SECRET British armed drone strikes may have contributed to thousands of civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria, a new report revealed yesterday.
Drone Wars UK has gathered information regarding British air strikes against Isis in Iraq and Syria and found that Britain had carried out 1,200 air strikes against Isis — launching over 2,500 missiles in 2015 and 2016.
The figures were uncovered through Freedom of Information requests to the MoD over a two-year period.
The campaigners also revealed that armed British Reaper drones secretly crossed into Syria just weeks after a 2014 parliamentary vote limited military action against Isis to strictly within Iraq.
Officials claimed this did not amount to military action, but intelligence gathered by the drones was used by coalition forces to launch air strikes in Syria.
The report suggests that 22 per cent of Britain’s 726 air strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2016 were carried out by Reaper drones.
It shows weapon launches by British Reaper drones increased by 30 per cent from 274 in 2015 to 358 in 2016.
Airwars, a journalist-led organisation which monitors reports of civilian casualties from air strikes in Iraq and Syria, estimates that between 1,959 and 2,898 people were killed in coalition air strikes in 2015 and 2016.
An MoD spokesman told the Star: “We can’t completely eliminate the risk of civilian casualties but we carefully mitigate that risk through strict targeting procedures.
“The evidence from detailed assessments of each strike is that we’ve avoided any civilian casualties so far in this conflict.”
Airwars has called for an independent review of the MoD’s assessment process.
Campaign Against Arms Trade spokesman Andrew Smith told the Star: “This is an excellent piece of work and exposes the dangerous lack of transparency and accountability that surrounds drones.
“There must be a far greater scrutiny of attacks and strikes being undertaken by the armed forces and the work for Drone Wars is vital in that debate.
“Drone attacks often have devastating consequences and have killed thousands of civilians around the world.”
Stop the War national officer Chris Nineham said the report showed that Britain was “fighting almost completely unreported wars” in Syria and Iraq.
He said: “Not only is there a virtual media blackout on this activity, but the MoD is still peddling the ridiculous line that no civilians have been killed in these attacks.”
The MoD refused to reveal the number of British Reapers deployed on operations in Iraq and Syria.