Defence Minister Christopher Pyne has said that the RAAF will not punish Australian pilots involved in an airstrike that may have killed Iraqi civilians.
It has recently been revealed by officials in the Australian Defence Force that two RAAF planes had been part of a bombing run that killed between 6-18 Iraqi civilians. The estimated casualty count is based on projections of population density and not any physical investigation of the scene.
The bombing mission occurred in June 2017 during the battle to reclaim the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants. The airstrike was called in by Iraqi security forces who reported coming into contact with seven Islamic State fighters in a fortified position.
The two RAAF planes involved in the strike used GPS-guided bombs to destroy the target. It has now been confirmed that there were Iraqi civilians within close proximity of the blast.
However, officials could not confirm or deny whether Australian bombs were responsible for killing civilians.
Air Marshal Hupfeld said that “our air crew made no error in this mission,” arguing that Australian pilots would never take part in an airstrike unless they were fully satisfied that there was a low risk of civilian casualties. He added that if the proximity of civilians had been known, the air strike would never have been approved.
Air Marshal Hupfield did not rush to blame Iraqi security forces either, saying that they were in a tense combat situation when they ordered the strike. He said that it was “unfortunate” that civilians died “as a consequence of war”.
Defence Minister Christopher Pyne expressed regret that civilians perished in the airstrike, but defended Australian pilots saying that they operated completely within the rules of warfare. He added that there would be “no discipline” for the pilots as they “were doing exactly the jobs they were supposed to do”.
Last year there were similar fears that an Australian airstrike in May killed a pair of Iraqi newlyweds in the same battle.