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9 Nov, 2016 22:09

US Central Command confirms 119 civilians killed in US airstrikes in Syria & Iraq since 2014

The US military has released its assessment of civilian casualties in US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria within a recent 10-month period, bringing the total number civilian deaths in the US anti-terrorist campaign to 119 since 2014, US Central Command said.

Major Josh Jacques, a spokesman for the US Central Command, said that the US anti-terrorist campaign has led to the deaths of 119 civilians since airstrikes began in 2014, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the report released Wednesday focuses on civilian deaths from November 20, 2015 to September 10, 2016. It suggests that 64 civilians were killed and eight others injured during that period.

“In each of the cases released today, the assessment determined that although all feasible precautions were taken and strikes complied with laws of armed conflict, civilian casualties unfortunately did occur,” Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for US Central Command, said in a statement.

Mitigating civilian casualties remains a “key component” of the anti-IS (Islamic State, formerly ISIS/ISIL) air campaign in Syria and Iraq, the military emphasized, acknowledging a handful of deadly strikes which were blamed on the US-led coalition.

For instance, according to a statement made on November 20 last year, five civilians were killed near Dayr Az Zawr, eastern Syria, when they happened to be in the target area of a US air strike. A further 10 civilians were killed in a strike on March 5, near Mosul, northern Iraq, when the US-led coalition targeted a terrorist “weapons production facility,” the statement added.

“We’ve applied lessons learned to reduce the likelihood of future civilian casualties,” Thomas said.

The latest information does not include an investigation into a coalition air strike in mid-July near Manbij, in Syria's Aleppo Governorate, which according to some reports killed dozens of civilians. The military said that investigation is nearing completion.

Washington’s assessment contradicts figures released late last month by Amnesty International which claimed that at least 300 civilians were killed in just 11 airstrikes conducted by the US-led coalition in Syria alone.

“We fear the US-led coalition is significantly underestimating the harm caused to civilians in its operations in Syria,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International’s Beirut regional office, at the time.

“The fact they admitted from 24 to 60+ deaths in both Iraq as well as Syria indicates that they’re not precise in their targeting of Islamic State,” Abayomi Azikiwe, editor of Pan-African News Wire told RT. The official acknowledgment of civilian casualties shows that “the war is not receding, but in fact escalating,” Azikiwe said. The moment for publishing the figures was well thought out by the Pentagon, since “people have been preoccupied with the national presidential elections, where these issues were not discussed at all,” he added.

An American-led intervention in Iraq started on June 15, 2014, when President Barack Obama ordered US forces to be dispatched to the region in response to highly successful offensives in Iraq conducted by IS terrorists. In September 2014, without any permission from Damascus, the United States and its allies began to strike targets inside Syria.

The latest toll figures also do not include the civilian death toll in the US-led military operation to recapture the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul, northern Iraq. The Russian military said that the coalition repeatedly hit residential areas in and around the Iraqi city on a number of occasions, presenting satellite evidence of the strikes.

As the offensive prepares to enter the intensive urban warfare phase, humanitarian organizations have voiced concerns that the hostilities will take a further significant toll on the civilian population of the city, which is the second most populous in Iraq.