Australian airstrike “likely” to have killed Iraqi newlyweds

29 March 2018

Australian airstrike “likely” to have killed Iraqi newlyweds

Image credit: Tasnim News Agency

After “two thorough investigations”, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) has concluded a newly married husband and wife were likely killed and two young children injured by an Australian airstrike on the Iraqi city of Mosul on 3 May 2017.

The ADF said the investigations have confirmed civilian casualties were likely when a RAAF Super Hornet launched a GPS-guided bomb at a building in West Mosul where a pair of Islamic State (IS) snipers were engaged in heavy fighting with local forces, according to the ABC.

“On the balance of probabilities, our strike resulted in the death of two people and the injury of two others,” said deputy chief of joint operations Major General Greg Bilton.

The strike occurred at the peak of the Coalition-led battle to liberate Mosul from IS militants.

Major General Bilton said: “A single precision-guided munition was released, hitting the second storey, collapsing the defensive fighting position inside the building. We deeply regret the loss of civilians, and it’s not lost on people that this has happened, but at the same time we pride ourselves on trying to have absolutely zero civilian casualties.”

An eyewitness account of the event was told to Amnesty International, who then passed on the information to Airwars, a non-profit transparency project which monitors conflicts, which prompted the investigations.

“We were getting dressed to leave and my brother’s family were still getting dressed and putting jackets on the children. I set off with my wife and children and we turned the corner and heard an airstrike. I ran back and the house had caved in. My brother died. My sister-in-law … also died. There were no Daesh around otherwise how could I have just walked out of my house?” — Eyewitness quoted in the Airwars report.

Defence Minister Marise Payne called the deaths “very regrettable”, but said, “I think it’s very important for us to recognise what a very complex urban environment this was, and the fact we are operating in a war zone. Our operators work to the highest standards but regrettably incidents like this happen.”

The unidentified eyewitness said the two children injured in the airstrike are his one-and-a-half-year-old nephew and his two-year-old niece.