The coalition must address the worrying rise in recent months in deaths in the airstrikes on Raqqa and Mosul
The arduous battle to defeat Islamic State (Isis) appears to be entering its final stages in the group’s two main strongholds, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. Notwithstanding a chronic lack of co-operation between myriad anti-Isis forces, the caliphate promulgated by the Isis leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from a mosque in Mosul in 2014, is close to collapse. Many Isis senior commanders have been killed. Jihadis are reportedly fleeing the combat zone (and heading for Europe). Now, Russia claims Baghdadi, too, may have died in an airstrike last month, although this is unconfirmed.
The long-sought victory over Isis, while evidently welcome, is coming at a terrible cost. Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro, chief war crimes investigator on the UN’s independent international commission of inquiry on Syria, said last week that US-led coalition airstrikes were devastating Raqqa’s civilian population. “We note in particular that the intensification of airstrikes… has resulted not only in staggering loss of civilian life, but has also led to 160,000 civilians fleeing their homes and becoming internally displaced,” Pinheiro told the UN human rights council in Geneva. The commission says 300 civilians died in Raqqa province in the three months to 31 May. About 200 of these deaths reportedly occurred in an airstrike in March on the village of Mansoura, to which many displaced families had fled.