The Netherlands has decided to declassify data on airstrikes in the Middle East after a media expose
The Dutch government has agreed to release previously classified information about its airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, after media revealed false claims that no civilians were killed in a 2016 strike by the European nation on a building in Mosul, Iraq. A US military assessment had identified the target as a terrorist HQ.
The database, released on Thursday, details Dutch F-16 missions between October 2014 and December 2018, which were part of Operation Inherent Resolve, a US-led military campaign against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). It revealed over 2,200 weapon deployments linked to over 600 airstrikes. The Dutch Ministry of Defense has also pledged to carry out its own investigation into the alleged killings of civilians by anti-ISIS coalition forces.
The decision followed a statement published the same day by the Dutch public broadcaster NOS, its news program Nieuwsuur and the newspaper NRC. It provides evidence that at least seven civilians, including a three-year-old girl, were killed in a Dutch airstrike on a residential building in Mosul on March 22, 2016. The strike hit a residence outside the Mosul University campus, where scholars and their families were housed.
The raid was previously detailed in a 2017 assessment by US Central Command (CENTCOM), which was obtained by The New York Times and published in 2021. CENTCOM claimed the building was used by ISIS militants as a quarter military general and that no civilians were there. allowed in the building.
The Dutch media search, which was carried out with the help of Airwars, a London-based NGO that records claims of civilian harm in airstrikes, found eyewitnesses who contradicted the US account.
Residents of the building said militants were present in the neighborhood because they had their wives and children staying with people who had fled Mosul. But they never detected any military activity and believe the United States had every chance of knowing, given that coalition forces constantly flew surveillance drones over the area.
The Dutch government has deflected accusations of under-reporting civilian casualties, after national media reported in 2019 that at least 70 non-combatants were killed in a 2015 airstrike on the Iraqi town of Hawija. Prime Minister Mark Rutte referred to CENTCOM at the time, saying they were “the arbitrator in such cases” and to have “all knowledge and experience” make authoritative assessments.