Canada Accused of Killing Iraqi Civilians
August 30, 2015
AntiWar.com & The Associated Press & The Canadian Press & The Globe and Mail
Early in their involvement in the air war against ISIS, Canadian military officials were insisting regularly that they were "confident" no civilians were being killed in any of the strikes. This was in keeping with the Pentagon narrative, that irrespective of allegations of a huge toll, none of the dead were civilians. now it is revealed that Canadian pilots actually were accused, in mid-January, of killing civilians on the outskirts of Mosul, but the military didn't discuss the issue.
Canadian Warplanes Accused of Killing Iraqi Civilians
Jason Ditz AntiWar.com
(August 28, 2015) -- Early in their involvement in the air war against ISIS, Canadian military officials were insisting regularly that they were "confident" no civilians were being killed in any of the strikes. This was in keeping with the Pentagon narrative, that irrespective of allegations of a huge toll, none of the dead were civilians.
While the public denials sort of died down after awhile, the Canadian military never really addressed the matter again, and now it is revealed that Canadian pilots actually were accused, in mid-January, of killing civilians on the outskirts of Mosul, but the military didn't discuss the issue. [See story below -- EAW]
Defense Minister Jason Kenney even told reporters earlier this month that he was "not aware" of a single allegation of civilian deaths, even though the military is now conceding that they knew of the allegations since January. It is unclear if they kept the DM in the dark on the matter.
The new revelations are that the Pentagon actually carried out an investigation into the reported killings, though the Canadian military insists they don't have enough information on the incident to conduct an investigation of their own, and called for anyone with information to "come forward."
Canadian Fighter Pilots Accused of Killing Civilians: Report
The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. (August 28, 2015) -- The American-led coalition says other air strikes were conducted on the same day and in the same vicinity where Canadian CF-18 warplanes were accused of causing civilian casualties in January.
A spokesman for the US Central Command, which oversees the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, confirms the Canadian military was advised of the allegation involving attacks that took place near Mosul on Jan. 21.
Lt.-Cmdr. Kyle Raines wouldn't say which other countries carried out missions at the same time in the vicinity of Iraq's second largest city, which has been occupied by Islamic State fighters since the summer of 2014. But he did confirm Canadians were notified of a coalition investigation.
He also said the investigation involving the CF-18s was wrapped up with no evidence to support the claim of civilian casualties. However, Raines says the investigation could be reopened if new information comes to light.
Canadian Commander: Strikes on ISIS in Iraq Sparing Civilians
Murray Brewster / The Canadian Press
(January 8, 2015) -- Canadian fighter bombers have conducted a total of seven attacks in Iraq over the last couple of weeks and their commander is confident none of them caused civilian casualties.
Brig.-Gen. Dan Constable held a conference call Thursday with an update on the combat mission, the first since the US announced it was reviewing data surrounding two coalition bombing missions -- one in Iraq, the other in Syria.
The US Central Command, which oversees coalition operations, says it is investigating those strikes and examining the results of three other missions to see if reviews are warranted.
Since Canada joined the bombing campaign in late October, Canadian military officials have said they are confident no civilians have been hurt by CF-18 missions.
Constable said Canadian missions are not part of the coalition investigation.
"That I am aware of, we have not had any reporting of any civilian casualties associated with any of our strikes," he said.
Washington took a similar line until just recently when it acknowledged it is looking into claims that innocents were caught in 18 separate strikes aimed at Islamic State militants. Most of the accusations relate to missions in Syria.
Canadian warplanes don't operate over Syria.
Over 200 Canadian Sorties
A US military official, in a statement released earlier this week, said the cases under active investigation were flagged by the military's own review of the damage and not by complaints.
Canadian fighters, as of Wednesday, had flown over 200 sorties in support of the air campaign to dislodge the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant from territory it seized last summer.
