70% Spike in Civilian Deaths by US-Led Coalition in Syria, Iraq
The numbers are likely to increase in 2017 as attacks on cities continue, according to the U.K.-based Airwars monitoring group.
Likely civilian fatalities in Iraq and Syria from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes jumped by 70 percent in 2016, though underreporting may mean the figure is even higher.
Between 1,237 and 1,897 civilians died last year in Iraq and Syria, according to a count by Airwars, a London-based monitoring group that has been tallying the death toll of coalition strikes by compiling official and local reports. The lowest estimate of total civilian deaths is 2,104, meaning this year’s count nearly doubled from 2015. While the coalition has launched 17,145 strikes, 445 of them claimed civilian casualties and half of those civilian deaths.
Turkey, France and Belgium ramped up their involvement last year, but the dramatic rise in casualties is not attributed to the mix of players, but rather “reflects the changing nature of the conflict against ISIL (the Islamic State group),” Chris Woods, director of Airwars, told teleSUR via email.
“The year 2016 saw the Coalition go heavily on the offensive against the terror group, with thousands of airstrikes focused on occupied towns and cities,” he wrote. “With millions of Iraqi and Syrian civilians still trapped in ISIL-occupied areas, likely civilian deaths are set to increase further in our view in 2017 as assaults on Mosul and Raqqa continue.”
Spikes in casualties were reported in al Shadadi, Manbij and Raqqa in Syria, and in Fallujah, Ramadi and Mosul in Iraq — though the numbers in Iraq are likely much higher, especially considering it receives two of three coalition strikes, said Woods.
Airwars previously released an audit conducted with Remote Control, the London-based research project on remote warfare, pointing out “opaque and ad hoc” reporting on civilian casualties by coalition countries “lacking the common rules and procedures required for baseline public reporting.” The report was especially concerned with accountability by Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Jordan, the Netherlands and Saudi Arabia.
Airwars also published monthly Russian airstrike casualties until April, when it registered a dip since February because of a cease-fire in Syria and the partial withdrawal of heavy bombers. Fatalities were soon back up, though, as Moscow escalated its attacks, amounting to almost 1,000 civilian casualty incidents from May 1 to December 21 involving Russia.
The main monitors, led by Syrian opposition activists, were the U.K.-based Syrian Network for Human Rights, the Violations Documentation Center and Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently.