Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

CS1740

Incident date

March 26, 2018

Location

البوكمال, Near Abu Kamal, Deir ez-Zor, Syria

Airwars assessment

In a previously unknown event, the UK for the first time admitted that its forces caused civilian harm during an airstrike against so-called Islamic State.

In a written statement to Parliament on May 2nd, UK Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson MP stated that “one civilian was unintentionally killed,” when a UK Reaper drone struck three ISIS fighters in rural Syria a few weeks earlier.

The UK MoD had stated at the time in its weekly update that a “Reaper tracked a group of terrorists in a vehicle in the Syrian Euphrates valley on Monday 26 March, and successfully destroyed it and its occupants with a precision Hellfire missile attack.”

According to the statement made to Parliament, a civilian had accidentally driven a motorbike into the strike area, and had died in the attack on Daesh. “We reached this conclusion after undertaking routine and detailed post-strike analysis of all available evidence”, said Williamson.

Airwars researchers were unable to identify any public reports of civilian harm relating to the UK drone strike. However there were reports of Coalition airstrikes on the day which allegedly targeted regime forces. Abdul Jabbar noted “Continued escalation between US forces and Kurdish militias on the one hand and the forces of the Syrian regime on the other and US aircraft [sic] bombed regime positions in the area of Mohsin east of Deir al-Zour.” And Euphrates Post published a video of what it said was the strike.

The US-led Coalition does not include this event in its own tally of credible civilian deaths – noting to Airwars that it has never been notified of this event. The Ministry of Defence has also refused to supply Airwars with the grid coordinates – despite almost all such credible incidents now being disclosed.

In March 2020, Airwars and the BBC revealed that the MoD was refusing to concede 15 further civilian deaths from its actions in 2017 and 2018, despite the US-led Coalition itself determining that civilian harm reports for three more UK strikes were in fact credible.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    UK Military
  • Known target
    ISIS

Sources (15) [ collapse]

UK Military Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    UK Military
  • UK Military 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
    Entered target area just prior to or after munition released
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    1
  • Stated location
    Euphrates valley, Syria
    Nearest population center
  • MGRS coordinate
    n/a
    Military Grid Reference System

Civilian casualty statements

Original strike reports

UK Military

For March 26th, the Coalition originally reported “On March 26 in Syria, Coalition military forces conducted one strike consisting of one engagement against Daesh targets. Near Abu Kamal, one strike engaged a Daesh tactical unit."

UK Military
  • English
    /
    Original

Monday 26 March – a Reaper destroyed a terrorist vehicle in eastern Syria…A Reaper tracked a group of terrorists in a vehicle in the Syrian Euphrates valley on Monday 26 March, and successfully destroyed it and its occupants with a precision Hellfire missile attack. Following an detailed investigation, it is assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed in the strike. [The final line was later added as an amendment to the report.]

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    UK Military
  • Known target
    ISIS

Sources (15) [ collapse]