Some of the more recent strikes -- including missions on Dec. 19, 20 and Jan. 1 -- were in support of Kurdish peshmerga forces. They recently broke the roughly four-month siege of Mount Sinjar, where more than 10,000 Yazidis fled in August to escape massacres. It was their plight that prompted the US to organize the air campaign.
Although Islamic State militants have been driven back, published reports in the region say the extremists are shifting resources into the area in order to keep the road to Mosul open. Iraq's second-largest city is a major stronghold for the extremists and is expected to be the focus of a major government offensive in the coming weeks.
No 'Perfect War'
A defence expert in Washington says limiting civilian casualties is important, but the US should not let the fear of it paralyze the air campaign. The coalition has a responsibility to uphold the laws of war, but it is facing an enemy that deliberately uses civilians as shields and will exploit western integrity to its advantage.
"Human rights and the laws of war become political and military weapons in the hands of terrorists and extremists that have no practical limits and constraints," said Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
While the US and Canada have fought these kinds of wars before in Afghanistan, Cordesman says the Islamic State has brought the use of human shields to a higher level.
There is no such thing as a "perfect war," he says.
"The United States is also again fighting a movement in the Islamic State (or Daesh) which will do everything possible to exaggerate civilian casualties for propaganda purposes, claim its own casualties are civilians and claim its own facilities are civilian facilities."
The Pentagon, however, acknowledged this week the reports it has received come from various sources, including the media, non-governmental organizations and other US government agencies.
(c) The Canadian Press, 2015
US Investigated Civilian Deaths
Following Canadian Mission in Iraq
Murray Brewster / The Canadian Press
MONTREAL (August 28, 2015) -- The American headquarters overseeing the war against Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria says there were multiple air strikes in Iraq on the same day and in the same vicinity where Canadian CF-18s were accused of causing civilian casualties.
There were potentially 19 bombing raids on Mosul, carried out by several coalition countries, around the same time, according to statistics compiled by the US Central Command.
Canadian warplanes were involved in two separate missions, but one of them involved three bombing runs.
A spokesman for Central Command, which manages the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, confirms the Canadian military was advised of the allegation involving airstrikes that took place near Mosul on Jan. 21.
Lt.-Cmdr. Kyle Raines wouldn't say which other countries carried out missions at the same time -- or whether they were also investigated. The attacks happened during a period of intense fighting between Kurdish forces and extremists in the vicinity of Iraq's second largest city, which has been occupied by Islamic State fighters since the summer of 2014.
The coalition command logs daily air strikes over a 24-hour period beginning at 8 a.m. US figures show there were three missions over Mosul on Jan. 20-21 and a further 16 on Jan. 21-22.
He also said aircraft involved in the strikes that day were not American and the investigation involving the CF-18s was wrapped up with no evidence to support the claim.
"It is no longer under investigation," Raines said in a telephone interview from Tampa, Fla., where the US command is located.
However, he said the investigation could be reopened if new information comes to light.
The Canadian military has denied that the attacks against extremist targets killed civilians.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, whose party opposed the extension of the bombing campaign last spring, said the report is troubling, especially since the Harper government didn't reveal the allegation before MPs voted on the extension.
"These are very serious allegations, but we need to know more about them," Trudeau said Friday, during a campaign stop in Montreal.
"One of the things that has been consistent from this government has been a lack of openness and transparency, even on issues as important as our engagements around the world with Canadian military forces."
The Canadian military was notified on Jan. 31 that the US headquarters had conducted an investigation and had closed the book on the allegations.
Spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said, to date, Canada has not conducted its own independent investigation and is satisfied with the American-led review.
Canadian officials did check their own records.
"Furthermore, it was re-confirmed that the target was a valid military objective from which ISIS was firing a heavy machine gun at Iraqi Kurdish troops," said Lemire. "The area in question is still within ISIS-held territory."
For that reason, Raines said, follow-up is tough.
