Can civilian deaths be avoided in RAF strikes on IS? – BBC News

In its fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) the RAF has carried out more than 1,000 air strikes and released more than 3,000 bombs and missiles since October 2014.

It says this is its “most challenging fight for decades” and yet has “no evidence” yet that it has caused any civilian casualties.

So far, the United States is the only coalition country to have claimed responsibility for civilian casualties, 484. But Airwars, a group monitoring reports of casualties from the ground, thinks that, with dozens more incidents still to be investigated, the real figure is much higher.

The fight against IS is now in its most difficult phase.

The reason is simple. The US-led coalition is trying to dislodge the extremists from their strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul – cities with tightly packed streets where they are hiding among the local population and using them as human shields. The risk of civilian casualties is extremely high.

Image caption Air Commodore Johnny Stringer oversees the RAF’s contribution to the US-led anti-IS coalition

I put it to Air Commodore Johnny Stringer, who is overseeing the UK’s contribution, that avoiding civilian casualties is simply not possible. He acknowledges that assessment might change over time. “We are human and not perfect,” he says, “but we are doing our damnedest” to get it right.

The US investigation into reported incidents of civilian casualties is being carried out by a small group of military personnel. The team of two was recently increased to six. Given the intensity of the battle on the ground they often have no access to the sites to speak to any eyewitnesses.

In contrast, Airwars, believes that at least 4,118 civilians have been killed. Before the offensive on Mosul began Airwars was investigating about 40 allegations of civilian casualties a month, but now it is up to 160.

For its part, the RAF says it is going out of its way to address worries about mistakes which might result in civilian casualties. The BBC has been told that in the second half of 2016 – when the offensive on Mosul began – the RAF either turned down, or asked for more intelligence about, half the targets it was given.

We asked Air Commodore Stringer specifically about Airwars’ allegation of 80 civilian casualties caused by non-US allies in the coalition. He was adamant the US had not shown him anything to suggest UK was one of those countries.

For the first time we’ve been allowed to interview some of the RAF crews involved in the mission about the challenges they are facing.

At RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus they talked us through some of the air strikes they have been conducting, using the cockpit footage that records every bomb dropped and missile fired. We agree not to use their full names to protect their identities.

James, a wing commander, flies in a Tornado. He tells me civilian casualties are the biggest risk to the mission because “if we cause them there’s pressure for us to stop”.

He shows me the imagery of a recent air strike on an IS artillery position hidden in the doorway of a high-rise building in Mosul. The aircrew has been directed to the target by Iraqi troops via an operations room on the ground.

That office can receive a feed of the cockpit video from the jet, flying tens of thousands of feet above, to make sure they are all looking at the right building.

There is a heat haze as the Tornado fires a Brimstone missile. It can be directed either by a laser or GPS. The aircrew can alter the trajectory, the line of attack and the timing of the fuse to limit the impact and collateral damage.

Image copyright MOD
Image caption Cockpit footage of an RAF air strike on an IS artillery position in Mosul

Seconds after it is fired, the Brimstone hits the doorway where the weapon has been hidden. Once the dust clears the building is still standing relatively unscathed.

James tells me the Tornados are now carrying more Brimstone missiles because their small explosive causes less damage than the larger Paveway bomb.

“Dave”, not his real name, operates a Reaper remotely-piloted aircraft. He shows me how they use the drone’s infrared sensor to detect the heat spot of a recently fired mortar hidden in a residential area. The only other heat spot is a motorcyclist, who clears a nearby road before the Reaper fires its Hellfire missile.

I ask “Dave” whether he can guarantee there will be zero civilian casualties. Even infrared sensors can’t see through walls. After a brief pause he admits its not possible to give that assurance. But, he says, they are doing everything in their power, including watching an area for hours, to protect civilian life.

Every member of the crew, he says, “wants to go home with a battle damage assessment that says no civilian casualties”.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many civilians have fled from IS-controlled areas of Mosul. Many others remain trapped

There have been suggestions the rules of engagement for coalition forces have been relaxed since the offensive on Mosul began.

Air Commodore Stringer insists there is still the same scrutiny and oversight for each target. But when aircrews need to act quickly in support of forces on the ground, they can decide to engage a target quickly. The process has been speeded up with decisions taken close to the battle.

There have also been reports that the UK has a “hit list” of British jihadis it is trying to kill in Iraq and Syria. Air Commodore Stringer insists there is no such list – but he adds that, by dint of their membership of IS they would, nevertheless, be legitimate targets.

The general election has thrown up questions about whether this kind of military intervention is fuelling the terrorist threat back home. Air Commodore Stringer says he struggles to make the connection.

“We have an opponent who just hates us and everything we stand for,” he says. “We have to deal with that and defeat them militarily. And that is why we’re here.”

They are fighting a brutal enemy, who unlike them, has no worries about killing civilians.

More From this publisher : HERE


  • ApeSurvival is all about survival and self-defense products, tips and news.
  • Change Your Mind, Change Your Life Influence Your Mind and Others.
  • The stunning secret of turning your wife on with the push of a button.
  • Join Our Community To Learn All About Commodity Trading And Show Off Your Trading Skills
  • Packed full of the info you need for profitable horse racing
  • Destroy workout plateaus and trash boring and outdated interval workout with 51 news
  • Put small animated peel image at the top corner right or left on webpage
  • Clickbank Ads

    If you like our content help us with a share… or two …  

    Also -  I have some free stuff for you .......

    Nr 1. In This FREE Report you can Discover:

    Secrets to acquiring the freshest, hottest leads via YouTube In-Stream ads quickly and easily! Best secret tips for the most effective targeting for your ads! Totally legal, but little-known method for literally stealing traffic from your competitors! Get more traffic to your videos and landing pages without spending a fortune! And much more - all within this special FREE report!


    Nr 2. Did you know you can Absolutely EXPLODE YOUR EMAIL LIST FOR FREE with UNTOUCHED offline sources?


    Nr 3. The #1 secret to becoming an affiliate superstar - Earn your first $100 online – without a dime to invest.

    If you’re still looking to “make it online – I have just the thing for you. It’s a video series that shows how to make your first $100 online – even if you don’t have a dime to invest. Yes – nothing.  Free.  Nada. Is this possible? You bet. It’s the most powerful system used by those “in the know”. Good things don’t have to be difficult. And they don’t only come to those who wait. Have A Look


    Nr 4. Top 10 Email Marketing Mistakes. Which of these mistakes do you make?


    Nr 5.  You can learn about : The hottest social networking site that will send an unlimited stampede of traffic to your site - for FREE! How to quickly locate a swarm of hungry buyers using "information portals"! The fast and easy way to use simple images to siphon targeted traffic, on command! Learn how to get the most possible traffic from Instagram, and make sure that traffic converts! And much more ...


    Nr 6. It’s no secret… Facebook is an incredible place to get tons of free, viral traffic. But… most people are going about it all wrong.  How many of these mistakes are you making? Download the free report to find out.


    Nr 7.  Special free report .  It's called "Operation Midas Touch" and you can download it here...

    The report features a surefire method for generating at least $1000 per week online,without a website or product of your own!

    Nr 8.  Instagram is still one of the hottest ways to get a LOT of traffic fast. All by sharing images. Sounds easy enough, yeah? Well, yes and no. If you want to really start driving a lot of  traffic and making sales using Instagram then you should download this report.

    Nr 9.  When it comes to creating a product online there are so many ways to approach it. Wouldn’t it be great to just get the meat of it all so you can get started faster? Well, the good news is, today you can download a guide called the Product Creation Formula Quickstart Guide. It’s as the title suggests - a Quickstart guide. You’ll get a list of action steps to take right away. Download your copy today !

