Washington, May 31 (IANS) The US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group said on Friday that it has unintentionally killed more than 1,300 civilians in Iraq and Syria since 2014.
In a statement, the coalition said it had carried out 34,502 strikes since its air campaign against the IS began there nearly five years ago after the IS took over large areas.
A UK-based monitoring group, however, said the true toll was much higher, estimating up to nearly 13,000 civilian fatalities, the BBC reported.
The latest figure provided by the coalition was slightly higher than its previous admission eight months ago of 1,100 civilian deaths. It said it was still assessing 111 more possible cases of civilian fatalities.
The latest acknowledgement was in stark contrast to the claims of human rights and monitoring groups, which say the actual death toll was many times higher.
In April, an investigation by activists concluded that over 1,600 civilians were killed in coalition attacks on the Syrian city of Raqqa alone during a five-month campaign to oust the IS in 2017.
Raqqa had been the de facto capital of the jihadists’ self-proclaimed “caliphate”.
At that time, a coalition spokesperson told the BBC that “any unintentional loss of life during the defeat of (IS) is tragic. However, it must be balanced against the risk of enabling (IS) to continue terrorist activities, causing pain and suffering to anyone they choose”.
The coalition “methodically employs significant measures to minimise civilian casualties”, the spokesperson said, adding that it “always balances the risk of conducting a strike against the cost of not striking”.
The monitoring group Airwars, which tracks allegations of civilian deaths, said the coalition may have actually killed between 8,000 and 13,000 civilians to date.