(c) The Canadian Press, 2015
Canadian Armed Forces Accused of
Killing Civilians in Iraq Air Strike
Steven Chase / The Globe and Mail
OTTAWA (August 28, 2015) -- Canadian fighter pilots have been accused of killing civilians during a Jan. 21 air strike in Iraq -- an allegation the military has kept under wraps until now.
The Canadian Armed Forces, which revealed this information in response to a question from The Globe and Mail, say they've nevertheless found no evidence to back up this accusation.
The military has been asked repeatedly since last fall whether Canadian CF-18 Hornets have inadvertently killed or injured civilians during the United States-led air war against Islamic State terrorists. This is the first time it's been revealed such an allegation has been made.
The Forces say they are inviting anyone with more information to step forward.
"In January, 2015, information came to the Canadian Armed Forces that there might have been civilian casualties as a result of a strike by our CF-18s," said Captain Kirk Sullivan of Canadian Joint Operations Command. "The source of this allegation had himself heard of these potential casualties through a second-hand account."
The military said it's willing to collect more evidence and investigate if circumstances warrant.
"Any agency with information that would indicate potential civilian casualties, or aid in clarifying existing allegations, is encouraged to provide it to the Canadian Armed Forces so that it may pursue it with the coalition," Capt. Sullivan said.
Canada's CF-18s have been bombing targets in Iraq since November, 2014, as part of the United States-led air bombing campaign to help Iraqi ground forces recapture their country from extremists who have seized large swaths of territory. Canada also began air strikes in Syria in April, 2015, after the Conservative-dominated House of Commons voted to expand the bombing campaign.
Divulging the allegation about the January air strike is a change from the Forces' line on the matter as recently as seven weeks ago.
On July 9, military spokesman Paul Forget, a naval captain, was asked at a media briefing whether the military was aware of any civilian casualties, "or possible civilian casualties," as a result of the air-strike campaign. He didn't mention this accusation.
"Canada is quite confident that with all the strikes that we've executed, there is absolutely no evidence of civilian casualties associated with our strikes," the officer told reporters.
Defence Minister Jason Kenney also told reporters in early August that he knew of no cases in which there were civilian casualties caused by Canadian bombs in the war on the Islamic State -- also referred to as ISIS or ISIL.
"All I can tell you is we're not aware of any claims of civilian casualties as a result of the RCAF bombing ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria, and I believe the United States is only aware of one," Mr. Kenney, currently running for re-election, said Aug. 3.
Yet the Canadian military now says it's known of this allegation for about seven months.
The military says after it learned of this accusation -- which it did not elaborate on -- there was further scrutiny of photos and videos of the Jan. 21 air strike but these yielded no proof civilians were killed during the attack on Islamic State forces.
"The coalition headquarters conducted a review of all available, reliable imagery and video. The review uncovered no evidence of civilian casualties," Capt. Sullivan said.
The review of the Jan. 21 bombing was conducted by the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve headquarters, the Forces say.
The military says the bombing in question took place northwest of Mosul when CF-18 jets were flying a coalition mission in support of Iraqi security forces on the ground. In January, the Forces said in a news release that the Hornets had struck an Islamic State "fighting position."
Capt. Sullivan said the military remains confident the targeting was justified.
"It was reconfirmed that the target was a valid military objective from which ISIS was firing a heavy machine gun . . . at Iraqi Kurdish troops," the officer said. "The area in question is still within ISIS-held territory."
The Forces say they didn't consider it necessary to make public this particular allegation because there was insufficient evident to mount a formal investigation.
They could not sufficiently explain Thursday evening precisely why they have now decided to make the allegation public.
Citing "security reasons," the military is refusing to identify the source of the allegation -- and whether this person is civilian or a soldier -- and is referring further questions on the complainant to US Central Command.
Canada's participation in the United States-led campaign against Islamic State militants is projected to cost more than half a billion dollars by March, 2016 -- with the majority of the expenses to come from the air war, which also includes surveillance planes and a refueller.
With a report from Oliver Sachgau
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