July 15. 2024. 6:23

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Dutch to investigate civilian casualties during fight against ISIS

The Defence Ministry will investigate whether the use of Dutch F16s during the war against ISIS led to more civilian casualties than currently known in Iraq and Eastern Syria, Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren wrote in a letter to parliament on Thursday.

The Netherlands participates in the US-led coalition to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria, formed in 2014, together with other European countries such as France, the United Kingdom and Belgium.

The investigation, which the Defence Ministry will conduct on itself, was motivated by recent revelations that Dutch bombardments on ISIS territory led to more civilian casualties than previously known, as research by NOS, NRC, and Nieuwsuur shows.

“Making information on the Dutch arms deployment in the air campaign against ISIS public is an important step. Increasing transparency on deployment is part of a future-proof defence organisation,” Ollongren stated.

Between 2014-2016 and 2018, Dutch F16s carried out over 2,100 bombardments on ISIS territory in eastern Syria and Iraq to support coalition troops and eliminate enemy targets.

During the research carried out by NOS, NRC and Nieuwsuur, 148 purported civilian casualties during coalition operations were presented to the Ministry of Defence, with inquiries on whether Dutch weapons were involved.

The inquiry yielded one result: During a 2016 coalition attack involving Dutch weapons on a university complex in Mosul, two lecturers and five of their family members died. This new information led the Ministry to open investigations.

“The moment Defence launches its own investigation into such findings, it will be reported to the prosecution,” a ministry spokesperson told NOS. “Subsequently, that is or can be the basis for a factual investigation at the Prosecution, which is therefore now being initiated.”

(Benedikt Stöckl | EURACTIV.com)