Stories of survivors of the American Air Wars

Many of the raids that killed civilians have left survivors, some of whom still suffer injuries and disabilities to this day, and some of them struggle with unanswered questions about why they or their families were affected. According to post-raid assessments by the U.S. military, some were wounded due to defective intelligence, some due to secondary explosions, and some because Army planners judged this number of civilian casualties acceptable. The US military did not contact the survivors to provide an explanation or pay them compensation.

Date of the raid: April 29, 2016

Location: Al-Kafaat Al-Thaniya District, East Mosul

Civil tab: 4

This raid was aimed at Neil Prakash, an Australian known for recruiting fighters for ISIS, who was reportedly based somewhere in Mosul. U.S. officials confirmed that the raid killed Prakash and four civilians. But several months later, Prakash was found alive in an attempt to cross the border into Turkey. Among those killed in this strike was a teacher named Ziyad Khalaf Awad, and among the wounded was Hassan Alawi Muhammad Sultan (pictured above), now 16, who was playing football nearby. So far, Hassan is suffering from a shrapnel wound in the spinal cord and his family cannot buy a wheelchair for him. Although it has been a long time since the admission of four civilian deaths, the US-led coalition has never contacted any of the survivors.


Date of raid: June 13, 2017

Location: Shifa District, Mosul

Civil tab: 33

This raid took place during a period of intense bombing in 2017, coinciding with coalition forces’ attempts to oust ISIS from Mosul. The family of Karima Khaled Suleiman, pictured, was gathered in a house in the Shifa neighborhood to be secured against the bombing, but grenades rained down on the area and the house was bombed, killing 33 people. Only Karima survived the raid. As the flames rose into the house, she could slip outside through a small opening, and behind her came one of her younger female relatives up the stairs. “My last words to her were: I want to help you,” Karima said. Came to.’ When they pulled me out, she closed her eyes and died. ” After the raid, the U.S. Department of Defense confirmed that only 11 civilians were dead.


Date of the raid: February 19, 2017

Location: Shifa District, Mosul

Civilian casualties: at least 23

This attack was aimed at a residential complex near the Al-Taher building in Mosul, where ISIS members live with civilians. In the distance on the same street lay another apartment complex where families of members of ISIS lived. The attack on the first compound resulted in a fuel truck exploding near the second compound, causing a fire that destroyed the second compound. Officials approved the raid despite several concerns about side damage, according to the report: There are constantly pedestrians and vehicles around the target, with a “medium to high traffic speed”, and there are homes and apartments near the target. The report concluded that 10 civilians were killed, even though the death toll was much higher. I documented the killing of 20 civilians in and around the first building, including six members of the family of Yousef Hashem Ali, who is standing on the rubble in the photo. In the other building, dozens were burned to death or seriously injured.


Date of the raid: March 21, 2017

Location: Al-Islah Al-Zera’i District, Mosul

Civil tab: 1

Early one morning, Ali, a scrap seller, came out of his house in western Mosul and pushed his red cart, which is usually filled with cans, bottles, metal and everything that could be sold. That day, he was looking for a grain miller to grind wheat for his family. When he did not return home in the afternoon, his mother, Rezkiya (pictured), began to worry. She searched for him for more than a month until she found his vehicle near the site of a coalition raid on an ISIS mortar site. The military’s credibility assessment read: “It appears that the person who pushed the cart was hit by shrapnel from the explosion.” The report added: “The person who pushed the wagon was not connected to the strike and appears to be a civilian.” Witnesses said he was killed instantly by shrapnel in the head.


Date of raid: February 25, 2017

Location: Wadi Hajar, west of Mosul

Civil tab: 13

ISIS forces ordered the evacuation of a neighborhood in western Mosul, so brothers Majid Mahmoud Ahmed and Firas Mahmoud Ahmed got into two cars with their families on their way to the other side of the city. At the same time, the coalition forces watched a video that monitored the area in preparation for the bombing of a target, which was described by the intelligence service as an armored vehicle with a car bomb. By mistake, an official identified the two brothers’ cars as the two booby-trapped cars, and permission was granted to beat them. “I remember there was a huge explosion and after that I fainted,” said Abdel Hakim Abdullah Hamish Al-Aqeedi (pictured). He lost one eye and had to have a chip inserted in his left leg. As for his son Mustafa, his left leg was amputated from the thigh, and his nephew – a student at the College of Nursing – lost four toes on his left foot and one toe on his right foot, and there is still a grenade splinter in his leg . The two brothers and all family members were killed in the two cars.


Date of the raid: January 6, 2017

Location: Al-Zari District, Mosul

Civil tab: 19

The target was a home rated as an ISIS “foreign fighter headquarters” “an artillery gathering place.” But the blast also destroyed nearby homes, killing 16 civilians, including three sons of Rafe ‘al-Iraqi (pictured), and a merchant from a well-known Mosul family. Only his mother and 12-year-old son survived the explosion along with Rafe ‘. It was the second tragedy for the family after Rafe’s wife was killed a year ago by ISIS.


Date of the raid: November 6, 2016

Location: near the village of Martyr Younis al-Sabawi, Mosul

Civil tab: 4

This attack was aimed at a car with ISIS members, but the explosion was so large that it also destroyed two nearby cars. Younis Mahmoud Thanoun (pictured) was in one of the cars with his father. Younes was flung some distance outside the car and seriously injured. He told me that when he realized that his father was stuck in the burning car, he tried to drag himself back against the car, but an ISIS fighter shot him for fear that his movement would drop another bomb. According to the Pentagon report, which did not document any flaws in this raid, the explosion was so large because officials decided to keep the more accurate weapons for subsequent raids.


Participate in the survey: Moamen Muhannad

Azmat Khan is an investigative reporter currently writing a book on American air wars for Random House, a Carnegie Fellow and assistant professor at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she is also the director of the Lee Center for Global Journalism. Iver Prickett is an Irish photographer based in the Middle East. He was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for his coverage of the war in Mosul and Raqqa. He published his first book, “The End of the Caliphate.”

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