleged civilian fatality range of 1,170 to 1,539.

In the view of Airwars, 86 of these events warrant particular concern – with two or more credible sources and Coalition strikes confirmed in the near vicinity. Some 539 to 734 reported fatalities across Iraq and Syria were associated with these incidents. To date, the Coalition has only conceded two ‘likely’ civilian deaths.

    The Syrian Network for Human Rights published a report on August 11th investigating 24 new problem incidents in Syria from February 2015. It documents the death of 125 individuals, including 55 children, 26 women, and three members of armed opposition groups.

The report deplores Daesh’s strategy of establishing strongholds in densely populated areas, but also concludes: “International Coalition forces violated the International Humanitarian Law by targeting ISIL forces in densely populated civilian areas.” It also urges “serious investigations” into the incidents it describes, and asks that “compensation should be given to those affected.”

Military Actions

    The Coalition carried out 522 airstrikes in Iraq in August 2015, topping the previous record of July 2015 (518 strikes). These attacks were mainly targeting the vicinity of Mosul and Ramadi (75 strikes each), and supporting the Peshmerga offensive in Tuz (62 strikes).

A total of 210 strikes were also carried out in Syria, mostly around Al Hasakah (90 strikes), Aleppo and Kobane (31 strikes each).

On average, 23.62 strikes were carried out each day in August, making this the second most intense month of Coalition strikes so far.

An F-16 takes off from Incirlik Air Base, Turkey August 12 2015 (USAF/ Snr Airman Krystal Ardrey)

    The United States remains the dominant partner in the Coalition’s war against Daesh. According to Coalition data supplied to Airwars, just 2 airstrikes were carried out by the US’s partners in Syria in August – with American aircraft carrying out 215 strikes (99 per cent.) In Iraq the US was responsible for 495 strikes, with its allies conducting a further 216 attacks (30 per cent.)

The UK was particularly active in Iraq in August, carrying out 36 new strikes – 24 by its Reaper drones. The Netherlands was the next most engagded with an estimated 100 bombs and missiles dropped during the month – roughly 33 airstrikes. Denmark dropped 81 bombs – approximately 24 strikes. France reported 23 new strikes, followed by Canada with 12 strikes, and Australia with an estimated 11 airstrikes.

    Following a gruesome attack on civilians in the border town of Suruc, Turkey opened its airbases to the US military last month, Turkish jets have carried out their first airstrikes as member of the coalition on August 29th. The Guardian, quoting Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency and the Dogan news agency, reports that these strikes may have taken place in Manbij and north of Aleppo. Defense Secretaty Ash Carter said: “We need them also—as a neighbor to this conflict zone, as a longtime NATO ally and a responsible member of the anti-ISIL coalition—to control the border, the long border they have with both Syria and Iraq, more than it has been controlled over the last year.”

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen announced that Denmark had decided to pull out of the Coalition and to send its jets home on October 1st. The four active and three reserve F-16s had already flown 476 missions and dropped 425 bombs, according to the Defence Ministry. According to Associated Press, Danish aircrews were being stretched too thinly by the extended campaign: “Last month, Danish plane mechanics warned against extending Denmark’s one-year mission with Operation Inherent Resolve, saying staff members were stressed and some of the planes had cracks.”

    Junaid Hussain (pictured) a 21-year-old from Birmingham, UK and number three on the Pentagon’s “kill list” of Daesh targets, was reportedly slain by a US drone strike. In addition, Al Baghdadi’s number two, Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali, was also reportedly killed – although it’s the third time the Coalition claims to have taken his life.

The British government also later admitted that it had carried out its first drone targeted killing away from the battlefield on August 21st, killing two UK citizens and a third alleged terror suspect when a car was struck by a Reaper near Ar Raqqa in Syria. The RAF attack, independent of Coalition operations, sparked intense national and international debate.

    The Coalition was very active around the Iraqi town of Tuz, supporting a Peshmerga offensive which regained 200 square kilometers of terrain and seven villages from Daesh, according to CJTF-OIR: “Coalition forces carried out 13 deliberate and 12 dynamic strikes over a three-day period in support of the Peshmerga operation.“
    Vital Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance missions passed the 1,000 mark in Iraq and Syria for the first time as the UK, France and Australia expanded their ISR operations into Syria. Tracking by Airwars shows that after more than a year of operations, ISR provision still lags far behind that in Afghanistan.


