Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

CI713

Incident date

May 15, 2017

Location

حي النجار, Najjar neighbourhood, West Mosul, Nineveh, Iraq

Geolocation

36.36012, 43.09335 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Within 1m (via Coalition) level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Within 1m (via Coalition)

Airwars assessment

Multiple local sources, including a friend of one of the victims, said that the entire family of Al-Haj Alaa Al-Safi (consisting of eight people) died after a Coalition airstrike hit their home in Najjar neighborhood, in West Mosul. Sources reported that most of the victims were women.

The Coalition later reported that it had unintentionally killed three civilians in a strike at al Najjar that day. Either France or Belgium appear to have been responsible – though neither country will say.

Bashar Haseeb said on Facebook at the time that Al-Haj Alaa al-Safi was a study friend of his. In a comment he added: “He was a student with me at the Technical Institute and today he, his wife, his mother, his sons, his brother and his brother’s wife died in an airstrike.”

Mosul Facebook page also reported the death of al-Safi. It said that his wife, mother, his daughters, his sister, and the daughters of his sister were also among the victims.

In its July 2017 monthly casualty report, the Coalition appeared to take responsibility for the incident: “May 15, 2017, near Mosul, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS fighting position, it was assessed that three civilians in a building adjacent to the target building were unintentionally killed.”

Coalition officials later confirmed to Airwars that their report was referring to this incident. The Coalition provided Airwars with a location, accurate to within a one metre box. The location given placed the event near the al Shuhada Mosque in al Najjar.

In March 2020, Airwars, Liberation and De Morgen published a joint investigation revealing that Belgium and France were refusing to accept responsibility for civilian harm in this and other events – despite all other allies ruling themselves out.

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.”

After confirming receipt from Airwars in June 2019 of details of possible French civilian casualty events, the defence ministry then ceased communication – refusing to answer all subsequent emails.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

The victims were named as:

Family members (7)

  • Al-Haj Alaa al-Safi Adult male killed
  • Wife of Al-Haj Alaa al-Safi Adult female killed
  • Mother of Al-Haj Alaa al-Safi Adult female killed
  • Son 1 of Al-Haj Alaa al-Safi Child male killed
  • Son 2 of Al-Haj Alaa al-Safi Child male killed
  • Brother of Al-Haj Alaa al-Safi Adult male killed
  • Sister in law of Al-Haj Alaa al-Safi Adult female killed

Summary

  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 8
  • (4–6 women1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US-led Coalition

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • Haj Abddul Rahman Al Safi (via Mosul)
  • Another picture of the victim

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Credible / Substantiated
    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
    Killed in adjacent structure
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    3
  • Stated location
    near Mosul
    Nearest population center
  • Location accuracy
    1 m
  • MGRS coordinate
    38SLF2893325580
    Military Grid Reference System

Civilian casualty statements

US-led Coalition
  • Jul 7, 2017
  • May 15, 2017, near Mosul, via self-report: During a strike on an ISIS fighting position, it was assessed that three civilians in a building adjacent to the target building were unintentionally killed.

Original strike reports

US-led Coalition

For May 15th, the Coalition reported: "Near Mosul, five strikes engaged four ISIS tactical units; destroyed nine fighting positions, two mortar systems, to medium machine guns, two VBIEDs, two ISIS-held buildings, two VBIED facilities, and a supply cache; damaged 13 ISIS supply routes and nine fighting positions; and suppressed three ISIS tactical units and two mortar teams.’

Australia
  • English
    /
    Original

On 15 May, Australian F/A-18 Hornets supported Iraqi forces during operations in Mosul. The Australian aircraft struck several Daesh fighting positions and a Daesh heavy weapon site with precision guided munitions over several hours of support

United Kingdom
  • English
    /
    Original

Monday 15 May – Tornados and Typhoons provided extensive support to Iraqi forces in Mosul, striking nine targets… The RAF is continuing to support Iraqi forces in their effort to liberate western Mosul. While the operating environment in the city is very challenging, particularly given the closely-packed buildings, very narrow streets, and the density of the urban population, our aircrew have continued to deliver precision strikes in close support of Iraqi troops on the ground. Daesh’s current tactics, including the illegal use of civilians as human shields, and fighting from sites such as schools, hospitals, religious sites and civilian neighbourhoods, increases the risk to innocent life. While no military operations come without risk, particularly in dense urban environments and against such inhuman Daesh tactics, the RAF continues to take all steps necessary to minimise civilian casualties. Three flights of Royal Air Force Tornado GR4 and Typhoon FGR4 aircraft operated over western Mosul on Monday 15 May. As well as conducting tactical reconnaissance, our aircraft also provided support to Iraqi troops engaged in very close combat with Daesh extremists. Three Brimstone missiles were used in very precise attacks on terrorist firing points, including a medium machine-gun position, while Paveway IV guided bombs struck another machine-gun team, demolished four Daesh-held buildings, and cratered a road to prevent terrorist movements along it.’

Summary

  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 8
  • (4–6 women1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US-led Coalition

Sources (10) [ collapse]