LONDON: Airstrikes launched by the UK’s military in Syria may have killed up to 32 civilians, research by a charity has reportedly revealed.
According to the BBC, the Action on Armed Violence organization, which investigates conflicts around the world, said its research had shown that at least nine attacks by the Royal Air Force led to civilian casualties between March 2016 and 2018.
It undermines a claim by the UK Ministry of Defence that its activities only led to a single civilian death during Britain’s seven-year aerial campaign against Daesh.
A ministry spokesperson said that military personnel examine evidence and mission data from every operation, and that there was “no evidence” of civilian casualties in the airstrikes investigated by AOAV.
A statement by the ministry said it had “identified nothing to indicate that such civilian casualties were caused in Syria.
“The RAF always minimizes the risk of civilian casualties through our rigorous targeting processes … but no evidence has been identified in these instances.”
The charity’s research claims that “at least 26 civilians are likely to have been killed” in RAF airstrikes during the two-year period, while “up to 32 civilians may have actually been killed.”
AOAV used “self-reported” civilian deaths to reach its figure, where military personnel under the US-led coalition against Daesh reported the high likelihood of civilian casualties following an operation.
The charity found that the reports were “credible” in eight of the nine RAF airstrikes.
It cross-checked the reports with the Ministry of Defence’s own internal mission data as well as information from US Central Command and other charities.
The single civilian death that the UK Ministry of Defence has admitted came in May 2018, when a motorcyclist was killed by a Reaper drone targeting Daesh fighters.
But another report surrounding possible civilian deaths, which the ministry has denied, centered on an RAF jet operation in May 2017, when Tornado aircraft attacked seven Daesh targets in Iraq’s Mosul.
The incident led to a “self-reported” claim by coalition personnel, with The New York Times newspaper finding that three civilians were nearby one of the strike targets, according to US mission data.
The data said: “The explosion from striking the mortar site was large enough to conclude that any person in the blast radius was seriously injured or killed in the strike.”
The US has said that 1,437 civilians may have been killed in the aerial campaign against Daesh between August 2014 and May 2023.