Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

CS792

Incident date

May 9, 2017

Location

البوكمال, Abu Kamal, Deir ez-Zor, Syria

Geolocation

34.466049, 40.907593 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

City

Airwars assessment

A number of civilians were reported injured alongside ISIS fighters, after Coalition aircraft disrupted a public execution by ISIS in Abu Kamal’s Fayhaa Square.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “the Coalition carried out airstrikes and targeted an Islamic State headquarters in al-Bokamal city on the border with Iraq. The bombing killed at least three members of the organization and injured about 20 other people, mostly civilians. The bombing was followed by the area being targeted with machine guns, while local sources confirmed that the bombing coincided with preparations in Fayhaa Square in the city for an execution.”

The event appears to have been linked to actions by UK forces within the Coalition, with the RAF reporting that “A Reaper intervened during a public execution staged by Daesh in Abu Kamal, Syria, killing a Daesh guard and dispersing the crowd gathered to witness the atrocity.”

Despite acknowledging the presence of a large number of civilians, a UK Reaper nevertheless released a munition, the UK’s MoD reported: “An RAF Reaper remotely piloted aircraft observed a group of Daesh fighters in Abu Kamal, eastern Syria, mustering a large crowd of civilians in one of the town’s main streets on Tuesday 9 May. When a van then unloaded two shackled prisoners in front of the crowd, it became clear that Daesh were organising a public execution.

“Given the large number of civilians present, the Reaper’s crew could not target directly the Daesh fighters about to carry out the murders. However, two armed extremists were stationed as sentries on the roof of a building overlooking the scene. A Hellfire missile was fired immediately, and scored a direct hit which not only killed one of the sentries but also brought the execution to an immediate halt, as the Daesh fighters fled the scene, and the crowd of civilians dispersed.”

The RAF also released a video of the strike in September 2017. Air Commodore Johnny Stringer, commander of UK air operations in Iraq and Syria at the time, told the Daily Telegraph: “The individual whom we engaged was a sniper in over-watch to shoot civilians who sought to move away from the execution, let alone to protect the planned execution itself. That particular example for us very much brought it home because civilians had been herded in, forced literally at gunpoint, to go and watch this going on in their hundreds.”

In its monthly civilian casualty report for October 2019 – published on December 5th of the same year – the US-led Coalition assessed this event as ‘non credible’, noting: “May 9, 2017, in Abu Kamal, Syria, via Airwars report. After a review of all available records it was determined that, more likely than not, civilian casualties did not occur as a result of a Coalition action. 1457/S697 37SFU762140”.

The Coalition published a location for the assessment identifying to within 100 metres the area where it had focused its review.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Civilians reported injured
    11–20
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Suspected target
    ISIS

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

US-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US-led Coalition
  • US-led Coalition position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Insufficient evidence of civilian harm
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • Stated location
    in Abu Kamal, Syria
    Nearest population center
  • Location accuracy
    100 m
  • MGRS coordinate
    37SFU762140
    Military Grid Reference System

Civilian casualty statements

US-led Coalition
  • Dec 5, 2019
  • May 9, 2017, in Abu Kamal, Syria, via Airwars report. After a review of all available records it was determined that, more likely than not, civilian casualties did not occur as a result of a Coalition action. 1457/S697 37SFU762140

Original strike reports

US-led Coalition

For May 8th-9th, the Coalition reported: “Near Abu Kamal, one strike destroyed an ISIS oil rig.”

For May - 9th - 10th, the Coalition reported: "Near Abu Kamal, two strikes [1 British] engaged an ISIS sniper and destroyed a front-end loader"

United Kingdom
  • English
    /
    Original

Tuesday 9 May – A Reaper intervened during a public execution staged by Daesh in Abu Kamal, Syria, killing a Daesh guard and dispersing the crowd gathered to witness the atrocity… 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. An RAF Reaper remotely piloted aircraft observed a group of Daesh fighters in Abu Kamal, eastern Syria, mustering a large crowd of civilians in one of the town’s main streets on Tuesday 9 May. When a van then unloaded two shackled prisoners in front of the crowd, it became clear that Daesh were organising a public execution. Given the large number of civilians present, the Reaper’s crew could not target directly the Daesh fighters about to carry out the murders. However, two armed extremists were stationed as sentries on the roof of a building overlooking the scene. A Hellfire missile was fired immediately, and scored a direct hit which not only killed one of the sentries but also brought the execution to an immediate halt, as the Daesh fighters fled the scene, and the crowd of civilians dispersed.’

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Civilians reported injured
    11–20
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    US-led Coalition
  • Suspected target
    ISIS