Syria

Call For Britain To 'Come Clean' Over Civilian Deaths In Raqqa

Amnesty International says coalition campaign was indiscriminate...

Picture: PA

The US-led coalition campaign to liberate the Syrian city of Raqqa from the so-called Islamic State killed hundreds of civilians and injured thousands, a charity has claimed.

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the start of the offensive, Kate Allen, the Director of Amnesty International UK, said Britain "needs to come clean over its role in this carnage".

In its report, War Of Annihilation: Devastating Toll On Civilians, Raqqa, Amnesty claims coalition air and artillery strikes

"appear either disproportionate or indiscriminate or both and as such unlawful and potential war crimes".

RAF Tornado

The four-month coalition military operation to push IS fighters from Raqqa, the capital of their so-called caliphate, began on June 6 2017 and was declared over on October 17 last year.

During the course of the operation homes, buildings and much of the city and its infrastructure were "damaged beyond repair" after tens of thousands of strikes, the report states.

Across two weeks Amnesty researchers visited 42 coalition air strike sites and interviewed 112 survivors and witnesses - who told of the destruction caused by the aerial bombardments.

"The coalition's operations in Raqqa have killed hundreds and injured thousands of civilians and the UK needs to come clean over its role in this carnage.

"Having conducted more than 200 airstrikes in Raqqa, the UK needs to be able to show that its targeting was proportionate and that it took proper measures to avoid unnecessary civilian casualties in its joint operations with the US and others.

"Instead of repeating a mantra about there being 'no evidence' of civilian casualties from UK air strikes, the Ministry of Defence should publish proper data about its Raqqa attacks - dates, times, locations, weapons used and intended targets."

Operation Shader Air strike
Picture: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE

The UK is among 75 members that make up the Global Coalition against IS - with the RAF so far carrying out more than 1,600 air strikes as part of Operation Shader.

On 2 May, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said that a UK drone missile killed a civilian on a motorcycle in eastern Syria in March.

It was the first time the Ministry of Defence admitted to a civilian being "unintentionally killed".

RAF Reaper

An MoD spokesman said:

“Keeping Britain safe from the threat of terrorism is the objective of this campaign and throughout we have been open and transparent, detailing each of our nearly 1,700 strikes, facilitating operational briefings and confirming when a civilian casualty had taken place.”

"We do everything we can to minimise the risk to civilian life through our rigorous targeting processes and the professionalism of the RAF crews but, given the ruthless and inhuman behaviour of Daesh, and the congested, complex urban environment in which we operate, we must accept that the risk of inadvertent civilian casualties is ever present."