WASHINGTON — U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria last July killed two civilians and injured four more, a military spokesman said Friday.
The casualties occurred in five separate strikes between July 4 and July 17, said Air Force Col. Pat Ryder, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees the U.S.-led operations against Islamic State militants.
“We, of course, deeply regret the unintentional loss of life and injuries resulting from these strikes and express our deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and those affected,” Ryder said.
The announcement Friday came just one week after the Pentagon confirmed eight civilians were killed and four more hurt in five other airstrikes between April 12 and July 4.
The Pentagon has acknowledged American airstrikes have killed 16 civilians and injured nine in Syria and Iraq since it began targeting the Islamic State in August 2014. The coalition has conducted more than 9,830 strikes and released about 35,000 bombs during that time, according to Operation Inherent Resolve statistics.
Ryder called the U.S-led air war against the Islamic State group “the most precise air campaign in history,” citing its exclusive use of precision-guided weapons and its few unintended casualties.
“The low numbers (of civilian casualties) here are a testament to our aviators and the mission planners, and the incredible amount of effort from the intelligence analysts (and) the pre-mission coordination to ensure that when we conduct these strikes they’re against the intended targets.”
The five U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State that included civilian casualties announced Friday were:
- July 4, near Raqqa, Syria, on 16 Islamic State-controlled bridges. One civilian killed.
- July 7, near Raqqa, Syria, on Islamic State fighters. One civilian injured.
- July 8, near Sarmada, Syria, on high value target. Two civilians injured.
- July 11, near Raqqa, Syria, on Islamic State targets. One civilian killed.
- July 17, near Mosul, Iraq, on Islamic State fighters’s vehicle. One civilian injured.
Ryder said the U.S. military is investigating 14 allegations of civilians injured or killed in American airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. Since the beginning of Operation Inherent Resolved, the United States has received 120 allegations of such casualties, but it has found 87 were not credible.
All of the airstrikes in which civilians were killed occurred within the laws of armed conflict, he said.
“The coalition takes all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties during the course of military operations,” Ryder said. “… Mitigating civilian casualties is a key component of the air campaign. The coalition has the ability to make precise strikes against (Islamic State group) targets, while limiting collateral damage on the ground… unfortunately we cannot guarantee zero civilian casualties.”