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Dutch government admits killing Iraqi civilians in anti-ISIS airstrike

The Dutch government admitted on Monday, November 4 that it killed potentially dozens of civilians in an airstrike targeting Islamic State in Iraq in 2015.

In a letter to Parliament on Monday, Minister of Defence Anna Bijleveld-Schouten said that the airstrike on an IED plant in Hawija on June 3, 2015 “resulted in about 70 victims, including [ISIS] fighters and civilians.”

It was unclear how many civilians were killed, Bijleveld-Schouten said.

A joint investigation published last month by Dutch newspaper NRC and public broadcaster NOS found that the airstrike killed at least 70 people and injured around 100 others.

The strike targeted a munitions plant in the northern city but outdated intelligence failed to take into account the refugees living in the area, the report said.

“After the raid there were a number of secondary and larger explosions that could not have been anticipated from earlier strikes on similar targets,” Bijleveld-Schouten said. “This caused the destruction of a large number of other buildings.”

“It turned out that there were far more explosives in the factory than was known to the Netherlands or could be estimated on the basis of the then-available information from the anti-ISIS Coalition,” the letter said.

The Coalition, which publishes a monthly civilian casualty report and has admitted 1,335 civilian deaths between 2014 and 2019, did not immediately respond to questions.

The Netherlands has been a member of the U.S.-led Coalition against ISIS since its creation in 2014, and Dutch warplanes conducted more than 2,000 sorties against ISIS targets in Iraq from 2014 to 2018 and Syria from 2016 to 2018. The government pulled the F-16s in December.

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