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Canadian CF-18s making a difference in Iraq

Nov. 13, 2014, Ottawa - A Canadian air strike on Islamic State artillery in Iraq “likely” killed fighters with the extremist group but did not injure any civilians, a military official says.


November 13, 2014
By The Globe and Mail

Colonel Dan Constable, Commander of the Joint Task Force in Iraq, told reporters Thursday morning that the artillery piece had been firing at Iraqi troops near the town of Bayji, about 200 kilometers north of Baghdad, before it was hit. A brief video of the November 11 air strike, provided by the Department of National Defence, shows the target travelling on a road followed by a large explosion.

Col. Constable said the target, which may have been a howitzer, was initially spotted in a treeline where it was firing on Iraqi soldiers.

Canadian surveillance, refuelling and fighter aircraft have flown a total of 68 sorties since joining U.S.-led air strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq about two weeks ago, Col. Constable said. Canada’s CF-18 fighter jets have completed two air strikes since the mission began.

Asked if the number of air strikes completed so far seemed low, Col. Constable noted that Canada’s contribution also includes refuelling and surveillance support. In addition, he said the coalition efforts so far have forced Islamic State fighters to change their tactics, leaving fewer obvious targets open to air strikes.

“I think it also highlights our rigorous and discriminating targeting processes that we’re using. You know, we’re very, very deliberate, very precise about making sure that we have all the information that we need to be confident that we’re reducing or eliminating any collateral damage possibility,” Col. Constable said.

He said one metric of success is the coalition’s success in limiting IS members’ freedom of movement in Iraq. “Over the long term, I think the measure of success is whether we’re able to continue to degrade and disrupt them enough to ultimately defeat” Islamic State fighters, he said.

The first Canadian air strike targeted construction equipment the military said was being used in an attempt to divert water from the Euphrates River. Islamic State fighters were aiming to force civilians and Iraqi troops onto roads containing improvised explosive devices.

“I am very confident to report that we have no reports of civilian casualties, no collateral damage in any of the two strikes,” Col. Constable said on Thursday.

He said there was no indication that any Islamic State fighters were killed during the first Canadian air strike but it’s “likely” that there were IS casualties as a result of the second.

Col. Constable said there is evidence that coalition air strikes are having an impact, with Islamic State fighters losing the ability to move freely in Iraq and changing their tactics to avoid detection from the air.

IS fighters have begun hiding their equipment in buildings or burying them in the sand, he said. They have also moved away from tanks and begun using smaller vehicles, making targeting them more difficult.

Canada has contributed a total of six CF-18 fighter jets, two CP-140 Aurora surveillance planes, a C-150 refuelling jet and about 600 Canadian Forces personnel to the mission, which is based in Kuwait. About 70 more Canadian special forces troops are also providing advice and training to security forces in Northern Iraq.