U.S.-Led Coalition Killed 1,600 Civilians in Raqqa: Amnesty International
An interactive website created by Amnesty and Airwars claims it has documented the deaths of 1,600 civilians in Syria at the hands of U.S.-led forces.
The site, called Rhetoric Versus Reality: How the Most Precise Air Campaign in History Left Raqqa The Most Destroyed City in Modern Times, includes photos and stories from more than 500 people who have direct knowledge of the alleged atrocities.
The two groups say they spent two years investigating stories and contend that more than 1,600 civilians were killed as collateral damage in airstrikes by the U.S., U.K., and France, meant to destroy the so-called Islamic State terror group between June and October 2017.
“Thousands of civilians were killed or injured in the U.S.-led coalition’s offensive to rid Raqqa of IS, whose snipers and mines had turned the city into a death trap,” Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty, said ahead of the site launch Thursday morning. “Many of the air bombardments were inaccurate and tens of thousands of artillery strikes were indiscriminate, so it is no surprise they killed and injured many hundreds of civilians.”
Amnesty International and Airwars are hoping the purported proof offered on the website will prompt the U.S. military to “end their denial” over the heavy loss of life.
“Coalition forces razed Raqqa, but they cannot erase the truth,” the groups say. “Amnesty International and Airwars call upon the coalition forces to end their denial about the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction caused by their offensive in Raqqa.”
The group says it visited Raqqa during and after the battle and “collated and cross-referenced multiple data streams” for this investigation. “Researchers spent a total of around two months on the ground in Raqqa, carrying out site investigations at more than 200 strike locations and interviewing more than 400 witnesses and survivors.”
They also implemented Amnesty’s “Strike Trackers” initiative that identified the 11,000 destroyed buildings in Raqqa.
Using the input from 3,000 digital activists in 124 countries, the group was able to analyze two million satellite-image frames to pinpoint where the civilians were when they were killed. “The organization’s Digital Verification Corps, based at six universities around the world, analyzed and authenticated video footage captured during the battle.”
The end result is a database that includes information, including the locations where they were killed, of the 1,600 civilians who reportedly died in the U.S.-led coalition strikes. They have given names to 1,000 of the victims and verified 641 on the ground.
The U.S.-led coalition has admitted responsibility for killing 159 civilians— around 10 percent of the total number reported—but it has routinely dismissed the remainder as “non-credible,” the organizers say.
Airwars Director Chris Woods says the groups are calling upon the coalition forces to “fully investigate what went wrong at Raqqa and learn from those lessons, to prevent inflicting such tremendous suffering on civilians caught in future military operations.”