RAF airstrike against Isis fighters in Syria unintentionally killed a civilian, says Gavin Williamson

Defence minister says while death was 'deeply regrettable' it will 'not weaken our resolve to defeat' terror group

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 02 May 2018 14:03
Comments
Reaper drones are regularly used in airstrikes against Isis targets in Syria and Iraq
Reaper drones are regularly used in airstrikes against Isis targets in Syria and Iraq

A civilian was “unintentionally” killed in an RAF airstrike on three Isis fighters in eastern Syria, the defence secretary has said.

In a written statement to parliament, Gavin Williamson said a civilian on a motorbike crossed into the strike area “at the least moment” before the blast on 26 March.

The death was “deeply regrettable”, the minister said.

It is the first time the Ministry of Defence has confirmed a civilian casualty during Britain’s campaign against the terror group in Iraq and Syria.

Three Isis fighters, who were driving in the Syrian Euphrates valley at the time, were also killed by the precision Hellfire missile, a statement from the MoD at the time reported.

The attack was carried out by an RAF Reaper drone, which had tracked the trio.

Isis 'Beatles' militants captured in Syria: 'It is too late for a fair trial'

The RAF has conducted over 1,600 strikes against Isis in Iraq and Syria as part of a US-led coalition, the defence secretary told parliament.

Mr Williamson said: “We do everything we can to minimise the risk to civilian life from UK strikes through our rigorous targeting processes and the professionalism of UK Service personnel.

“It is therefore deeply regrettable that a UK airstrike on 26 March 2018, targeting Daesh fighters in eastern Syria, resulted in an unintentional civilian fatality.

“During a strike to engage three Daesh fighters, a civilian motorbike crossed into the strike area at the last moment and it is assessed that one civilian was unintentionally killed."

Mr Williamson said the conclusion was reached through “post-strike analysis of all available evidence” and added that the US-led coalition against Isis would conduct its own investigation.

Britain’s direct military involvement against Isis – also known as Daesh – is limited to the skies, but troops on the ground have been involved in training more than 60,000 members of the Iraqi security forces.

Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance has also been provided to coalition partners, according to Mr Williamson.

“These strikes are undertaken in the collective self-defence of Iraq as part of the global coalition to defeat Daesh, and at the request of the government of Iraq,” his statement said.

“As a result of the coalition’s action, Daesh has lost more than 98 per cent of the territory it once occupied in Iraq and Syria, and 7.7 million people have been liberated from its rule.”

He said such civilian deaths “remind us of the consequences of conflict and of the heavy price that the people of Syria have paid. It reminds us that when we undertake military action, we must do so knowing that it can never be completely without risk.

“Such incidents will not weaken our resolve to defeat Daesh and rid the world of its poisonous ideology of hate and intolerance.

"The UK’s commitment to the global coalition against Daesh and to the people of Iraq and Syria will remain as strong as ever.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in