June 2015

Written by

Chris Woods

ABOVE: Scene of devastation at the town of al Hawijah near Kirkuk, Iraq after a US airstrike destroyed a Daesh IED factory

Major Developments

    In single greatest claim of coalition-inflicted civilian deaths since August, up to 70 non-combatants are reported killed in an airstrike on Iraqi town of al-Hawijah Coalition denies it has seen evidence of civilian deaths at al Hawijah – but insists that if they occurred, “responsibility rests squarely on Daesh“ With 677 airstrikes reported by coalition across Iraq (70%) and Syria (30%), May 2015 represents most intense month of bombing yet Syrian casualty recorders place number of civilians killed by coalition in May at between 68 and 75. And Iraq Body Count reports 23 non-combatants killed US insists every allegation of civilian deaths being looked into – but that “there aren’t big numbers“

 Civilian casualties

    Only one new event was added this week, a devastating coalition strike on the town of al Hawijah on June 3rd. Estimates vary, though most Iraqi sources insisted that up to 70 non-combatants died.

According to the coalition’s Lt General Hesterman, “after a very disciplined targeting process, we dropped a fairly small weapon on a known IED building in an industrial area.  The secondary explosion, which was caused from a massive amount of Daesh high explosives, was very large, and it destroyed much of that industrial area.”

Devastation in Huwaija following coalition strike June 3 2015 (Iraqi Spring)

Hesterman claimed the coalition had seen “”no evidence” of civilian deaths. He insisted that if they had occurred, the blame lay with ISIL: “Let’s be clear.  What did the damage was a huge amount of high explosives that Daesh intended to turn into murderous weapons to kill Iraqi forces and innocent civilians.  If there’re unintended injuries, that responsibility rests squarely on Daesh.”

The head of Kirkuk’s Arab Council, Mohammed Khalil al-Jubouri, placed the number of dead and injured civilians at 150. The Iraqi Revolution site claimed that 70 civilians had died, with more than 100 injured. Rudaw also reported 70 killed, describing 26 children and 22 women among the dead.

Eyewitness Hassan Mahmoud al-Jubbouri told Reuters that the area looked as if it had been hit by a nuclear bomb, and described pulling the bodies of a family of six from the rubble.

Among up to 100 militants also reported killed was Islamic State’s local police chief, named as Jassim Shukur. “The [coalition] warplanes also bombarded two other sub-districts around Hawija and many other ISIS militants who were with the police chief were killed by the bombardment,” Iraqi official Sarhad Qadir told Rudaw.

    In its latest summary, casualty monitor the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 1,285 civilians died during fighting in May – 75 of whom were killed by the international coalition. The Syrian Network for Human Rights places May’s civilian death toll somewhat higher, at 1,766. SN4HR also says: “May had the largest number of Syrian civilians who were killed by the international coalition forces [68]”

In Iraq, the total number of reported civilian deaths was 1,255 according to Iraq Body Count, of whom 23 were reported to be civilians

Coalition actions

    May saw the most intense month of coalition bombings yet – with 70 per cent of 677 airstrikes targeted at Islamic State in Iraq according to coalition data
    There was disagreement among coalition sources as to how many militants have so far been killed in the 10-month bombing campaign: – A senior State Department official claimed that 10,000 militants had died. – US military officials told the New York Times that 12,500 had died. – And the head of Air Combat Command claimed 13,000 militants had been killed in thousands of airstrikes
    Canada reported its 100th airstrike in Iraq, while in its own monthly report Australia said that to the end of May 2015, it has so far released 352 munitions against Daesh – an estimated 99 airstrikes

Australian armament technician performs final checks after loading a GBU-38 weapon on an F/A-18A Hornet in the Middle East (Australian MoD/ Sgt Shane Gidall)

▲ Scene of a devastating Coalition strike at Hawijah, Iraq which killed up to 70 civilians (via Iraqi Spring)


May 2015

Written by

Chris Woods

ABOVE: Aftermath of a devastating explosion in Mosul May 21st 2015 which killed between 12-50 civilians according to reports (via Mosul Ateka)

