- US-led Coalition strikes allegedly killed as many as 276 civilians in up to 25 problem events in Iraq and Syria in September 2015
- In twelve of these events, there appears enough credible evidence – coupled with confirmation of allied airstrikes in the vicinity – to suggest that a minimum of 86 civilians were killed by the Coalition in September
- Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict on September 30th did not bode well. Between 42 and 50 non-combatants, including 11 children, were reported slain in the Kremlin’s first day of strikes
- An overall total of 7,200 strikes had been carried out by the US-led coalition to the end of the month, according to Airwars estimates. Some 4,605 strikes in Iraq accounted for almost 64% of this total, while 2,595 strikes had targeted Syria
- The air war again changed form in September – with France and Australia now targeting Daesh in Syria as well as in Iraq, while Denmark ended its airstrikes
- Airwars continues to be concerned at the number of credible reports of civilians being killed in Coalition strikes. We added 25 new incidents of concern for September 2015 to our evolving database. These new events allegedly killed at least 86 and as many as 157 civilians.
To the end of September 2015, Airwars had in total recorded 229 alleged civilian casualty incidents involving the Coalition dating back to August 2014. The overall alleged civilian fatality range was 621 to 1,859.
In the view of Airwars, 103 of these events are fairly reported and are of particular concern – with two or more sources and Coalition strikes confirmed in the near vicinity. Some 621 to 857 reported fatalities across Iraq and Syria were associated with these credible incidents.
In contrast, after 24,861 bombs and missiles dropped the Coalition has only conceded two ‘likely’ civilian deaths in Syria so far – and none in Iraq.
- With few reported Coalition strikes in Syria for the month, Iraq was the focus for most claims of civilian deaths. On September 14th for example, an alleged Coalition strike hit the marketplace at Ar Rutbah, Iraq killing five non-combatants according to local media. No Coalition strikes were publicly reported in the vicinity. On the same day Daesh claimed that the Coalition accidentally struck an armed vehicle belonging to Shia militia at Bayji. There were no confirmed casualties.
On September 18th at least 43 civilians were reported killed at Senyah in Iraq in a strike by unidentified aircraft. Tribal leaders called on the Baghdad government to “open an urgent investigation into the identity of the planes.”
On September 21st four members of a Mosul family – university professor Mohannad Al Rezzo; his 17-year old son Najeeb Mohannad Al Rezzo; Mr al Rezzo’s sister in law Miyada Rezzo and her 21-year old daughter Tuka all died in a reported Coalition strike which was initially ignored by international media. Yale professor Zareena Grewal later wrote of the deaths of her close relatives for the New York Times: “I desperately want the Islamic State to be defeated, but I wonder if our rage at it has made us blind to anyone we kill along the way, even those whose lives have been terrorized by the group.”
And on September 29th, a Coalition strike on a former Waqf [religious affairs] building in Mosul being used by Daesh also appears to have struck a nearby marketplace, killing between 11 and 29 non-combatants. Eyewitness Said Ali Mohammed, who works in the nearby market, told Gulf Online that he was inside his shop at the time, which is located just 500 meters from the Waqf building. He described the first explosion as “enormous… while we were preoccupied with tending to neighbors and some of the injured on the street, a second bombing targeted people who had rushed in to help the wounded.”
- Russia’s entry into the Syrian conflict on September 30th caused devastating civilian casualties at a number of locations. At least 15 civilians died at Zafaraniya. At least 17 more non-combatants were killed at Talbisheh, and 8 or more at Al Rastan. Eleven children were among the dead.
None of the towns targeted by Russia were occupied by Daesh despite the Kremlin’s insistence it had “performed high accuracy strikes against international terrorist organization ISIS.”
Aftermath of Russian strikes at Talbiseh, Sept 30th 2015
- September 2015 was the most intense month of bombings in Iraq so far, with 525 strikes carried out by the Coalition – setting another consecutive record after August 2015. As with August, Mosul and Ramadi were heavily bombed (87 and 67 strikes respectively).
In Syria however, only 127 strikes were carried out – making September 2015 the second least intense month of bombings. The small city of Mar’a, north of Aleppo, was targeted by 28 strikes.
- The United States remained the primary power in the international Coalition, having carried out 89 per cent of all strikes in Syria in September, and 72 per cent of all airstrikes in Iraq.
- In addition to 18 or more new airstrikes in Iraq in September, France carried out its first attack on Daesh inside Syria. President Hollande has described France’s role in Syria as “acting in self defence“, rather than helping the Assad regime.
- Australia also began airstrikes in Syria. After three Hornets reportedly destroyed their targets in eastern Syria, then-defence minister Kevin Andrew spoke with ABC Australia: “We work within very strict rules of engagement, and those rules of engagement are to ensure as far as possible that we don’t have unwanted civilian casualties.“
While the UK remained heavily committed in Iraq, the government had yet to win Parliamentary approval for strikes against Daesh in Syria. Conservative Chancellor George Osborne, referring to the current refugee crisis in Europe, said that this “problem” needed to be dealt “at source,” with Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly hoping to obtain Parliamentary authorisation for airstrikes.
However new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn – historically anti-war – has said he can think of “no circumstances” under which he would back any UK military intervention in Syria. A previous attempt to authorise airstrikes (against the Assad regime) was defeated in Parliament 285-272, in August 2013.
- Denmark voluntarily and publicly revealed that one of its attacks “might have caused civilian casualties.” This set a new benchmark for transparency, wrote Airwars guest reporter Rasmus Raun Westh. A CENTCOM investigation later concluded the strike “most likely” did not kill civilians.
Denmark’s F-16s also ended their year long engagement after plane mechanics appealed to the public, warning of ongoing stress and overwork at their base in Kuwait, as well as cracks in the planes.