UK drone strike kills civilian in Syria admits MoD

For the first time, the Ministry of Defence has admitted a civilian death in its air campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.  The strike, from an RAF Reaper drone, occurred on 26 March according to a written statement by the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.  The strike itself was reported by the MoD on its website on 4 April.  It stated:

A Reaper tracked a group of terrorists in a vehicle in the Syrian Euphrates valley on Monday 26 March, and successfully destroyed it and its occupants with a precision Hellfire missile attack.

According to today’s written statement, at the last moment a civilian on a motorcycle entered the strike zone and was killed.

The admission comes – seemingly as a coincidence – the day after the BBC reported that a source inside the coalition fighting the Islamic State group has told the them that he believed civilians have been killed as a result of RAF air strikes.  Jonathan Beale, the BBC Defence correspondent writes:

The source, who has not been named to protect his identity, says it was “impossible” to conduct a bombing campaign in highly-populated areas, like Mosul, without killing civilians.

He said he had seen evidence that British airstrikes had caused civilian casualties “on several occasions”.  “To suggest they have not – as has been done – is nonsense,” he added.

To be clear, this admission from the MoD today, of a civilian killed in Syria, is separate from allegations of civilian casualties from British airstrikes in Iraq made by a whistle blower to the BBC.

Since September 2014, the UK has fired more than 3,700 missiles and bombs in Iraq and Syria.  UK air strikes  – and in particular, RAF drone strikes – have intensified in Syria over the past three months.

More soon.

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