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Nov. 20: U.S. Air Forces Central Command completes Iraq civilian casualty investigation

Release No: UNRELEASED Nov. 20, 2015 PRINT | E-MAIL

November, 20, 2015
RELEASE #20151120-01
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

TAMPA, Fla. The finding and recommendations of a U.S. Air Forces Central Command investigation into allegations that Coalition airstrikes against an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) checkpoint March 13, 2015, near al Hatra, Iraq, resulted in civilian casualties was released today by U.S. Central Command.

The preponderance of the evidence gathered during the investigation indicates that the airstrikes likely resulted in the deaths of four non-combatants. According to the report, one of the non-combatants may have been a child. However, no positive identification can be made with reasonable certainty as to gender or age without further forensic examination or other evidence that is not available to the Coalition. Lt. Gen. John Hesterman III, then U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander, directed an investigation into the allegations on April 20, 2015, and approved the findings of the investigation on June 28, 2015.

Prior to the strike, the target was thoroughly reviewed and validated as an ISIL checkpoint. Before the airstrike, two vehicles approached the checkpoint and parked within the target area. The drivers of those vehicles
left their cars and interacted with the ISIL checkpoint personnel for a period of time while other vehicles continued to pass through the checkpoint. Aircrews relayed this new information to the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) staff. Based on the actions being observed, aircrew and CAOC personnel assessed that the checkpoint, additional vehicles, and additional personnel were lawful targets consistent with the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) at the time the weapon was released on the target area.

The investigation concluded that the airstrikes resulted in the destruction of the intended target, and that the two vehicles parked at the checkpoint were also hit. Upon further review, it was determined that all ordnance functioned properly and accurately struck the intended target.

The investigation concluded that the airstrikes were conducted in accordance with applicable military authorizations, targeting guidance, and LOAC. The target engaged was a valid military target, and the LOAC principles of military necessity, proportionality, and distinction were observed. All reasonable measures were taken to avoid unintended deaths of or injuries to non-combatants by reviewing the targets thoroughly prior to engagement, relying on accurate assessments of the targets, and engaging the targets when the risk to non-combatants was thought to be minimized.

"We regret the unintentional loss of lives and keep those families affected in our thoughts," said Lt. Gen. CQ Brown, U.S. Air Forces Central Command commander. "The Coalition continues to take all reasonable measures during the targeting process to reduce as much as possible risks to non-combatants. Our goal is to defeat Daesh, a terrorist organization that continuously wraps itself around the population, and we do everything we can to prevent unintended deaths or injuries to non-combatants."

The redacted report of the investigation has been released and is available at USCENTCOM's Freedom of Information Act Reading Room at https://www2.centcom.mil/sites/foia/rr/centcom%20regulation%20ccr%2025210/forms/allitems.aspx?RootFolder=/sites/foia/rr/CENTCOM%20Regulation%20CCR%2025210/CIVCAS%20Investigations