Dutch F-16s were involved in an attack on an IS car bomb factory in Iraq in 2015 that killed at least 70 civilians, sources have told the NRC newspaper and broadcaster NOS.
The attack, one of the bloodiest in the international effort to combat IS, destroyed a complete neighbourhood in the town of Hawija. Ministers have always refused to give details about the Dutch military attacks in Iraq on security grounds.
Reuters reported at the time that 70 civilians had been killed and said the bomb attack ‘triggering a series of secondary explosions that reduced the surrounding area in the industrial district to rubble’.
And the Pentagon said three weeks after the attack it would formally investigate the incident, confirming that some 70 people had died. That report has never been published but according to US media, it was a US warplane that had targeted the factory.
The defence ministry has declined to confirm whether or not the Netherlands was involved in the bombardment and defence minister Ank Bijleveld said on Friday she could not comment on the reports.
But the NRC says it had been told by several sources that a Dutch bomb had hit the factory.
NOS and NRC researchers were in Iraq this summer to look into the attack and spoke with both survivors and local officials. They say it was well known that refugee families lived close to the factory at the time of the bombing.
Dutch F16s were used in Iraq and Syria between 2014 and 2016 and in 2018 as part of the international coalition against IS. In total they were involved with 2,100 bombing raids.
At the time of the attack on Hawija, MPs were told that is was ‘very likely’ there had been civilian casualties.
Dutch military operations are extremely sensitive to the possibility of civilian casualties since the Srebrenica massacre in 1998, and all involvement in military missions has to be cleared by parliament.
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