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Civilian death cases in coalition strikes against ISIS reopened after ‘War of Annihilation’ report

Officials with U.S. Central Command recently decided to reevaluate the deaths of four civilians in the bombing of Raqqa, prompted in part by a report release earlier this month by the human rights organization Amnesty International.

A statement released Thursday emphasized that the coalition working through Operation Inherent Resolve to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has “used deliberate targeting and strike processes to minimize the impact of our operations on civilian populations and infrastructure.”

The statement also acknowledged their willingness to seek new or additional information and re-assess past cases “in the face of new or compelling evidence.”

Pointing to the June 5 Amnesty report, officials noted that four previously closed cases would be re-evaluated considering new evidence. They did not specify the evidence.

A recent report by the human rights group Amnesty International has pushed Operation Inherent Resolve officials to re-evaluate a handful of the civilian deaths reported in the bombing of Raqqa. (Sgt. Travis Jones/Army)
A recent report by the human rights group Amnesty International has pushed Operation Inherent Resolve officials to re-evaluate a handful of the civilian deaths reported in the bombing of Raqqa. (Sgt. Travis Jones/Army)

One previously close case was reevaluated and assessed again as “non-credible” finding there was insufficient evidence that civilians were harmed in the strike. And one new allegation is currently under assessment.

The statement did not provide details of the exact incidents.

The 70-page report from Amnesty, titled “‘War of Annihilation’: Devastating Toll on Civilians, Raqqa – Syria,” alleges that coalition forces destroyed the city and killed hundreds of civilians in the process. The report details four families that lost 90 relatives and neighbors, nearly all killed by coalition strikes.

“The Coalition’s claims that its precision air campaign allowed it to bomb IS out of Raqqa while causing very few civilian casualties do not stand up to scrutiny,” said Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International. “On the ground in Raqqa we witnessed a level of destruction comparable to anything we’ve seen in decades of covering the impact of wars.”

OIR officials noted in their statement that the task force carried out 29,596 strikes from August 2014 to May 2018 and documented at least 939 civilians killed unintentionally by coalition strikes.

More reports, including 321 open reports from previous months and 269 new reports received through the end of May, are part of those numbers. Out of 276 civilian casualty reports reviewed in that total, five were determined to be credible, according to the coalition, which amounted to 62 unintentional civilian deaths, five were duplicate reports and 266 reports were determined to be non-credible.

A total of 314 reports of coalition-caused civilian deaths are still open, according to the release.

‘Senseless murder’ of hostages

In a separate release, officials with OIR condemned the killing of eight Iraqi hostages, whose remains were found on the Kirkuk-Diyala road in Iraq.

Iraqi Security Forces discovered the remains on June 27.

“We join our Iraqi partners in mourning the brutal and senseless murder of these men, and together we remain steadfast in our commitment to destroy the remnants of Daesh,” said Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve. “We will continue to work with our Iraqi partners to achieve the enduring defeat of the evil criminal organization for the innocent civilians of Iraq, our nations, and all mankind.”

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