Deadly air strike: Australia admits 'may have killed' civilians in Mosul raid

03 Février, 2019, 02:06 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld

However, the exact number of casualties will never be known, nor their definitive cause of death.

The investigation found the strikes occurred during operations to re-take West Mosul as Islamic State fighters were also attacking civilians and army forces with small arms, heavy machine guns, mortars and rocket propelled grenades.

As they advanced through the neighbourhood of Al Shafaar, Iraqi soldiers spotted three heavily-armed IS fighters holed up inside a building and four more in an adjacent courtyard.

The Australian pilots aboard Super Hornets joined the fleet once their mission was legally cleared. "We take all feasible precautions to minimise civilian casualties".

"Once again, the Australian government has proven more willing to take responsibility for causing loss of civilian life than its Coalition partners, including the UK, USA and France".

"The Australian platform was operating entirely within the rules of engagement and under the law of warfare and so there will be no discipline for the pilots involved", he said.

"Our pilots and decision makers involved in the targeting process do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties, but sometimes it is not possible".

'This is an extraordinary thing to ask of our young men and women, the gravity of which is not lost on any of us'.

Chief of Joint Operations, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, said any loss of civilian life was always regrettable and treated seriously.

The strike happened in June 2017 as Iraqi ground forces under heavy fire advanced on IS positions.

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"Based on the proximity of the enemy to the Iraqi forces, the nature of the target, and the circumstances of the fighting in Mosul at the time, this action complied with Australia's rules of engagement and the laws of armed conflict", he said.

There is now no specific intelligence to indicate civilians were present at the targeted site, but the ADF said it was impossible to be sure under the urgent circumstances facing the Iraqi forces at the time.

However, he was careful not to blame Iraq for the incident.

It was alleged that up to 34 people may have been killed as result of the raid that targeted a courtyard and a building, both believed to be IS outposts in the area.

'The action in Mosul was the most ferocious air campaign that we have seen in our generation.

Despite post-strike surveys failing to detect civilian deaths, "credible" reports of casualties later emerged, Air Marshal Hupfeld said.

Australia has previously announced involvement in three separate potential civilian casualty allegations resulting from strikes conducted during Operation Okra.

The bombing mission occurred in June 2017 during the battle to reclaim the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants.

Australia was not made aware of the allegations its forces had been involved in civilian deaths during the strike until January 2018.

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