June 2015

Written by

Basile Simon

ABOVE: Delegates at the 29th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, June 22 2015, heard calls for coalition members to promptly investigate reports of civilian casualties (UN)

Major Developments

    The coalition ends its 46th week of bombings having carried out 141 airstrikes on Islamic State. New UN report calls on international coalition to conduct “prompt, independent and impartial” investigations into alleged civilian casualties – and to publish their findings. Nato met this week to discuss plans to re-engage in Iraq to fight Islamic State, four years after the alliance departed from Iraq. More than 1,000 American and British drone strikes have now been reported – making the anti-ISIL conflict the most intense use of armed drones in history A report from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reportedly found that 162 civilians were killed by coalition airstrikes in Syria since the beginning of the campaign.

Civilian Casualties

    A major new report on Islamic State for the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has urged the coalition to conduct prompt, independent investigations into alleged civilian casualties caused by its airstrikes in Iraq and Syria – and to publish the results.

Ben Emmerson QC, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Counter Terrorism and Human Rights, cited ongoing Airwars research as part of a wide-ranging report looking at Islamic State human rights abuses – and the obligations of those fighting the terror group.

Titled Human rights in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, Emmerson’s report – presented at Geneva on June 22 – also includes a series of recommendations.

As well as urging Iraq and Syria to become parties to the International Criminal Court – and for the UN to pursue Islamic State for alleged war crimes – members of the international coalition fighting Daesh are also urged to limit the risks to civilians on the ground.

As Emmerson notes: “All States engaged in military action against ISIL in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic are under an obligation to conduct prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiries in any case where there is a plausible indication that civilian casualties have been sustained, and to make public the results.”

UN Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson presents his report on Islamic State at Geneva on   June 22 (United Nations)


    According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 162 civilians were killed by coalition airstrikes since the beginning of the campaign. SOHR reportedly documented the death of 2,896 people in Syria, and found among them 2,628 Daesh fighters, 105 Al Nusra combatants, one “fighter from an Islamic brigade”, and 162 non-combatants. “After 9 months, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights re-expresses its strong condemnation, to the fall of the 162 civilians, as a result of the coalition airstrikes, and calls for neutralizing civilians areas from all kinds of military operations,” said SOHR.

Military Actions

    To June 26th, the coalition had concluded its 46th week of airstrikes, having carried out 104 attacks against Islamic State in Iraq, with a further 37 bombings in Syria. The operations in Syria focused particularly around Tal Abyad, a small city on the border with Turkey. 12 out of 37 coalition strikes in Syria were reported in this area alone. All these strikes were carried out by US forces.In Iraq, the bombings concentrated again around the north and western part of the country. 73 strikes were produced by the US, while 31 were by American allies. US armed Predators and Reapers have already carried out 875 drone strikes in Iraq and Syria, out of approximately 3,600 American airstrikes since August 2014. “We’re involved in pretty much every engagement,” the drone commander at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada told the Daily Beast.

With the British also reporting that approximately half of its 290 airstrikes against Daesh have been by its Reapers, the war against Islamic State represents the most intense use of armed drones in any conflict to date – with more than 1,000 drone strikes already recorded in the first 10 months of fighting.

“With around one in four American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria now being carried out by drones  – and as many as one in two British strikes – the present war against Islamic State shows the increasing dominance of remotely-piloted warfare,” says Chris Woods of Airwars. “However, continuing and credible reports of civilian casualties from the battlefield suggest the drone isn’t the ‘perfect’ weapon some have claimed.”

     After the Netherlands announced last week that its mandate to fight Daesh has been extended until October 2016, Nato is planning on re-engaging in Iraq, four years after it departed the country, The Guardian reports. One of the plans considered is the training of Iraqi officers, as Baghdad is currently struggling to counter Islamic State’s progression.

US and British Reapers are playing a major role in the war against ISIL (Library image via US Air Force/ Staff Sgt. John Bainter)


▲ A general view of participants during the 29th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council. 22 June 2015. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré