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US Says Its Airstrikes Killed 64 Civilians in Iraq, Syria

  • VOA News

FILE - Smoke rises after an airstrike by a U.S.-led coalition warplane as Iraqi security forces advance their position during heavy fighting against Islamic State militants in Fallujah, Iraq, June 14, 2016.

FILE - Smoke rises after an airstrike by a U.S.-led coalition warplane as Iraqi security forces advance their position during heavy fighting against Islamic State militants in Fallujah, Iraq, June 14, 2016.

The United States military said Wednesday its airstrike campaign targeting Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria killed 64 civilians and injured 8 others during the past year.

The new numbers released by U.S. Central Command bring the official total number of civilians killed since the operation began in August 2014 to 119 with another 37 injured.

Rights groups and monitors say the real number is much higher. Amnesty International reported in October that airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition appeared to have killed more than 300 people in Syria alone during the past two years.

Pentagon data shows U.S. forces are responsible for about two-thirds of all coalition airstrikes.

Wednesday's new casualty figures do not include an airstrike in July in the northern Syrian city of Manbij, where residents and rights groups said more than 50 civilians were killed. The U.S. military is still investigating that attack.

Central Command spokesman Col. John Thomas said there are teams that work to prevent "unintended civilian casualties."

"Sometimes civilians bear the brunt of military action but we do all we can to minimize those occurrences even at the cost of sometimes missing the chance to strike valid targets in real time," he said in a statement.

Since the airstrikes began -- first in Iraq in August 2014, then in Syria a month later -- there have been more than 16,000 by the coalition at a cost of about $12 million per day. In October, the coalition reported an average of about 10 airstrikes each day in both Iraq and Syria.

Wednesday's announcement included dates and approximate locations of each airstrike the U.S. determined killed or injured civilians. The biggest cluster was located in the area around Mosul, Iraq, where Iraqi forces backed by coalition airstrikes are trying to regain control from the militants.

Between April 9 and June 15, Central Command reported that six airstrikes near Mosul killed 14 people and injured two.

In addition to the July strike in Manbij that is under investigation and not included on the list, there were four airstrikes in that area that killed eight people and injured one.

Overall deaths related to terrorism and armed conflict in Iraq have fallen since a spike in mid-2014 that coincided with the Islamic State group gaining control over large areas of northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria. But October was the deadliest month for civilians in two years, with more than 1,100 killed, according to United Nations data.

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