Australian Defense Force officials admitted that a 2017 airstrike by the country’s jet fighters on the northern Iraqi city of Mosul has claimed the lives of six to 18 civilians.
The defense minister, Christopher Pyne, described the deaths as “deeply regrettable” but said a 12-month investigation into the airstrike on June 13, 2017 could not come to a conclusion over who was at fault.
“After a thorough investigation conducted by the Australian Defense Force it’s been determined that between six and 18 civilians were killed in a coalition airstrike and that an Australian platform may have been part of that airstrike [and] may have been responsible,” Pyne told the Nine Network.
He said it was “not possible” to determine which missiles were responsible and if the casualties “occurred as a result of the Australian airstrike, the nearby Coalition airstrikes, or from other actors.”
In a briefing, the chief of joint operations, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, said there was no “specific intelligence” indicating civilians were present at the targeted site but admitted there was “a degree of uncertainty surrounding this incident.”
“We know that the Australian strike does not precisely correspond with the information provided in the claim, however it was close by. We do not definitively know how these people were killed,” he said.
“Ultimately we have determined that it is possible civilians were unintentionally killed by the Coalition during these strikes.”
Australia has previously announced “involvement” in three separate reports where civilians were among the death toll from airstrikes which formed part of the Mosul offensive, Operation Okra, in March, May and June 2017.
Australia was part of a US-led coalition which has been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria since 2014 allegedly targeting Daesh and other Takfiri terrorists. The raids, which did little to dislodge the terror outfits, on numerous occasions claimed many civilian lives and inflicted damage on the two countries’ infrastructure.
In a report released on December 30, 2018, the US military admitted killing over 1,100 civilians in airstrikes over the last four years.
War monitoring groups, however, estimate that the raids have killed thousands of civilians.
“The Coalition conducted a total of 31,406 strikes between August 2014 and end of November 2018. During this period, based on information available, CJTF-OIR assesses at least 1,139 civilians have been unintentionally killed by Coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve,” said the report.