Pentagon Calls Civilian Deaths ‘Acceptable’: UN Calls Deaths a ‘War Crime’

January 23rd, 2016 - by admin & Reuters & Al Jazeera America – 2016-01-23 22:01:19

Pentagon Admits to Killing More Civilians in Syria Strikes

Pentagon Admits to Killing
More Civilians in Syria Strikes

Jason Ditz /

(January 22, 2016) — Though initial reports suggested that the Pentagon was going to offer a more significant number of admissions of civilian casualties in their airstrikes against ISIS, today the Pentagon only admitted to two more civilians killed, both Syrians, in a pair of strikes against Raqqa in July.

The strikes on July 4 and 17, according to the Pentagon statement, killed two civilians and wounded four others. Centcom spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder insisted that ISIS was to blame for the deaths because they operate in “populated areas.”

Col. Ryder said the current assessment is that the US strikes against ISIS have “likely” killed 16 people. This is dramatically fewer than the number reported by various human rights groups and other observers, who have put the probable civilian death toll in the hundreds.

In addition to the CENTCOM toll, the Pentagon has confirmed two different incidents this month alone, both against Mosul, and both of which killed a number of civilians. In each case, the Pentagon bragged that the civilians killed were an “acceptable” number, and far fewer than if they’d launched those attacks at different times of day.

Pentagon: New Mosul Strike Destroyed
More Cash, Killed ‘Acceptable’ Number of Civilians

Jason Ditz /

(January 20, 2016) — Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren has confirmed that on Monday, the US launched its second attack on an ISIS “cash collection point” in as many weeks, destroying another pile of unspecified cash in the middle of the large city of Mosul.

As with the previous incident, there were reports of civilian casualties in the attack, though Col. Warren insisted the Pentagon was willing to accept some civilian deaths in the attack, and that the initial estimates were that they only killed “in the single digits.”

Pentagon officials had similarly indicated that in the previous attack they were “comfortable” with civilian casualties in the scores, but that they believed they’d only killed between 7-9. Those deaths have not been formally confirmed by the Pentagon, however, who usually denies reports of civilian deaths as a matter of course.

Col. Warren termed the killings “tragic” but did not indicate that the Pentagon had any qualms about launching such attacks, but warned that ISIS was likely to keep its cash in smaller amounts spread around multiple locations in the future to keep it from getting blown up.

While the first such strike was believed to have destroyed a few million dollars in cash, this latest strike is conspicuous in its lack of details, with officials making no attempt to estimate what they actually destroyed, suggesting the figure will seem less impressive, and less worth the casualties inflicted on the civilian population.

Of course, launching strikes that they know will kill civilian bystanders is widely held to be illegal under international law, and officials made a big deal with the previous attack about launching the strike late at night to limit the number of people around the area. In this case, no such assurances were given.

Recent Strike Targets Mosul
‘Cash Collection Point’: US Military

Idrees Ali / Reuters

WASHINGTON (January 20, 2016) — US-led coalition air strikes hit a “cash collection point” in the Islamic State’s northern Iraqi stronghold of Mosul on Monday, bringing the total strikes on these targets to nine in Iraq and Syria, a US military spokesman said.

“This was the second strike in Mosul in as many weeks against ISIL financial targets,” Army Colonel Steve Warren told a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, using another name for Islamic State. Warren said the coalition had been prepared to accept “some” civilian casualties with the strike.

“Yes, we were prepared to accept civilian casualties in conjunction with this cash strike, it’s tragic and it’s not something that we want to do,” Warren said. He added that initial estimates showed civilian casualties were low and in the “single digits.”

Targeting Islamic State’s finances is a key part of the coalition’s strategy to defeat the group. Iraq’s finance minister last year said the militants had looted nearly half a billion dollars from banks in Mosul and the other northern cities of Tikrit and Baiji after its lightning dash across the Syrian border in 2014.

Warren said that along with strikes on Islamic State oil facilities, strikes on the collection points were having an impact.

“As we strike the Daesh cash, as we call it here in Iraq, we are going to see them react to our strikes, whether it’s storing their cash in smaller amounts, in multiple locations, or whether it’s moving it more often, we don’t want to tip them off to what we see,” Warren said. Daesh is an Arab acronym for Islamic State.

He added that it was unclear whether currency was in dollars or dinars, and while the exact amount destroyed in the strikes was not known, it was roughly “tens of millions of dollars.”

According to Pentagon data, between July 1 and Jan. 13, the coalition reported that it had hit three cash distribution points — one in Mosul and two in Dayr Az Zawr.

Additional reporting by David Alexander.

Russian, Syrian Airstrikes Kill
More than 100 in Mostly ISIL-controlled Areas

Reuters & Al Jazeera America

(January 23, 2016) — Air raids killed scores of people over the past 24 hours in the provinces of Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in northern and eastern Syria, which are mostly controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) combatants, a monitoring group said on Saturday.

Air strikes carried out by Russian or Syrian warplanes killed at least 29 people in the town of Khasham near the city of Deir al-Zor on Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The death toll in two other towns near Deir al-Zor reached 44, in strikes also carried out by Russian or Syrian warplanes the day before, it said. In Raqqa city, ISIL’s de facto capital in Syria, at least 32 people were killed.

Russian jets have been bombing around Deir al-Zor as Syrian pro-government forces clash with ISIL fighters, who control most of the province. The group has besieged remaining government-held areas of the city since last March and last week launched new attacks.

In Raqqa, Russian warplanes have been bombarding ISIL positions. Jets from a US-led coalition have separately struck the group in both Raqqa and Deir al-Zor provinces.

The United States says most of Russia’s airstrikes in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad are targeting non-ISIL groups in the west of the country, including foreign-backed fighters.

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