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