U.S. admits airstrikes killed civilians in Iraq and Syria

Posted at 7:57 AM, Jan 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-23 07:57:35-05

The U.S. military announced Friday that airstrikes in Iraq and Syria had likely killed two civilians and injured four others during July.

The majority of the five airstrikes took place in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, two major ISIS-controlled cities, according to a U.S. Central Command news release.

Last week Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in Iraq and Syria, reported the killing of eight civilians from April to July.

“It’s tragic, and it’s not something that we want to do. One of the burdens of command is to weigh the military value of a target, versus the potential for civilian loss of life,” the spokesman for the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition, Col. Steve Warren, told reporters Wednesday.

He also said that coalition warplanes had conducted 6,516 airstrikes in Iraq and 3,266 airstrikes in Syria.

The coalition has recently ramped up attacks on ISIS’ finances, conducting nine strikes against buildings storing millions of dollars worth of ISIS cash that was being used to pay ISIS fighters.

According to Warren, this new line of attack meant that the coalition was “prepared to accept civilian casualties.”

During a previous strike against a cash storage facility, U.S. commanders had been willing to consider up to 50 civilian casualties due to the importance of the target. But Warren said that post-attack assessments indicated that casualties from all nine of the currency storage attacks were estimated to be in the single digits.

In recent weeks, the U.S. has said it will assess all targets on a case-by-case basis and may be more willing to tolerate civilian casualties for more significant targets.

According to Central Command, the release of these figures was part of its “commitment to transparency,” and it expressed the “deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and those affected” in doing so.

The U.S. had previously criticized the Russian air campaign in Syria for conducting indiscriminate attacks that have reportedly caused hundreds of civilian casualties.

The Russian Defense Ministry has denied the accusations, calling them lacking in evidence.