The British Ministry of Defence (MoD) confirmed on Saturday that it carried out its first airstrikes against Daesh earlier this month, the first such operation in seven months. The targets were Daesh militants in Tuz Khurmatu located in the south of Kirkuk, Iraq.
The “successful operation” on 10 April involved a pair of British Royal Air Force Typhoon jets along with a Reaper drone. The planes were based at RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
“The pair of Typhoons, assisted by an RAF Reaper aircraft, identified Daesh terrorists occupying a group of fortified buildings in an isolated location west of Tuz Khurma[tu], known to be inhabited by active terrorist commanders and fighters,” according to an online update.
“The aircraft conducted a thorough check of the area for non-combatants, before using a combination of precision guided bombs to destroy the buildings,” it stated.
Rudaw reports that although Daesh was considered territorially defeated in Iraq in December 2017 and in Syria in March 2019, the insurgency has continued in both countries, with a recent reported surge in activities amid the backdrop of the international anti-Daesh coalition’s reduction in counter-terrorism missions.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced on 3 April that the UK supported the UN’s calls for a global ceasefire during the COVID-19 crisis. However, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) has accused the government of attempting to avoid scrutiny by quietly mentioning the bombing while the media is focused on the pandemic. The PPU said that the government must say whether armed forces leaders consulted with ministers on the bombing and which ministers knew about and approved it while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was hospitalised for testing positive for the virus.
Chris Coles, director of Drone Wars, which gathers data about RAF and drone operations, accused the MoD of engaging in “obfuscation, secrecy and – as these revelations show – a kind of internal structural self-denial, where it has become seemingly impossible for the MoD even to accept that civilian casualties have occurred”.
Last month it was reported that the UK maintains that only one civilian fatality has occurred in the entire conflict against Daesh, codenamed Operation Shader, in which over 4,000 bombs and missiles were launched by drones or RAF jets in Syria and Iraq. Chris Woods, director of Airwars, said the UK was “one of several of the US’s key European allies in the war against so-called Islamic State to routinely deny civilian harm from their own actions.”