UK

RAF strikes in Iraq and Syria have killed 996, MoD estimates

RAF Tornado GR4 returning to RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus in September 2014 after mission in Iraq Image copyright MOD

Nearly 1,000 members of the Islamic State group have been killed in RAF air strikes in Iraq and Syria in the last 18 months, figures suggest.

In response to a freedom of information request, the Ministry of Defence estimated 974 "enemy combatants" had died since the UK bombing campaign started in Iraq in September 2014.

A further 22 had been killed in Syria since air strikes began in December last year, it estimated.

The MoD said no civilians had died.

The figures cover the period from September 2014 to March 2016 and were released in response to a request made by Vice News.

The MoD said they were estimates based on "post-strike analysis" because the UK was unable to visit sites to verify the numbers dead.

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Referring to IS by the Arabic acronym of Daesh, the MoD said the strikes were part of a wider coalition operation to target command and control sites, military equipment and revenue streams such as oil infrastructure.

It said the UK took all steps necessary to minimise civilian causalities.

There were 98 IS fighters injured, the figures indicated.

Bunkers targeted

Parliament approved British participation in air strikes against IS targets in Iraq in September 2014.

MPs went on to back action against IS in Syria in December 2015. While 66 Labour MPs helped the government secure a larger than expected Commons majority, the expansion of attacks was opposed by party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

In answer to a Parliamentary question last September, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said about 330 fighters were estimated to have been killed in the first year of RAF strikes in Iraq.

Image caption The information was contained in a freedom of information request

The UK campaign has intensified in recent months, with Typhoon and Tornado fighter jets and remotely-piloted Reaper drones targeting oilfields and bomb factories as well as mortar and sniper positions.

The latest figures suggest 318 IS fighters have been killed in the first three months of this year in both Iraq and Syria, compared with 92 in the same period last year.

The MoD last week released details of a series of strikes between 19 and 24 April in northern and western Iraq and Syria.

It said a mission on 21 April saw the first use against IS of the Enhanced Paveway III guided bomb, which had been held in reserve for "particularly challenging underground or hardened targets", on a complex of tunnels and bunkers.

The following day, Reaper drones destroyed an improvised weapons factory and workshop used for constructing car bombs in Syria, the MoD said.

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