Major Developments

    Two new civilian casualty incidents are reported for the past week. The destruction of an ISIL arms dump in Mosul is said to kill 12-50 non-combatants. And in Syria, up to 10 female agricultural workers are reported slain The UK and Netherlands declare they have had no reports of non-combatants killed by their aircraft The coalition reports 126 new airstrikes in Iraq and 50 in Syria – one of its heaviest weeks of bombing Arab partners resume airstrikes against ISIL in Syria with 3 reported during the week – the first in some time Reports say that the coalition has so far killed an estimated 12,500 ISIL  fighters

Civilian casualties

    With the addition of two new incidents of concern this week, between 418 and 850 non-combatant deaths have now been attributed to the coalition since August 2014, in 99 problem events.

Of these it is our provisional view that between 418 and 552 civilian non-combatants have been killed in incidents where the publicly available evidence points to coalition action.

A further 140-182 claimed deaths attributed to coalition airstrikes are poorly reported or are single-sourced, while an additional 83-116  reported fatalities resulted from contested events (for example, claims that the Iraq military might instead have been responsible.)

In addition, 140 or more ‘friendly fire’ deaths of allied ground forces have been attributed to the coalition, with varying levels of certainty.

    In an incident in Mosul on May 21st 2015, the destruction of an Islamic State weapons dump resulted in catastrophic secondary explosions which killed between 12 and 50 civilians in the surrounding area according to multiple reports.

Habiba, a 4 year old ‘killed in a coalition strike’ at Mosul, May 21 2015 (via Hunaal Hadbaa)

Among those reported killed was Ayman al Hayali (who ran a clothing shop) and his family, including his wife, young son and daughter Habiba aged four. Other sources claimed that 5 women and 3 children were among the dead.

Scuffles later allegedly broke out between survivors and militants over ISIL’s policy of storing munitions in a civilian neighbourhood.

While the coalition has not commented directly on the event, its daily report for May 21st noted that “an ISIL cache” was destroyed in Mosul.


    A reported daytime coalition airstrike on an Islamic State roadside checkpoint at Ar Raqqa, Syria also allegedly killed between six and ten female agricultural workers. All of the victims were said to come from the nearby village of Hunaida. Two militants also reportedly died.

As one news site noted, “At the moment it’s the harvest season in the countryside of Raqqa, and dozens of women would be working the land at this period. They are often transported in cars that carry dozens at a time.”

Islamic State issued a number of subsequent propaganda pieces, including an interview with a man said to be a medic who stated: “The wounded were transported to the General Hospital in the city of Al Raqqah, where they were treated. Some had light injuries and others were dead. We tell the crusader coalition didn’t you say you were here to help the weak? And here you are bombing civilians.”

Islamic State report, including ‘interview with a medic’

    The British Ministry of Defence told Drone Wars UK that despite carrying out more than 250 airstrikes in Iraq since September, “There have been no known cases of civilian casualties resulting from RAF weapon releases over Iraq, from the RAF’s first weapon release on 30 Sep 14 to early May 15 inclusive. All weapon releases take place in accordance with UK Rules of Engagement and applicable law.“

In response to questions from Airwars, the Dutch Ministry of Defence also stated that it was unaware of any claims of non-combatant deaths resulting from its airstrikes in Iraq

Coalition actions

    With 176 new airstrikes reported across Iraq and Syria, the coalition ended its 42nd week of military action having carried out a total of 4,251 strikes. May 2015 is set to be the busiest month of actions so far.

    F/A-18F Super Hornet aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt May 25 2015 (US Navy/ Specialist Danica M.Sirmans)

    Most coalition activity remains focused on Iraq, with 126 new airstrikes reported. With Islamic State now digging in to the recently captured city of Ramadi, 13 airstrikes targeted the town. Heavy strikes also continued at Bayji, where a months-long power struggle between the Iraq Army and ISIL continues.

    In Syria, 50 new airstrikes were mainly focused around al Hassakah. The areas around Dayr az Zawr, Kobane, Tadmur and ar Raqqah were also targeted.

According to data supplied to Airwars by the coalition, three new airstrikes were carried out by the US’s Arab partners in Syria – their first since April.




