Based on the interviews of 112 residents of the Syrian city and investigation of the destroyed areas, Amnesty International says the US-led coalition may have committed war crimes in Raqqa.

The campaign to capture Raqqa was waged from June to October last year by the US-backed SDF supported by coalition warplanes and special forces troops.
The campaign to capture Raqqa was waged from June to October last year by the US-backed SDF supported by coalition warplanes and special forces troops. (Reuters Archive)

The US-led military campaign to oust Daesh from the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2017 killed hundreds of civilians in indiscriminate bombing, committing possible war crimes, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

From amid the rubble of Raqqa, civilians are asking why the coalition forces destroyed the city, killing hundreds of civilians in the process of "liberating" them from the militant group, the global rights watchdog said in a new report ahead of the offensive's anniversary.

The campaign to capture Raqqa was waged from June to October last year by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by coalition warplanes and special forces troops.

The SDF is dominated by the YPG, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by the US, Turkey and the EU.

"Coalition claims that its precision air campaign allowed it to bomb IS [Daesh] out of Raqqa while causing very few civilian casualties do not stand up to scrutiny," the report concluded.

"The coalition strikes detailed in this report appear either disproportionate or indiscriminate or both and as such unlawful and potential war crimes."

The US-led a four-month campaign of air strikes, dubbed a "war of annihilation" by US Defense Secretary James Mattis, to liberate Raqqa from Daesh control.

The report — "'War of Annihilation': Devastating Toll on Civilians, Raqqa – Syria" — details the experiences of four families "whose cases are emblematic of wider patterns."

Between them, they lost 90 relatives and neighbours — 39 from a single family — almost entirely from coalition air strikes, according to Amnesty.

It said there is a "prima facie evidence that several coalition attacks which killed and injured civilians violated international humanitarian law."

The coalition has responded to previous accusations that it caused civilian casualties by saying it was careful to avoid them and investigated all reports that they had occurred.

TRT World spoke with Benjamin Walsby, one of the authors of the Amnesty report.

Mass destruction across Raqqa

Daesh had once used the city as the administrative centre of its self-declared caliphate, making it a planning centre for attacks by its followers around the world.

During the battle for Raqqa, Daesh militants made it harder for the coalition offensive to avoid civilian deaths by operating among them and using them as human shields, Amnesty said.

Amnesty said it had interviewed 112 civilian residents of Raqqa during field research there in February, visiting the sites of 42 air, artillery and mortar strikes.

'Indiscriminate attacks'

It focused on the Aswad family, which it said lost eight members in a single air strike, the Hashish family, which it said lost 18 members, the Badran family which it said lost 39 members, and the Fayad family which it said lost 16 members.

"Witnesses reported that there were no fighters in the vicinity at the time of the attacks. Such attacks could be either direct attacks on civilians or civilian objects or indiscriminate attacks," the report said of the four cases studied, adding that such attacks amounted to war crimes.

Amnesty called on the coalition and member states to acknowledge the scale of devastation, make public necessary information for an independent investigation and make reparations to victims.

The full Amnesty International report can be read here.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies