Over 3,400 British bombs have been dropped on Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) targets in Syria and Iraq, new analysis reveals. The government has been forced to defend claims there is “no evidence” of UK airstrikes killing or maiming civilians.
The UK launched an air campaign against IS in Iraq in 2014 and Syria in December 2015. Analysis by the ‘i’ newspaper shows that up to September this year UK forces have dropped at least 3,482 bombs and missiles on the two countries. That includes 2,089 Paveway IV smart bombs and 486 of the more accurate Brimstone missiles dropped by Typhoon and Tornado jets.
The government describes the Brimstone as the most accurate weapon available that can be fired by aircraft. A conservative estimate prices them at £100,000 each. The heavier Paveway IV bombs are estimated to cost £30,000 each and Hellfire, the Reaper drone fleet weapon, costs £71,300 each.
A Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesperson told the newspaper: “We have no evidence that RAF strikes have caused civilian casualties. We recognize the challenge faced by coalition pilots in close urban fighting against a ruthless terrorist enemy that uses civilians as human shields.”
That claim is disputed by Airwars, a campaign group monitoring the impact of coalition airstrikes. It warned the RAF’s position was based on observation from the air rather than eyewitness accounts from the ground.
“Given evidence that non-American Coalition members are responsible for civilian deaths, it is incumbent on countries as active in the campaign as the UK to be transparent about what happens after they drop bombs in Iraq and Syria.”
Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon signalled a change in UK operations on Monday after terrorist group IS lost its stronghold in Raqqa, Syria. British troops will be ordered “outside the wire” to undertake “close protection” duties to the Al-Asad Airbase in northern Iraq.