A total of 35 people people from an extended family were killed, including 14 children, 9 women and two imams, when a home and street were bombed in the Shifa neighbourhood of Mosul. Initial claims had placed the toll at 50, while the US-led Coalition estimated that 11 civilians were killed in the attack. Australia explicitly accepted responsibility for part of the event – conceding between 6 and 18 deaths.
Relatives informed Airwars and others that in fact 35 named people died, from eight closely related families. There was only one survivor.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF’s) investigation was based on estimates of population density, not any on-the-ground research, and no contact was made with the affected family. However within hours of the official announcement of civilian harm, a surviving member of the family told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that the number of civilians killed was 35, including his brother, sister and other family members.
“My brother has lost all of his family. The number of the family members who died are 35,” said Sheikh Ayman el Saffar. Sheikh Ayman said his brother’s property was also used as a religious community centre.
“The house was hit, they lost money and a religious community centre. He had this religious community centre at that time he used it as his private house. There were no activities at the community centre at the time.”
According to the international alliance, there were strikes by two separate Coalition allies in the near vicinity on the day – each of which killed civilians. Australia accepted responsibility on January 31st 2019 for between 6 and 18 deaths in one of the strikes during the incident, while on the same day the Coalition’s civilian casualty assessment team declared a minimum of 11 deaths. This suggested that at least 5 civilians may have been killed in an action by another unnamed Coalition ally.
Ateka Facebook page said on the day of the incident that Sheikh Mohammed Ghanim Al-Saffar – who was an Imam and preacher at the Sheikh Fathi Mosque in Mosul – died after aircraft targeted a sniper standing on the roof and bombed his house. The page said that his body was still under the rubble, together with his family.
Other outlets, including Yaqein and MNN, reported that 50 people in total were under the rubble of the house and presumed dead.
However Sawefa Ateka later reported that some were rescued: “The martyrdom of Madh Muhammad al-Saffar and the rescue of the family of Sheikh Ahmad al-Saffar and the other families who were exposed to their house in Al Shifa neighbourhood for aerial bombing Thank you to the rescue teams and the security forces there.”
Another entry listed the following victims: “The family of Mullah Youssef mourns the family of Al-Saffar by the martyr Sheikh Mohammed Ghanim Al-Saffar in front of the preacher of the Sheikh Fathi Mosque and his family and Sheikh Ahmed Ghanim Al-Saffar Imam and preacher of the Sheikh Muhsin Mosque and his family; and their brother Ammar Ghanem Al-Saffar and his family; and their cousin and their relative Raed Abdul Salam Al-Saffar and many people, after the fall of a missile from the plane on their house, which led to the fall of the house on them I am God and I return to him.”
Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, spoke about the event following the ADF’s concession: “It is not clear what precisely went on. But I know our Defence force people will always be doing everything they can to ensure casualties are avoided.” The PM also described the event as “a terrible incident”, with the deaths of civilians “difficult and tragic.”
Airwars conducted an extensive interview with Engineer Amjad al Saffar, a family elder, in February 2019, in which the names of all victims were handed over.
The Coalition provided Airwars with the location of this incident, accurate to within a 100 metre box.
The incident occured at 10:00 am local time.
The victims were named as:
Family members (5)
- Ammar Ghanim Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 61 years old male Brother of Sheikh Mohammed killed
- Ahlam Ali Jasim Al Tai 56 years old female Wife of Ammar killed
- Shahad Ammar Ghanim Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 13 years old female killed
- Sara Ammar Ghanim Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 10 years old female killed
- Ghanim Ammar Ghanim Ali Mohamed Alsaffar 16 years old male killed
Family members (8)
- Mohamed Ghanim Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 48 years old male killed
- Muna Esma t Abdulrahman Al Bakua 43 years old female killed
- Madeh Mohamed Ghanim Ali Al Saffar 21 years old male killed
- Mawdda Mohamed Ghanin Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 19 years old female killed
- Safiah Mohmed Ghanim Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 16 years old female killed
- Malak Mohamed Ghanim Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 13 years old female killed
- Maram Mohmed Ghanim Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 10 years old female killed
- Rehana Mohamed Ghanim Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 5 years old female killed
Family members (6)
- Ahmed Ghanim Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 47 years old male killed
- Amna Sabah Hussen Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 33 years old female killed
- Teba Ahmed Ghanim Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 16 years old female killed
- Rehma Ahmed Ghanim Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 14 years old female killed
- Ameer Ahmed Ghanim Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 9 years old male killed
- Reem Ahmed Ghanim Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 4 years old female killed
Family members (6)
- Raed Abdelsalam Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 55 years old male killed
- Asma Ghanim Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 52 years old female killed
- Wisam Raed Abdelsalam Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 25 years old male killed
- Mustafa Raed Abdelsalam Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 22 years old male killed
- Bilal Raed Abdelsam Ali Mohaned Al Saffar 19 years old male killed
- Fatima Raed Abdelsalam Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 15 years old female killed
Family members (2)
- Nadia Ghanim Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 57 years old female killed
- Mumen Oqba Mohmed 25 years old male killed
Family members (2)
- Ayser Abdelhameed Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 45 years old male killed
- Awrad Ayser Abdelhameed Ali Mohmed Al Saffar 13 years old female killed
Family members (4)
- Arzak Andelhameed Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 54 years old female killed
- Zahra Khalid Selman Mohamed Taha 21 years old female killed
- Sura Khalid Selman Mohamed Taha 19 years old female killed
- Ali Khalid Selman Mohamed Taha 18 years old male killed
Family members (2)
- Salheh Hani Hassan Ali Mohamed Al Saffar 32 years old male killed
- Maram Saleh Hani Hassan Ali Al Saffar 1.5 years old female killed
Sources (18) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the Shifa neighbourhood (حي الشفاء) in West Mosul. Airwars geolocated the two locations named in a screenshot published by Nineveh Media Centre. The coordinates for the house of Sheikh Ahmad Saffar (بيت الشيخ احمد الصفار) are: 36.351678, 43.118042. The coordinates for Ibn Al-Atheer Station (محطة ابن الاثير) are: 36.351064, 43.117920.
