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.