US-led coalition slammed over Raqqa civilian killings

Daesh overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, declaring a so-called “caliphate” there. (Reuters)
Updated 16 October 2018
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US-led coalition slammed over Raqqa civilian killings

  • During the campaign to expel militants from the city, hundreds of civilians were killed in the battle, most of them in coalition bombardments, Amnesty says
  • Amnesty says that the coalition had admitted to having caused just 100 civilians deaths in the Raqqa assault, but even in those cases accepted no liability

BEIRUT: Amnesty International on Monday condemned the US-led coalition’s failure to acknowledge and investigate its role in civilian killings during the battle a year ago to oust militants from Syria’s Raqqa.

In October last year, a Kurdish-Arab alliance pushed Daesh out of the northern city, backed by airstrikes of the US-led coalition.

During the campaign to expel militants from the city, hundreds of civilians were killed in the battle, most of them in coalition bombardments, Amnesty says.

“The US-led coalition’s ongoing failure to admit to, let alone adequately investigate, the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction it caused in Raqqa is a slap in the face for survivors,” the London-based group said in a statement.

One year on, Amnesty says that the coalition had admitted to having caused just 100 civilians deaths in the Raqqa assault, but even in those cases accepted no liability.

“It is completely reprehensible that the coalition refuses to acknowledge its role in most of the civilian casualties it caused,” Amnesty’s new secretary-general, Kumi Naidoo, said.

And it is “abhorrent that even where it has admitted responsibility, it accepts no obligation toward its victims,” he said.

Denouncing a “disturbing pattern” of civilian deaths, the rights groups urged the coalition to conduct a probe, both to establish the facts behind each deadly strike, and to avoid any future mistakes.

“Surely, with hundreds of civilians dead, it begs the question what went wrong,” Naidoo said, urging the coalition to look into issues such as weapons used and quality of intelligence.

“These are crucial details, to establish both facts and assess lawfulness, as well as learn the lessons necessary to avoid similar mistakes,” he said.

The latter was “fundamental to minimizing harm to civilians — a legal obligation,” he said.

Daesh overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, declaring a so-called “caliphate” there, and the coalition intervened the same year to fight the extremist group.

The militants have since seen their proto-state crumble, but cling on to a presence in the Syrian desert and in an eastern pocket on the Iraqi border where they are under attack by coalition-backed forces.

Since 2014 the US-led coalition has acknowledged direct responsibility for more than 1,100 civilian deaths in Syria and Iraq, but rights groups put the number killed much higher.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, says coalition strikes in Syria alone have killed more than 3,300 civilians.

Syria’s war has killed more than 360,000 people since it erupted in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-regime protests.


Three killed in Morocco mine collapse

Updated 10 min 14 sec ago
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Three killed in Morocco mine collapse

  • The accident occurred near the impoverished former mining town of Jerada
  • Hundreds of illegal miners in the town risk their lives in abandoned mine shafts to extract mainly coal

RABAT: Three people were killed Tuesday and three others injured when a zinc and lead mine collapsed in northeastern Morocco, authorities said, in a region shaken by protests over similar accidents.
The accident occurred near the impoverished former mining town of Jerada a week after two people, including a teenager, died in another collapse of abandoned mines.
Hundreds of illegal miners in the town risk their lives in abandoned mine shafts to extract mainly coal, the sale of which is legal thanks to operating permits issued by Moroccan authorities.
Jerada has been hit by social unrest and peaceful protests following the deaths last December of two brothers trapped in a mine shaft followed by two other deaths under similar circumstances.
Tuesday's accidental deaths took place in the small community of Ras Asfour in a mine that was operating with an official permit, state MAP news agency quoted local officials as saying, unlike previous ones.
Moroccan authorities pledged a series of measures to revive the economy in Jerada, one of the poorest regions of Morocco according to official statistic, and vowed to close all abandoned mines.
In April the government launched a plan aimed at providing alternative means of livelihood for the population amid demands by protesters for "economic alternatives" to "death mines".
Authorities have arrested 95 people in connection with the protests and 25 of them were put on trial, according to a lawyer who has defended some of them.
Last week nine protesters were sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to five years on charges including the destruction of public property, incitement to carry out criminal acts and taking part in unauthorised protests.