A freshly married couple in Iraq are feared to have been killed, and two children injured, by an RAAF airstrike on Mosul in 2017. The ADF (Australian Defence Force) has outlined two “thorough investigations” that have decided that casualties of civilians were a probability when an Super Hornet fired a guided bomb into a building where ISIS (Islamic State) snipers were fighting local forces.
Major General Greg Bilton, the deputy chief of joint operations, said that “on the balance of probabilities” the airstrike could be confirmed to have caused the “death of two people” as well as “the injury of two others”.
The airstrike took place on the 3rd of May during the most chaotic moments of the intense 8 month battle for Mosul. Maj Bilton said that “a single precision guided munition” was fired an collapsed the “defensive fighting position” that was within the building.
Maj Bilton went on to say that they “deeply regret the loss of civilians” but that the ADF prided itself on attempting to always have “zero civilian casualties”.
The investigations were launched following eyewitness testimony that was presented to Amnesty International which passed the information onto Airwars. Airwars is an international project that works to monitor the harm of civilians in military actions.
The testimony said that they were leaving the house when they heard an airstrike hit where there brother and wife lived. They said that there were no ISIS fighters around at the time otherwise they would not have been able to walk out of their homes.
Marise Payne, Australian Defence Minister, said that the deaths were “very regrettable” but reaffirmed that the RAAF did everything it could to prevent civilian deaths.
Payne said that it was “very important” to acknowledge that the strike occurred in a “complex urban environment” and that they were operating in a “war zone”. She said that Australian pilot always work to the “highest standards” but that “incident like this happen”.
Senator Payne also said that ISIS fighters would routinely use civilians as human shields and she rejected the claim that there were no enemies inside the building. She said that the strike only took place because of corroborated reports that Iraqi forces were under attack by snipers in that particular building.
The attack, which killed the couple that had been married only 20 days earlier, took place in the West Mosul neighbourhood of Islah al Zirae. The testimony reported that ISIS fighters hid “between” the civilians and that it was impossible for them not to obey their commands.