Britain Drops 3,400 Bombs in Syria and Iraq – and Says No Civilians Killed
MEE analysis reveals extent of RAF attacks on IS, while British government maintains there is ‘no evidence’ a single civilian has died
Royal Air Force drones and jets have dropped more than 3,400 bombs and missiles on Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq and Syria, an investigation by Middle East Eye has revealed, yet the British government maintains that there is “no evidence” they have killed a single civilian.
The vast quantities of ordnance dropped since the start of Operation Shader against IS in 2014 seriously undermines the claim by ministers that the RAF has not caused any civilian casualties in the three-year-long bombing campaign, and has prompted calls for an investigation.
The Ministry of Defence does not routinely release statistics on the numbers of weapons used over Iraq and Syria, but an MEE analysis has combined weekly updates of operations in the region and information collated by campaign group Drone Wars.
RAF Reaper drones have also fired 724 Hellfire missiles at IS targets.
The figures are conservative as MoD updates sometimes do not specify the number of bombs or missiles used in a strike, and last night MoD officials admitted that a further 86 bombs and missiles had been dropped in recent weeks.
The weapon of choice for RAF jets is the Paveway IV precision-guided bomb, but they have also fired large numbers of the more accurate Brimstone missile, which was originally designed as an anti-tank weapon but has been used extensively by the RAF to target IS snipers and vehicles.
The government describes the Brimstone as the most accurate weapon available that can be fired by aircraft, and they are conservatively estimated to cost £100,000 each; heavier Paveway IV bombs are estimated to cost £30,000 each, and Hellfire, fired by the Reaper drone fleet, cost £71,300 each.
IS is in retreat in Iraq and Syria after a US-led bombing campaign that saw the RAF fly more than 8,000 sorties and kill more than 3,000 IS militants. A spike in weapons releases came earlier this summer, when RAF Typhoons and Tornadoes joined the coalition and Kurdish effort to liberate Mosul.
Islamic State regularly used “human shields” in built-up areas, but despite this and the scale of the ordnance dropped by the RAF, the MoD maintains it has “no evidence” that its strikes have caused any civilian casualties – a position now roundly rejected by defence analysts and opposition parties.