Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

CI051

Incident date

March 13, 2015

Location

الحضر, Hatra, Nineveh, Iraq

Geolocation

35.46957, 42.45308 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Within 100m (via Coalition) level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Within 100m (via Coalition)

Airwars assessment

A US airstrike ‘likely’ killed four civilians when a pair of vehicles was hit during an attack on a reported ISIL checkpoint, a CENTCOM investigation later concluded. After a later investigation by the Washington Post found that eleven civilians actually died – including five children, four women and two civilian drivers – the Coalition raised its own estimate to eleven deaths.

According to a declassified CENTCOM report issued on November 20th 2015, the US airstrike by an A-10 Warthog took place at Hatra at 12.18pm local time, and was a target of opportunity.

But also present at the enemy checkpoint were two civilian vehicles, which aircrews and analysts failed to properly identify in the short time between the release of a GBU-38 missile and impact. In the ensuing strike, both civilian cars were also destroyed.

The tragic events of March 13th were never publicly reported at the time. Instead, the owner of one of the vehicles destroyed in the airstrike later wrote to the Coalition asking for compensation for her destroyed vehicle. In a redacted email, the owner reveals that her own KIA car was carrying a family of two children and three women along with a civilian driver. Another vehicle, a GMC with another family in it was also present.

A major investigation by the Washington Post identified the two families killed. The first was that of the driver of the Kia, along with his grandmother, aunt, sister and two children. In the GMC, the driver died along with the family of an Iraqi police commander: “A provincial government official in northern Iraq told Ekabee that the family of a lieutenant colonel with the Iraqi police had been burned alive in the GMC Suburban. ‘What happened to me, you can’t even imagine,’ the colonel said last month in interview with The Washington Post. He said his 9-year-old daughter; two sons, ages 10 and 16; his wife; and the driver were killed in the attack. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he still has family trapped in Mosul.“

The Hatra incident was initially made public with the release of another declassified CENTCOM document which identified 45 problem incidents involving Coalition aircraft.

Coalition commander Lt General John Hesterman signed off on the completed CENTCOM investigation noting: “I concur with the findings and conclusions of the IO [investigating officer], who substantiated by a preponderance of the evidence that civilian casualties had occurred.”

On April 30th 2017 the Coalition amended its estimate for the attack, noting: “March 13, 2015, near Hatra, Iraq: On the Nov. 20, 2015, U.S. Central Command press release it was reported that four civilians were killed during a strike on an ISIS checkpoint. A subsequent investigation concluded that 11 civilians were unintentionally killed.“

The incident occured at 12:18 pm local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (4)

  • Wife of anonymised Lt Col in Iraq Army Adult female Fanmily of Lt Col in Iraq Army killed
  • Daughter 9 years old female killed
  • Son 10 years old male killed
  • Son 16 years old male killed
  • Unnamed driver of vehicle Adult male killed

Summary

  • Civilians reported killed
    11
  • (5 children4 women2 men)
  • Airwars grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known belligerent
    US-led Coalition

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • The partly redacted testimony of an Iraqi car owner which led Centcom to conclude it had killed civilians in Iraq on march 13th 2015
  • Coaliton commander Lt General John Hesterman signs off on the investigation

Geolocation notes

Prior to the Coalition releasing the MGRS for this incident, Airwars had geolocated it to the nearest village at 35.432785, 44.22447.

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Credible
    The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties regrettably occurred.
  • Given reason for civilian harm
    No reason given
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    11
  • Stated location
    near Al Hatra, Iraq
    Nearest population center
  • Location accuracy
    100 m
  • MGRS coordinate
    38SKE689281
    Military Grid Reference System

Civilian casualty statements

US-led Coalition
  • Apr 30, 2017
  • May 21, 2015
  • Coalition aircraft conducted a dynamic airstrike on a manned ISIL checkpoint near Al Hatra, Iraq. The ISIL checkpoint was successfully destroyed as a result of the airstrike. Unfortunately, the airstrike is assessed as likely resulting in the deaths of four civilians

  • March 13, 2015, near Hatra, Iraq: On the Nov. 20, 2015, U.S. Central Command press release it was reported that four civilians were killed during a strike on an ISIS checkpoint. A subsequent investigation concluded that 11 civilians were unintentionally killed.

Original strike reports

US-led Coalition

The Coalition reported that for March 13th-14th 2015, “Near Kirkuk, four airstrikes struck one large ISIL unit and two ISIL tactical units and destroyed four buildings, three ISIL machine guns, and three ISIL vehicles,” the closest published match to this event at the time.

Summary

  • Civilians reported killed
    11
  • (5 children4 women2 men)
  • Airwars grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known belligerent
    US-led Coalition

Sources (12) [ collapse]