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U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State group likely killed more civilians

U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group have likely resulted in additional civilian casualties, U.S. Central Command officials disclosed in a statement Friday.

CENTCOM said new assessments indicate that five separate U.S. strikes in Iraq and Syria between July 4 and July 17, 2015, "likely resulted in the death of two civilians and injuries to an additional four civilians," during Operation Inherent Resolve, a statement reads.

"U.S. Central Command conducts thorough assessments of all allegations of civilian casualties associated with U.S. airstrikes, and mitigating civilian casualties is a key component of the campaign and that is why we use precision weapons," Air Force Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesman for CENTCOM, said during a phone call briefing.

Fourteen allegations of civilian casualties remain open, Ryder said.

"We operate in a dynamic environment, and unfortunately, we cannot guarantee zero civilian casualties in an armed conflict such as this one," he added.

The airstrikes are from the latest assessment are:

  • On July 4, 2015, near Ar Raqqah, Syria, during strikes against 16 ISIL bridges, it was assessed one civilian in a truck with a trailer was likely killed.
  • On July 7, 2015, near Ar Raqqah, Syria, during strikes against ISIL fighters, it was assessed that a civilian was injured by a secondary explosion and flying debris from the initial strike.
  • On July 8, 2015, near Sarmada, Syria, during a strike against a vehicle carrying Khorasan Group Leader Muhsin al-Fadhli, it was assessed two civilians on a motorcycle were likely injured.
  • On July 11, 2015, near Ar Raqqah, Syria, during counter-ISIL strikes it was assessed one civilian was killed. A post-strike review revealed a secondary explosion from a vehicle crossing a bridge nearby the intended target; this explosion resulted in one civilian likely killed.
  • On July 17, 2015, near Mosul, Iraq, during strikes against ISIL fighters traveling in a vehicle, it was assessed one civilian was injured.

Ryder said that with this new report, the coalition can confirm 16 deaths and nine injured; CENTCOM in a previous assessment last week disclosed OIR airstrikes likely killed eight civilians and injured three.

"We're continually looking at our processes and trying to determine the most effective way to hit the enemy with minimal impact on civilians...the low numbers are a testament to our aviators, mission planners…and intelligence analysts," he said.

"This is the most precise air campaign in history," Ryder continued, and "there is a very detailed process that we go through to plan these targets."

Ryder would not confirm what type of aircraft were involved in the strikesthat killed the civilians, but said they "were U.S. aircraft," further distinguishing from the Russian combat jets also conducting heavy bombing campaigns in the area. 

Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East, Europe and Pacific for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at opawlyk@airforcetimes.com.

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