INTERNATIONAL.- An international human rights group on Tuesday accused the U.S. and its allies of showing little regard for civilians’ lives while attacking the Syrian city that was once the de-facto capital of the Islamic State extremist group, an allegation denied by the American military.
Amnesty International said the U.S.-led coalition’s 2017 assault on Raqqa killed hundreds of civilians and reduced sections of the city to rubble. Researchers for Amnesty interviewed more than 100 residents and visited 42 coalition targets in the city in a two-week period in February.
They published their findings in a report titled “War of Annihilation,” in a reference to the language used by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in the lead-up to the campaign.
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“When so many civilians are killed in attack after attack, something is clearly wrong,” said Donatella Rovera, one of the researchers who visited the city. U.S. Army Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for the coalition, called the assertions “grossly inaccurate.”
He said the coalition and allied Syrian forces organized safe passages for residents to flee, but IS militants trapped them inside to use as human shields. “When you have an enemy that uses noncombatants as collateral damage, it’s very difficult when you fight an enemy like that to completely avoid any casualties,” Ryan said.
Army Col. Thomas Veale, another spokesman for the coalition, accused Amnesty of a “failure to check the public record and get facts straight.” Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon by videoconference from Baghdad, Veale disputed what he said was the group’s assertion that the coalition had violated international law.