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Rights group: US coalition killed hundreds of civilians in Syria’s Raqqa

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BEIRUT — An worldwide human rights group on Tuesday accused the United States and its allies of displaying little regard for civilians’ lives whereas attacking the Syrian metropolis that was as soon as the de-facto capital of the Islamic State extremist group, an allegation denied by the American navy.

Amnesty International stated the United States-led coalition’s 2017 assault on Raqqa killed hundreds of civilians and diminished sections of town to rubble.

Researchers for Amnesty interviewed greater than 100 residents and visited 42 coalition targets in town in a two-week interval in February. They revealed their findings in a report titled “War of Annihilation,” in a reference to the language utilized by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in the lead-up to the marketing campaign.

“When so many civilians are killed in attack after attack, something is clearly wrong,” stated Donatella Rovera, one of the researchers who visited town.

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) runs to take cowl from sniper photographs close to the central hospital of Raqqa on October 1, 2017. (AFP/ BULENT KILIC)

US Army Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the coalition, known as the assertions “grossly inaccurate.” He stated the coalition and allied Syrian forces organized protected passages for residents to flee, however IS militants trapped them inside to make use of as human shields.

“When you have an enemy that uses noncombatants as collateral damage, it’s very difficult when you fight an enemy like that to completely avoid any casualties,” Ryan stated.

Illustrative: Smoke billows following an airstrike on the western frontline of Raqqa, Syria, July 15, 2017. (AFP/Bulent Kilic)

Benjamin Walsby, one other investigator on the Amnesty group, stated the coalition ought to have adjusted its technique accordingly.

“If you rely on long-range tactics like artillery and airstrikes, then civilians are very likely to pay the price, and that appears to be what happened in Raqqa,” he stated.

The battle for Raqqa, as soon as a metropolis of 200,000 individuals, performed out over 4 harrowing months in 2017, with the coalition enjoying a supporting function because the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces fought avenue by avenue.

The coalition unleashed wave after wave of airstrikes and shell hearth till the final of the IS fighters left Raqqa in October 2017.

A member of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), backed by US particular forces, talks on the radio close to Raqqa’s stadium as they clear the final positions on the frontline on October 16, 2017. (AFP/BULENT KILIC)

Command Sgt. John Wayne Troxell of the United States Army stated in January that US Marines had fired 30,000 artillery shells on town.

When The Associated Press visited in April, it discovered Raqqa in ruins and its streets smelling of rotting our bodies. Civil staff had pulled almost 500 corpses from the rubble and have been nonetheless discovering extra six months after the combating.

This June 28, 2017 picture exhibits Omar Alloush, a senior Kurdish official, middle, standing subsequent to members of the family of a fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces who was killed in battle in opposition to the the Islamic State group, in Raqqa, northern Syria. Syrian Kurdish officers stated Thursday, (Omar Alloush, by way of AP)

Residents complained that the coalition bombing was indiscriminate and demanded compensation. As said by the Raqqa Civil Council, which took over the administration of town, 65 % of houses had been destroyed.

IS militants booby-trapped town, leaving streets and houses too harmful for fast reoccupation.

In its month-to-month casualty studies, the coalition has acknowledged duty for 32 civilian deaths in Raqqa between June and October, whereas saying it’s nonetheless investigating open instances. Ryan, the coalition spokesman couldn’t say whether or not officers have been interviewing kinfolk of the deceased as half of their investigations.

An image taken on October 20, 2017, exhibits closely broken buildings in Raqqa, after a Kurdish-led pressure expelled Islamic State fighters from the northern Syrian metropolis. (AFP Photo/Bulent Kilic)

Amnesty International’s report says hundreds of civilians have been killed, whereas the Airwars monitoring group says it has proof of 1,400 fatalities.

Amnesty investigators known as on the coalition to launch strike information and particulars on the decision-making course of behind goal choice. They stated the coalition rebuffed requests for data.

“It doesn’t matter how precise your strikes are. They are only as precise as the information behind them, and if the information isn’t right you’re going to shoot at the wrong things,” Walsby stated, including that a thorough investigation might construct a case for a conflict crimes trial.

Members of the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) verify for bombs on the stadium that was the positioning of Islamic State fighters’ final stand in town of Raqqa, Syria, Wednesday, October 18, 2017. (AP/Asmaa Waguih)

Ryan stated the coalition was by no means contacted by Amnesty.

The coalition maintains that it relied on precision weapons and chosen targets with the very best data out there and that it did all the things it might to attenuate civilian casualties.

“I would put the blame on ISIS for destroying the city,” Ryan stated. “We liberated the city of Raqqa. The city deserves better and we’re going to try to provide that.”

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