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US-led air strikes against IS 'have killed hundreds of civilians'

Published 03/08/2015

Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armoured vehicle in Mosul (AP)
Fighters from the Islamic State group parade in a commandeered Iraqi security forces armoured vehicle in Mosul (AP)

Bombings carried out by the US-led coalition targeting the Islamic State group are likely to have killed hundreds of civilians, an independent monitoring group said.

The report by Airwars, a project aimed at tracking the international air strikes on IS, says it counted at least 459 suspected civilian fatalities in 57 strikes it believes the coalition carried out in Iraq and Syria over the last year.

It added that the same air strikes also caused at least 48 suspected "friendly fire" deaths.

The report said efforts to limit the risk to civilians are hampered by an absence of effective transparency and accountability from nearly all coalition members.

So far, the US has acknowledged killing two civilians in its strikes.

The coalition made no immediate comment on the report.

The US launched air strikes in Iraq on August 8 last year and in Syria on September 23 to target IS.

A coalition of countries later joined to help allied ground forces in both countries defeat the extremists.

To date, the coalition has launched more than 5,800 air strikes in both countries.

The two civilian deaths the US has acknowledged were children killed in an air strike targeting al-Qaida-linked militants in Syria last year. That same strike also injured two adults, according to an investigation released in May by the US military.

That strike is one of at least four ongoing US military investigations into allegations of civilian casualties resulting from the air strikes. One other probe into an air strike in Syria and two investigations into air strikes in Iraq are still pending.

The Airwars report said: "Almost all claims of non-combatant deaths from alleged coalition strikes emerge within 24 hours - with graphic images of reported victims often widely disseminated.

"In this context, the present coalition policy of downplaying or denying all claims of non-combatant fatalities makes little sense, and risks handing (the) Islamic State (group) and other forces a powerful propaganda tool."

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