US military investigations reveal 45 civilians died in coalition strikes
The Pentagon said Sunday that the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Syria killed 45 civilians in airstrikes between November and early March of this year.
The new findings resulted from investigations into nine airstrikes that were part of the broader campaign against the Islamic State. The figures did not include results from an ongoing investigation into a March 17 attack in Mosul that local residents said killed scores of innocent people.
The Pentagon also said that a review of airstrikes dating back to August 2014 found that the U.S. military and its coalition partners were responsible for an additional 80 civilian deaths that had not been announced.
The new numbers for Iraq and Syria include the deaths of 11 civilians killed during an airstrike on an Islamic State checkpoint near the Iraqi village of Hatra in March 2015.
The U.S. military reopened its investigation into that strike last summer after a Washington Post report identified flaws in the initial probe of the attack, which concluded that only four civilians were killed.
The military's first investigation into the Hatra attack was prompted by an email from a woman in Iraq who said that her 2011 Kia Sorento was stopped at Islamic State checkpoint when a "missile of the international air forces struck the checkpoint."
Inside the Kia, along with the driver, were three women and two children, she said. The car was traveling with a GMC Suburban that was also destroyed in the attack, killing the driver and an Iraqi police colonel's wife, his 9-year-old daughter and his two sons, ages 10 and 16.
Military investigators reviewed surveillance footage from the attack and concluded that four civilians, visible in the moments before and after the strike, were killed. But the investigators never contacted Raja'a Zidan al-Ekabee, who wrote the email, alerting them to their mistake.
They also never contacted the Iraqi police colonel who was in Baghdad and was waiting for his family to join him when the GMC was struck.
After the strike, the police colonel's commander took his weapon from him because he worried that the man might attempt suicide. "I never received the bodies," the police colonel said in an interview with The Post last year. "The people of Mosul buried them."
The Pentagon has acknowledged that it is likely to have killed at least 352 civilians over the course of more than 42,000 engagements since August 2014. Military analysts and human rights activists said those figures vastly understate the civilian casualties caused by U.S. airstrikes.
In Afghanistan, for example, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan found that at least one civilian died for every 11 U.S. airstrikes. The current Pentagon figures for Iraq and Syria estimate one civilian fatality for every 120 strikes.