US Figure of Casualties in Iraq and Syria Hides True, 'Devastating Scale' of Civilian Deaths, Says Amnesty

The U.S.-led coalition that launched airstrikes against Iraq and Syria against ISIS admitted Friday that those attacks killed civilians, but the number they reported—1,302 deaths in a nearly five-year period—was immediately dismissed as too low by the human rights organization Amnesty International. 

“While all admissions of responsibility by the U.S.-led coalition for civilian casualties are welcome, the coalition remains deeply in denial about the devastating scale of the civilian casualties caused by their operations in both Iraq and Syria,” the group’s senior crisis response advisor, Donatella Rovera, said in a statement. 

The coalition, in a statement announcing the findings of its internal review, said that of the “34,502 strikes between August 2014 and the end of April 2019” it found that “at least 1,302 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes.”

That number, while 1,302 people too many, is still far below projections from other organizations over the past. 

“Even in cases where the coalition has admitted responsibility this has only happened after civilian deaths were investigated and brought to its attention by organizations such as Amnesty International and Airwars,” said Rovera. 

In April, a study by Amnesty and Airwars projected that 1,600 civilians died in coalition airstrikes in the Syrian city of Raqqa alone from June to October 2017, a number that, in four months, is higher than the coalition’s total findings for over four years across two countries. 

“We hope to finally see an honest assessment of the devastating impact that U.S. lethal strikes have had on the civilians in Raqqa,” Daphne Eviatar, director of Amnesty’s Security with Human Rights program, said at the time. “The public deserves to know how many civilian casualties our government is responsible for, and the survivors deserve acknowledgement, reparations, where appropriate, and meaningful assistance to rebuild their lives.”

Friday’s report indicates that despite calls for more detailed analysis and investigation, an honest assessment may not be a priority for the coalition.

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