Australia admits ‘may have killed’ civilians in Mosul raid

Two Australian F  A-18 Super Hornets were involved in the operation

Two Australian F A-18 Super Hornets were involved in the operation

The ministry also stated it was "not possible to determine if the civilian casualties occurred as a result of the Australian, the nearby Coalition airstrikes, or from other actors".

"Based upon the proximity of the enemy to the Iraqi forces, the nature of the target and the circumstances of the fighting in Mosul at the time, I can confirm that this action complied with Australia's rules of engagement and the Laws of Armed Conflict", Air Marshal Hupfeld said. He added that there would be "no discipline" for the pilots as they "were doing exactly the jobs they were supposed to do".

Air Marshal Hupfeld said the Australian strikes had accurately hit their targets and been carried out according to protocol.

As they prepared to advance through the neighbourhood of Al Shafaar on June 13, Iraqi soldiers spotted three IS fighters holed up inside a building, and four more in an adjacent courtyard, all carrying heavy weapons.

Calculations by the Australian national broadcaster ABC brought to 35 the number of civilians killed in the guided missile attack involving two Australian F/A-18F aircraft.

Conflict-monitoring website first reported the civilian deaths in January previous year, saying combined strikes by US-led coalition aircraft may have caused up to 34 deaths, including Iraqi Imam Sheikh Mohammed Ghanim Al-Saffar and members of his extended family.

'This is an extraordinary thing to ask of our young men and women, the gravity of which is not lost on any of us'.

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Coalition forces were relying on intelligence from Iraqi commanders who suggested the likelihood of nearby civilians was low.

"This was a defensive response so the opportunity to do that surveillance in more detail was not available due to the direct threat to serious injury and imminent loss of life to the Iraqi security forces in the mission they were engaged with".

"Ultimately we have determined that it is possible civilians were unintentionally killed by the Coalition during these strikes", Chief of Joint Operations Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld said in a statement Friday.

However, he was careful not to blame Iraq for the incident. "The Australian strike does not precisely correspond with the information provided in the claim - however it was close by". "We do not definitively know how these people were killed", he said.

'The action in Mosul was the most ferocious air campaign that we have seen in our generation. "It is an unfortunate effect of war that these civilian casualties occurred", he said. These all occurred during the Mosul offensive on 30 March 2017, 3 May 2017, and 7 June 2017.

Australia was not made aware of the allegations its forces had been involved in civilian deaths during the strike until January 2018.

Australia still has about 600 soldiers deployed in Iraq, where IS is now largely suppressed.

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