    Nr 10. Would you like to finally USE all of that dusty PLR you have sitting around on your harddrive? Or maybe find the resources for the best PLR available - at the best prices? What about how to use that PLR to make you money with just a few minutes of work. Well, you’re not going to want to miss this!

      Nr 11. Buzzfeed’s top post has more than 21 million views. Think about that for a sec… ONE of their articles has had over 21 million people who have read it! And they have thousands of articles... what would you do with that kind of traffic? A friend of mine hacked their method and was able to use it to get 11,592 targeted new subscribers in 2 weeks on their very first attempt!

    Nr 12. Push notifications are one of today's hottest trends in website traffic and conversions, and for good reason. Studies have shown that as many as 40% of people will opt-in for push notifications, which is about TEN TIMES the rate of people who opt-in for emails! That’s huge! Not only that, but they're also highly effective at pulling clicks, as well. Some studies have shown CTR at an average of around 40%, with highs of as much as 80%! Again, that’s huge!

    Nr 13. Would you like to know how to get more money from the exact same number of website visitors you’re currently getting? Even if you’re website is getting as few as 1-2 visitors a day, this report will show you how to increase your profits using these few handy hacks.

    Nr 14. People have now realised that it's not the size of the list which matters, it's the quality. ... and the only way to create a quality list is by launching your own products. Let it be $7 ebooks, $17 info products, $27 video training product or software's... all of these work. My good friend Kevin Fahey has is revealing how he's launched over 20 products in the past 4 years, many of them top sellers. Needless to say he's banked a handsome amount in this time.

    Nr 15. Do you ever feel that the man you like or even love, just doesn't see you or desire you in way you want him to? Or... maybe you're able to get a man's attention though not the right kind of attention? Or... maybe you're still single because you wait and wait for men to approach you first? What you may not know is that the way we flirt will either attract the "wrong" man for us or the "right" man.

    Nr 16. When it comes to getting sales and leads online, there is ONE thing that 95% of marketers use... it's called a LIST. My friend Jimmy just released a free book that explains WHY a list is important and how YOU can build your own list. It's available right here (and it won't cost you a penny)

    Nr 17. If you have tried everything, and still aren't able to get your Ex back, then you need to pay attention.

    Nr 18. What if I told you that you could make ANY woman WANT to do ANYTHING for you? Would you think I'm crazy? Well... what If I told you that you could also make her LOVE every minute of it and come back for more?


    Nr 19. I have a special free plugin for you today. It's called "Covert Hover Mini"

    This plugin will triple your blog traffic by compelling your visitors to share your images on social media. This is some really clever stuff and it works like a charm. After you grab your free plugin, don't  forget to read the free bonus report as it will show exactly how and why this strategy works like crazy.

    Nr 20. The days of being able to get away with a basic WP theme and a pic or two are gone, your site needs to look good. Even Google are looking for you to have engaging graphics on your site. But getting good quality graphics made for your site is a pain, AND it will cost you both time and money (if you outsource it). But I have a special free download for you today. A virtual treasure chest of over 21K profit pulling graphics you can start sing today to generate more traffic & sales!

    Nr 21. 20 professional full HD background videos. These background videos are perfect for giving your videos that extra kick they need to stand out from the crowd Oh yeah they are in full 1080p HD too, I hope you'll enjoy them.

    Nr 22. If you've ever failed to create a WordPress site of your own or typically waste hours & even weeks trying to figure it all out on your own....

    Nr 23. No doubt, you've seen all of the video launches lately! There is a reason for it... Video marketing is a GREAT way to make money, and with the recent creation tools making it super accessable for anyone to get started... It's no surprise that more people are making videos. However... there is a missing element to most video marketing products...

    Nr 24. For the first time ever... You can get the straight scoop on how someone is selling over $1,000,000/year of t-shirts on Facebook!

    Use them  .... and have fun !