AMSTERDAM – The Netherlands admitted that a 2015 airstrike by one of its warplanes serving with the US-led military coalition in Iraq killed some 70 people — including dozens of civilians.
In a letter to the parliament on Monday, Dutch Defense Minister Anna Bijleveld-Schouten said that on June 2, 2015, a Dutch F-16 fighter jet, participating in purported counter-terrorism operations, dropped a bomb in Hawija, near the city of Kirkuk, which “resulted in around 70 victims”, PressTV reported.
She added that the explosion killed both suspected ISIS members and civilians, adding that it was unclear precisely how many civilians lost their lives in the strike.
Bijleveld-Schouten admitted though that the number of the victims had been higher than anticipated in the night-time raid, partly due to a number of unexpected blasts from explosives stored at the targeted building.
She stated that the facility was an industrial site and that “intelligence available to the Netherlands did not anticipate civilian deaths because there were no civilians living in the area near the target”.
“It turned out that there were far more explosives in the IED factory than was known or could be estimated by the Netherlands on the basis of the information available,” the letter further read.
Bijleveld-Schouten claimed that the Dutch strike had triggered some “secondary and larger explosions not anticipated from earlier strikes on similar targets”, adding that the series of chain blasts had “caused the destruction of a large number of other buildings”.
It is the first time the Netherlands is giving the details of the raid on the alleged ISIS bomb factory in Hawija, north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The Dutch Defense Minister further revealed that in another strike on September 20, 2015, a bomb had hit a suspected ISIS headquarters that turned out to be a family home in Mosul, killing four civilians.
She claimed that the mistake was due to faulty intelligence. Both strikes were investigated by Dutch prosecutors, who did not find grounds for further prosecution, according to a statement by the government. According to Bijleveld-Schouten, Dutch F-16 warplanes conducted some 2,100 sorties over Iraq as part of the so-called anti-ISIS military coalition between 2014 and 2018.
The Dutch sorties in Iraq ended last year. The US-led military coalition reported on September 26 that it had conducted a total of 34,573 airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria between August 2014 and August 2019, and that at least 1,335 civilians had been “unintentionally” killed. However, other sources, including local ones, point to a much greater death toll of civilians from such air raids.