▲ Aftermath of alleged coalition strike on Mosul May 21 2015 (via Mosul Atek)


May 2015

Written by

Chris Woods

Major developments

    After nine months of strikes the coalition finally admits its actions have killed civilians – confirming the “likely” death of at least two children in Syria A last-minute spate of Coalition airstrikes fails to prevent Islamic State from over-running the crucial city of Ramadi in Iraq The 4,000th airstrike since operations began in August 2014 is confirmed Arab partners once again carry out no anti-Daesh air strikes in Syria – though Canada carries out its second airstrike in the country, targeting alleged militants at Ar Raqqah

Civilian casualties

Scene of a May 20 airstrike which reportedly killed 7 civilians at al Tawama, Syria (SNN)

    Airwars recorded one new incident of concern this week – a coalition action on May 20th at al Tawama in Syria, which allegedly killed between 7 and 11 non-combatants. According to media reports, an airstrike on the al Nusra Front, a local  affiliate of al Qaeda killed a number of insurgents. However civilians also reportedly died at two locations in the town.

The coalition confirmed to Airwars on May 22nd that it had carried out the strike at al Tawama. However, it declined to confirm whether the al Nusra Front or Khorasan Network was targeted; or whether an investigation into the alleged civilian deaths is now underway.

    The Syrian Network for Human Rights issued its latest report into the ‘massacre’ of 64 civilians at the village of Ber Mahli on April 30th. After interviewing a number of survivors, the group claimed that “the international coalition targeted six houses directly with no less than six missiles, as some of these homes were targeted again after people and medical teams gathered to help the victims and wounded.” A number of eyewitness testimonies were also released by SNHR.

“Every time we’d try to get out the plane would start bombing. We lost so many people, women and children. “ Eyewitness (SNHR)

    CENTCOM declassified a top secret investigation into a US airstrike in Syria on November 6th 2014, confirming for the first time that coalition airstrikes had “likely” killed two civilians, both children.

Airwars welcomed the publication of the report, but also raised concerned at the unnecessary delays involved. Details of the childrens’ deaths had been published within hours of the US attack. And redacted emails released by CENTCOM indicate that military officials were aware of possible civilian deaths almost immediately after the event.

Yet it was not until January 8 2015 – two months after the killings – that an inquiry was ordered. Overseen by coalition commander Lt. General James L. Terry, the declassified report confirms that a series of US air raids on the so-called Khorasan Group, a faction of Al Qaeda, had also “triggered secondary explosions.”

In the interests of accountability and transparency, Airwars has urged the coalition to speed up ts investigation processes – and to be far more open about where and when coalition partners are bombing.

The terms of the investigation into civilian casualties at Hari, Syria (CENTCOM declassified report)

Coalition actions

The international coalition reported an intense week of bombings between May 15th and May 22nd.

In Syria there were 49 new airstrikes – 48 of them carried out by the United States according to data released to Airwars.The majority of strikes (35 in total) were focused around al Hassakah. The areas around Kobane, Ar Raqqah, Aleppo and Dayr az Zawr were also targeted.

Canada carried out its first airstrike in Syria since April 9th, targeting “an ISIS staging area north of Ar-Raqqah.”

Arab coalition partners once again carried out no airstrikes in Syria, instead focusing their efforts on their war against Yemen. According to data collated by Airwars, Arab partners including Saudi Arabia and Jordan have only carried out two airstrikes in Syria since March 28th – compared with 289 strikes by the United States.

Defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert visits Dutch F-16 crews in the Middle East, May 15 2015 (Dutch MoD)

In Iraq, a late surge of coalition airstrikes failed to prevent Islamic State from capturing the strategic city of Ramadi.

Strikes later targeted a significant weapon stockpile abandoned by the Iraq Army, with the coalition claiming it had destroyed “five abandoned tanks, two abandoned armored personnel carriers and two abandoned armored vehicles” in Ramadi.

Elsewhere in Iraq, heavy airstrikes continued around the Bayji oil refinery, scene of another months-long power struggle between Daesh and Iraqi forces. Strikes were also reported in the vicinity of nine other major towns and cities across Iraq. In contrast with Syria, one in three coalition airstrikes in Iraq are presently being carried out by seven US allies, including the UK, France and the Netherlands.

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