US-led Coalition Assessment:
Civilian casualty statements
Jan 31, 2019
June 13, 2017, near al-Shifa neighbourhood, Mosul, Iraq via Airwars report. Coalition air assets struck multiple ISIS targets in defense of ground forces. Regrettably, since the targets were in the midst of residential structures, it is likely that 11 civilians were unintentionally killed as a result of two Coalition engagements on the same street.
Jan 31, 2019
Defence can confirm that an Australian airstrike or nearby Coalition airstrikes in the Al Shafaar neighbourhood of Mosul on 13 June 2017 may have caused civilian casualties. An Australian investigation found that it is not possible to determine the number of civilian casualties that occurred as a result of the airstrikes. The Coalition assesses that between six and 18 civilians may have been killed. It is also not possible to determine if the civilian casualties occurred as a result of the Australian airstrike, the nearby Coalition airstrikes, or from other actors. Chief of Joint Operations, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, says the Australian strike was requested by Iraqi Security Forces and was in full compliance with the law of armed conflict and applicable rules of engagement. “The ADF takes all feasible precautions to minimise the risk of civilian casualties,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said. “On this occasion, it was assessed that the enemy intended to attack Iraqi forces from the targeted location, threatening imminent loss of life or serious injury.” The strikes occurred during Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) operations to re-take West Mosul. Daesh were attacking ISF positions and fleeing civilians with a combination of small arms, heavy machine guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades. The ISF identified three enemy personnel in a building and four enemy personnel in the adjacent courtyard, armed with heavy weapons. “Based upon the proximity of the enemy to the Iraqi forces, the nature of the target and the circumstances of the fighting in Mosul at the time, I can confirm that this action complied with Australia’s rules of engagement and the Laws of Armed Conflict,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said. Post-strike assessments confirmed the 500lb precision guided munition struck the intended target and achieved the effect desired by the Iraqi ground commander. The civilian casualties were claimed to have been located in a building in the vicinity of the Australian and coalition strikes. Air Marshal Hupfeld says that while there was no specific intelligence to indicate civilians were present at the targeted site, it was impossible to be sure under the urgent circumstances facing the Iraqi forces at the time. “There is a degree of uncertainty surrounding this incident. We know that the Australian strike does not precisely correspond with the information provided in the claim, however it was close by. We do not definitively know how these people were killed.” “But we do know from our review of the events that our aircrew made no error in this mission. They delivered their ordnance precisely onto the designated target in accordance with their rules of engagement. All authorities for the strike were valid and lawful.” “We also know that Daesh deliberately and deceptively caused civilian casualties by concealing non-combatants under fighting positions and exposing their fighters to induce Coalition airstrikes,” Air Marshal Hupfeld said. “Any loss of civilian life is highly regrettable and we treat all allegations seriously. Ultimately we have determined that it is possible civilians were unintentionally killed by the Coalition during these strikes.” Australia was first advised of the potential claim in January 2018. The Coalition assessed the claim to be credible in December 2018 and announced the finding today. Australia has previously announced involvement in three separate potential civilian casualty allegations resulting from strikes conducted during Operation Okra. These all occurred during the Mosul offensive on 30 March 2017, 3 May 2017, and 7 June 2017. Australian strike aircraft concluded operations in January 2018.
Original strike reports
For June 12th-13th the Coalition publicly stated: “Near Mosul, five strikes engaged five ISIS tactical units and destroyed 14 fighting positions, six mortar systems, two sniper positions, a weapons cache and a tactical vehicle.”