This photo from the Kurdish-run Hawar News Agency shows fighters from the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces at a funeral procession in Tal Abyad, Syria, on April 13, 2017, for 18 comrades who were killed by a misdirected airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition. (Hawar News Agency via AP)
Two days ago, in the Los Angeles Times, Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Contact Reporter, recorded news issued by the U.S. Central Command – that a misdirected airstrike this week killed 18 friendly fighters who were fighting Islamic State alongside the international coalition in northern Syria. Coalition aircraft were given the wrong coordinates by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces for a strike intended to target militants south of their stronghold in Tabqa.
It is not clear how many friendly fire strikes there have been since the campaign began against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria in 2014.The coalition releases monthly reports of civilian casualties from airstrikes, both those confirmed and under investigation. But friendly fire strikes are tracked internally.
The London-based monitoring group Airwars, which works with the coalition to track airstrike casualties, has found 37 reported friendly fire strikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014. Four have been confirmed by the coalition, including the one in Tabqa, according to Airwars director Chris Wood. The others are:
- A strike on Dec. 18, 2015, in Fallujah that killed at least nine Iraqi soldiers and injured 32 more.
- A strike on Sept. 17, 2016, in Al Tharda, Syria that killed at least 15 friendly Syrian forces.
- A strike on Oct. 5, 2016, south of Mosul that killed 18 friendly Sunni tribal fighters.
“It’s very difficult to know how many more friendly fire events there have been since the coalition does not disclose this information,” Woods said, adding that it’s difficult to track total casualties from the strikes, and their estimates vary widely.
U.S. Army Col. Joe Scrocca, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the coalition, said he was “not aware of those incidents; we do not keep cumulative data on them, so I cannot readily verify their validity.”
More have been reported in Iraq, where there have been 224 to 419 suspected friendly fire casualties from coalition strikes, than in Syria, where there have been 35 to 86, Woods said.
Airwars site adds: latest Coalition report: April 13th – April 14th 2017: 14 new airstrikes
Information updated till December 2016