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Canadian military accused of killing Iraqi civilians in air strike

A Canadian Armed Forces CF-18 Fighter jet from 409 Squadron sits on the tarmac in Kuwait on Tuesday, October 28, 2014.

DND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Canadian military is facing accusations that a recent air strike by CF-18 pilots in northern Iraq ended up killing at least five civilians and injuring more than one dozen. Canadian warplanes are still bombing Islamic State targets despite Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's campaign pledge to end these air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

The air strike, on Nov. 19, one month after the Liberals were elected, was intended to destroy what the Canadian military said was an Islamic State bomb-making factory in Mosul.

But local Iraq media reports, which included video and photographic evidence of collateral damage, say the attack on the bomb plant also damaged a dairy factory next door, killing between five and 13 people and injuring more than a dozen.

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Airwars.org, a project to track the international air strikes against Islamic State militants, has collected local media reports on the alleged civilian deaths from outlets such as Nineveh Reporters Network, Mosul News and Nineveh News.

According to the local Nineveh Reporters Network, the attack "killed all elements of the organization [Islamic State] who were inside the booby-trapping plant, but also damaged a large dairy building next door, killing approximately five civilian workers and injuring 13 others."

CF-18s have launched at least 16 strikes since the Oct. 19 election and 193 in the region since last fall.

Mr. Trudeau has not set a firm date for withdrawing Canada's fighters. He has said only that they would be recalled by March 31, 2016.

Major-General Chuck Lamarre, director of staff for the Strategic Joint Staff with the Canadian military, said he is confident that CF-18 bombs did not harm civilians on November 19.

He said he has reviewed the mission reports for November 19 and "there are no indications at all that any civilians have been harmed or killed based on the reports that we had."

Gen. Lamarre declined to comment on whether it might have been another country's bombs that fell astray that day. He said the Canadian Armed Forces won't speak for other coalition countries.

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He said the nearest structure not targeted by bombs was "well outside of our collateral explosive radius that we have on the weapons that were used."

It's a significant change within the Canadian government for the military to produce such a high-ranking officer to answer questions on this matter. Under the former Conservative government the military was largely restricted to talking to reporters by pre-prepared, e-mailed statements.

This is not the first allegation that Canadian military's air strikes have killed civilians.

In January this year, an English-speaking Kurdish Peshmerga fighter told the U.S. military that as many as 27 civilians died during aerial bombardment by a Canadian pilots.

The Canadian military kept this under wraps for seven months before disclosing the allegation in August. It has not investigated the incident because it says there was insufficient evidence.

The Canadian Armed Forces has refused to discuss the details of January's alleged civilian casualties and plays down the matter, saying that "the source of this allegation had himself heard of these potential casualties through a second-hand account" and that nobody could corroborate it.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Steven Chase has covered federal politics in Ottawa for The Globe since mid-2001, arriving there a few months before 9/11. He previously worked in the paper's Vancouver and Calgary bureaus. Prior to that, he reported on Alberta politics for the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun, and on national issues for Alberta Report. More

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