Between 459 and 591 civilians were reportedly killed by US-led coalition air strikes targeting ISIS insurgency in both Syria and Iraq, Airwars, an independent investigative project that tracks the international war against ISIS, concluded in a report via a wide range of sources, including local media, witness reports, social media and video evidence.
The figures revealed in the report show great contrast to the very low number of two civilian casualties acknowledged by the US-led coalition as “likely” may have been caused by its air strikes.
The huge difference in figures indicate “a worrying lack of urgency on the part of all coalition members regarding civilian deaths,” the report said.
Airwars estimates that the US-led coalition officials “appear to have identified only one-third of 118 alleged cases of concern” as of June 2015.
The US-led coalition’s leading commander, General John Hesterman, called the tactics used in their campaign against ISIS insurgency as “the most precise and disciplined in the history of aerial warfare,” even though questions were raised by the US online news company GlobalPost regarding the coalition's “rosy descriptions of the campaign.”
US Army Captain John J. Moore, a spokesman for the coalition, said in April that there is "a detailed, multi-echelon process between the coalition partners, as well as the Iraqi Ministry of Defense."
Without their request and approval, a strike will not occur," in response to questions raised by the GlobalPost about safeguarding civilians.
The high civilian death toll threatens to undermine the very aim of the campaign, which is to “degrade and destroy” the Islamic State.
“The present Coalition policy of downplaying or denying all claims of non-combatant fatalities makes little sense, and risks handing ISIS and other forces a powerful propaganda tool,” notes the report.
Britain, being part of the coalition but whose parliament backs air strikes carried out only in Iraq, has decided on prolonging its air campaign against ISIS militants by a full year, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said on Tuesday, adding it would use ageing Tornado fighter jets to conduct strikes until at least early 2017.
Britain had previously stated that the Tornados would continue their mission until March 2016, a year more than originally intended, but Fallon, on a visit to Iraq, said the Cyprus-based planes had capabilities which meant that their mission period should be extended.
"The Tornado squadrons have proved their worth in the air campaign because of the precision weapons they have and because of the reconnaissance and surveillance that they carry out when they're not striking," Fallon told BBC radio.
"The Americans and other allies have particularly valued the contribution of the Tornado and that's why we are continuing the Tornado squadron for another year."
The US-led coalition has organized dozens of airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria in recent days, as it seeks to weaken the control and power of ISIS insurgency who have seized large parts in both countries.
Turkey launched its first airstrikes on ISIS in Syria a week and a half ago and also began its attacks on the PKK terrorists.