The Coalition announced on June 2nd 2017 that it had killed a civilian in the al Zerai area of West Mosul. A senior government official unofficially informed Airwars that the strike was Belgian.
According to the civilian casualty report, “March 21, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS mortar position firing on Iraqi Security Forces, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed when he entered the target area after the munition was released.”
Coordinates provided to Airwars by the Coalition placed the event at 38SLF 28990 24005 – which did not correspond locationally with any other public reports that day.
Though there were multiple alleged civilian casualty incidents reported in Mosul on March 21st, as part of a routine enquiry a Coalition official provided Airwars with the exact coordinates of the raid in question – placing it in the city’s July 17th neighborhood. Airwars had previously monitored a public report of civilian casualties in the near vicinity for that date, though details were sparse prior to the Coalition’s admission.
It remains unclear whether Belgium challenges the Coalition’s assessment for this Mosul incident. In July 2017, Colonel J. Poesen, head of operations at the Belgian Air Force, informed Airwars that the case was no longer under investigation by Belgium.
Belgium’s refusal to accept public responsibility for any civilian deaths it has been implicated in may relate to its apparent insistence that only cases which might violate international law should be investigated. According to Colonel Poesen, all incidents reported to the national Public Prosecutor have so far been been declared not to have violated international law and so had been filed without further follow-up.
Poesen went on to say that “even if there were to be casualties, it would be completely in line with the rules of engagement and the pilot would not have been guilty.” In a press statement on July 6th Colonel Poulsen also repeated Belgium’s denial that any civilians had been hurt in either Iraq or Syria: “We can proudly state that we are achieving all of our goals. Our objective of 100% mission effectiveness, without civilian casualties, continues to be the reality,” he said.
Such remarks have implied that only incidents which potentially breached international humanitarian law might be investigated. This would place Belgium at odds with the Coalition, which has indicated that all civilian deaths so far admitted in Iraq and Syria have resulted from lawful – if unfortunate – actions.
In March 2020, Airwars and De Morgen published an investigation revealing that Belgium was refusing to accept responsibility for civilian harm in this and other events.
Asked to say whether its aircraft were responsible for officially declared civilian harm in up to nine incidents, the Belgian Ministry of Defence told Airwars by email: “For the year 2017, BAF [Belgian Armed Forces] was certainly not involved in all events. With regard to the other data given, BAF was no longer present in theatre. BAF completed its role at the end of 2017. Our conclusion is that all ROEs [rules of engagement] were respected as confirmed by our federal court.”
The local time of the incident is unknown.
Sources (6) [ collapse]
US-led Coalition Assessment:
Civilian casualty statements
Jun 2, 2017
March 21, 2017, near Mosul, Iraq, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS mortar position firing on Iraqi Security Forces, it was assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed when he entered the target area after the munition was released.
Original strike reports
For March 20th-21st the Coalition stated: “Near Mosul, four strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units and three ISIS sniper teams; destroyed 14 fighting positions, five rocket-propelled grenade systems, three VBIEDs, a supply cache, an anti-air artillery system, and a heavy machine gun; damaged six supply routes and two fighting positions; and suppressed four ISIS mortar teams and three ISIS tactical units.”