Library image: A British Typhoon is refuelled over Iraq by a US Stratotanker, December 22 2015 (USAF/ Staff Sgt Corey Hook)


February 3, 2016

Written by

Chris Woods

Royal Air Force combat aircraft were not involved in eight alleged civilian casualty incidents in Iraq in December 2015, according to Britain’s Defence Secretary.

Concerns were first raised by Scottish media and politicians in early January, after cross-referencing of reported civilian casualty incidents with UK airstrikes in Iraq had indicated possible concerns.

Eight claimed incidents in the cities of Mosul and Ramadi had been alleged, for days on which the Ministry of Defence had already confirmed UK airstrikes in the vicinity (see below.) The Scottish National Party led calls for the MoD to investigate whether RAF aircraft might have been involved in any civilian casualty events.

How Scotland’s media first reported casualty concerns

In its initial response on January 16th, the MoD dismissed claims that RAF airstrikes might have been responsible for civilian deaths in Iraq but gave few further details. Pressed for more information by Labour MP Graham Allen, the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has now made clear that following an investigation, the MoD is certain UK aircraft played no role in the alleged events.

RAF aircraft were not involved in strikes in seven of the incidents cited,” according to Mr Fallon. “The eighth incident was impossible to locate from the detail given in the letter: all information from the RAF air strike conducted on that particular day has been reviewed and there was no indication of any civilian casualties resulting from the strike.

It remains possible that aircraft from other Coalition allies might have been responsible for some of the alleged incidents in Ramadi and Mosul. The MoD says it has already passed on Airwars’ concerns regarding the eight reported events to CENTCOM, the US military command which leads the Coalition’s efforts in Iraq and Syria.

I welcome the recent change of the MoD’s position, which for the first time has now accepted and examined credible reports of civilian casualties from external organisations,” Graham Allen MP told Airwars. “It is absolutely crucial that the MoD is as transparent as possible about all airstrikes carried out, and that it does not rely on its internal investigations only.

Despite 534 British airstrikes in Iraq and 26 in Syria to January 28th, the MoD insists there have been no civilian casualties from UK actions. A spokesperson told Airwars: “In the hundreds of air strikes conducted by the RAF we have found no evidence of civilian casualties resulting from UK military action in Iraq or Syria. We do an assessment after every British strike and if we had any reason to believe, either from this analysis or from other credible reports, that there might have been civilian casualties, we would conduct an investigation, in conjunction with Coalition authorities.”

New US admissions

In related news, the Pentagon has continued its own policy of ‘normalising’ the reporting of civilian casualties from US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.

On January 29th CENTCOM released details of four additional casualty events in both Iraq and Syria. No civilians were publicly reported killed or injured in any of the airstrikes at the time, indicating that the US’s internal monitoring mechanisms continue to pick up casualty incidents which might otherwise go unreported.

In the most controversial of the four events, the US now admits that a failed attempt to kill British cyber-jihadist Junaid Hussain in Raqqa on August 13th 2015 instead resulted in eight civilian casualties.

The strikes that occurred Aug. 13, 2015, were against Junaid Hussain, which resulted in injuries to him that were not fatal,” a CENTCOM spokesman told Airwars. “During this strike, as today’s news release points out, we assessed that three civilians were unfortunately killed and five were injured. Junaid Hussain was killed during a subsequent strike on Aug. 24, 2015, near Raqqah, Syria.”

British cyber terrorist Junaid Hussain. Attempts by the US to kill him also caused the deaths of at least three civilians in Raqaa

British cyber terrorist Junaid Hussain. A failed attempt by the US to kill him in August 2015 caused the deaths of at least three civilians in Raqaa

The three other casualty incidents all took place in Iraq in 2015. On July 27th, a US airstrike against ‘ISIL vehicles’ resulted in the injuring of a civilian, CENTCOM now says.

On September 24th, two civilians were killled at Sinjar when their vehicle was caught up in a targeted US strike on a motorbike. “Weapons were released while the target was stopped at an intersection; however, another vehicle approached after weapons were in flight. Both the motorcycle and the vehicle were destroyed,” CENTCOM reported.

In the fourth event, at least two civilians were injured after a vehicle carrying a Daesh cleric was hit by US aircraft – causing it “to veer into oncoming traffic.” According to CENTCOM, the target on October 15th was “ISIL Sharia Judge Mullah Maysar.” Real name Akram Kurbash aka Abu Akram, he was a senior figure in Daesh and a target of previous targeted strikes. He was first reported killed in a Coalition attack on May 13th 2015 by the Iraqi Defence Ministry, a claim later played down by the US.

CENTCOM has now confirmed 16 separate civilian casualty incidents across Iraq and Syria from US airstrikes, as well as one ‘friendly fire’ event which killed Iraqi soldiers. No other member of the 12-strong international Coalition has so far admitted causing any civilian casualties, despite more than 2,000 non-US strikes.

The eight alleged events UK says its aircraft not involved in

Date Location Allegation
13/12/15 Mosul Three professors from University of Mosul among 4 civilians and a Daesh official reportedly killed in alleged Coalition airstrike
Mosul Single-source claim that 19 civilians died in Coalition strike on Mosul. However Airwars’ own sources in Nineveh contested claim.
21/12/15 Mosul Reuters reported that About 20 people, including at least 12 civilians, were killed on Monday in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, in two air strikes that destroyed houses believed to be used by Islamic State militants, six eyewitnesses and a medical source said.” Well-reported event suggested Coalition responsible.
Mosul 17 civilians including 4 women and 5 children reported killed in alleged Coalition strike in Wehda and Methak neighbourhoods east of Mosul. Some doubt regarding the incident, with local NRN News denying civilians had died.
Mosul According to three Arabic media sources, 6 civilians reportedly killed and 3 injured – all children and women – after Coalition jets allegedly bombed their house in Keseir village east of Mosul.
22/12/15 Ramadi During fierce air and ground assault on Ramadi, local sources claimed airstrikes had targeted a nearby area, resulting in 8 civilian deaths and 12 injuries.
25/12/15 Ramadi Military aircraft reportedly killed 5 civilians in a Christmas Day strike. According to local sources the attack could have been either by the Iraq Army or the Coalition.
29/12/15 Mosul According to local media, vehicles used by Daesh to transport oil were destroyed killing about 15 militants. But the attack also destroyed the ‘Cairo’ gas station, which in turn damaged a number of civilian homes nearby.

A house was also reportedly targeted in northern Mosul killing 20 Daesh. But according to media, “the house is located in a residential area and is surrounded by many other homes, which suffered significant physical damage. Civilians were also killed and injured.”

▲ Library image: A British Typhoon is refuelled over Iraq by a US Stratotanker, December 22 2015 (USAF/ Staff Sgt Corey Hook)