British forces killed multiple civilians in Mosul during anti-ISIS airstrikes in 2016-17, says investigation 

A investigation carried out by The Guardian and anti-war organization Airwars busts the UK  government’s claims that its forces did not kill any civilians during the war in Iraq

March 23, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
UK civilian killings in war against ISIS
(Photo: RAF)

A joint investigation by UK-based newspaper The Guardian and non-profit watchdog Airwars claimed that multiple airstrikes carried out by the UK’s Royal Air Force in the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2016–17 were responsible for killing several civilians.

The findings of the investigation, published on March 21, directly contradict claims by the UK government and its armed forces that airstrikes they conducted in Iraq targeting terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) were ‘precision strikes’ and did not harm or kill a single non-combatant. 

Despite the US-led coalition having accepted that airstrikes in Iraq and Syria had killed at least 1,437 civilians, the UK—a prominent part of the coalition—has consistently denied being responsible for even a single civilian death.  

The US and its Western allies launched a joint operation called ‘Inherent Resolve’ to defeat ISIS in 2014, after it had captured large parts of Iraq and Syria. The combined air forces of the coalition carried out thousands of air strikes in both countries between 2014 and 2021, and claimed to have killed thousands of ISIS members. 

Airwars has also raised questions regarding the figures of civilian deaths the US-led coalition has admitted to, and estimates a death toll of over 13,000 civilians in airstrikes. 

The investigation invalidates the British military’s claims that it waged a “perfect” war against ISIS. It has also claimed that its airstrikes in Iraq and Syria killed 3,052 and 1,017 terrorists, respectively. The respective figures of civilian deaths admitted by the British in these strikes stood at zero and one, respectively.

The Guardian and Airwars claimed that their investigation establishes that civilians were killed in at least six specific airstrikes in which UK forces were involved in the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2016. The report noted that the US-led coalition has accepted killing at least 26 civilians in those airstrikes, without specifying which country’s forces were responsible.   

An additional two civilian deaths have been attributed by the joint investigation to another airstrike in January 2017. The Guardian and Airwars claimed that those airstrikes were also carried out by the British air force. 

The UK government has been repeatedly acused by human rights groups and the relatives of those killed in different countries of hiding the actual number of civilians killed by its forces in order to protect its own image and to avoid criticisms of such illegitimate overseas operations.