MONTREAL – The American headquarters overseeing the war against Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Syria says there were multiple air strikes in Iraq on the same day and in the same vicinity where Canadian CF-18s were accused of causing civilian casualties.
There were potentially 19 bombing raids on Mosul, carried out by several coalition countries, around the same time, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Central Command.
Canadian warplanes were involved in two separate missions, but one of them involved three bombing runs.
A spokesman for Central Command, which manages the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, confirms the Canadian military was advised of the allegation involving airstrikes that took place near Mosul on Jan. 21.
Lt.-Cmdr. Kyle Raines wouldn’t say which other countries carried out missions at the same time — or whether they were also investigated. The attacks happened during a period of intense fighting between Kurdish forces and extremists in the vicinity of Iraq’s second largest city, which has been occupied by Islamic State fighters since the summer of 2014.
The coalition command logs daily air strikes over a 24-hour period beginning at 8 a.m. U.S. figures show there were three missions over Mosul on Jan. 20-21 and a further 16 on Jan. 21-22.
He also said aircraft involved in the strikes that day were not American and the investigation involving the CF-18s was wrapped up with no evidence to support the claim.
“It is no longer under investigation,” Raines said in a telephone interview from Tampa, Fla., where the U.S. command is located.
However, he said the investigation could be reopened if new information comes to light.
The Canadian military has denied that the attacks against extremist targets killed civilians.
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, whose party opposed the extension of the bombing campaign last spring, said the report is troubling, especially since the Harper government didn’t reveal the allegation before MPs voted on the extension.
“These are very serious allegations, but we need to know more about them,” Trudeau said Friday, during a campaign stop in Montreal.
“One of the things that has been consistent from this government has been a lack of openness and transparency, even on issues as important as our engagements around the world with Canadian military forces.”
The Canadian military was notified on Jan. 31 that the U.S. headquarters had conducted an investigation and had closed the book on the allegations.
Spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said, to date, Canada has not conducted its own independent investigation and is satisfied with the American-led review.
Canadian officials did check their own records.
“Furthermore, it was re-confirmed that the target was a valid military objective from which ISIS was firing a heavy machine gun at Iraqi Kurdish troops,” said Lemire. “The area in question is still within ISIS-held territory.”
For that reason, Raines said, follow-up is tough.