MoD pays compensation for 362 innocent civilians killed by British military in Iraq and Afghanistan

  • Ministry of Defence paid compensation for deaths of at least 362 innocent men, women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015

  • 5 civilian deaths known to be caused by airstrikes in 2009/10, including a five-year-old girl and an eight-year-old girl killed in separate bombings in Nahr-e-Saraj

  • Total compensation paid for the 362 deaths was less than £1 million

  • Average payout per death in Afghanistan was £2,199.64. Lowest compensation paid out was £86.81 per death for an incident in Helmand claimed in 2007

  • Relatives of a 10-year-old boy killed in Helmand in 2009 received £586.42, while relatives of a three-year-old boy killed in Helmand in 2009 received £1,333.33

  • The family of the eight-year-old girl killed in an airstrike in 2009 received £666.67

THE Ministry of Defence has paid compensation for the deaths of at least 362 innocent civilians killed by British military activity in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The figures were uncovered by an analysis of compensation logs from the two conflicts released by the government department under the Freedom of Information Act.

It comes as MPs prepare to debate ahead of a vote in Parliament tomorrow on whether to launch airstrikes against so-called Islamic State fighters in Syria.

Channel 4 News can reveal the total compensation paid to relatives of the civilians killed in both conflicts was less than £1 million. In one case it was as low as £86.81 per death.

The compensation payouts included £1,296.30 for a five-year-old girl killed in an airstrike at Nahr-e-Saraj, Helmand, during Operation Panchai Palang in 2009.

Another eight-year-old girl was killed in a separate airstrike in the same area on 7 December 2009. Her family received just £666.67 in compensation.

While eight people – including four members of the same family – were killed by a Hellfire missile during an airstrike in Babaji on 30 December 2009.

The compensation logs include claims by civilians for deaths, injuries, property damage and crop damage, kept by Area Claims Officers during the conflicts.

It is believed to be the first time data covering the full span of both conflicts has been released, providing a figure for civilian deaths from both wars.

In all, there were 1,661 deaths of innocent civilians alleged in the claim forms to have been caused by British troops during the two conflicts, between 2003 and 2015.

However, the Ministry of Defence only paid compensation for at least 362 civilians.

Compensation records for Afghanistan show the Ministry of Defence paid a total of £732,480.76 for at least 333 civilian deaths between 2006 and 2015.

It works out as an average of £2,199.64 per death.

The claims register for Iraq does not keep count of the number of civilian deaths in each claim, and only shows at least 29 deaths in that conflict were compensated.

The total paid out in relation to civilian deaths in Iraq was recorded as £198,205.88.

Compensation was paid out for a number of high casualty incidents, including 18 people killed in one incident in Helmand on 16 October 2008, resulting in a payout of £27,254.79.

Eight members of the same family were killed in an undated incident in Helmand. The claim was submitted to British forces in May 2009 and resulted in £7,204.97 in compensation.

And 15 civilians were killed on the same day, 8 July 2013, in Lashkar Gah.

While details of individual incidents are not always given, the logs show compensation was paid for 15 civilian deaths caused by airstrikes between March 2009 and 5 January 2010.

It included £1,296.30 for the five-year-old girl killed in an airstrike in the Nahr-e-Sarj area of Helmand, and £666.67 for an eight-year-old in a separate airstrike, both in 2009.

Channel 4 News has previously interviewed Sufi Abdullah in 2010, after he lost two sons and two brothers when they were hit by a hellfire missile while sitting by a river in Babaji, Helmand.

He said: “Suddenly i heard the sound of a blast. When I turned I saw that my son and brother were lying on the ground, unconscious and covered in blood.

“One of my sons had injuries on his head legs and hand. I had to push him on a cart to hospital.”

He was later paid $32,000 (USD) in compensation.

Other claims show £4,223.60 was paid for the death of four children in an incident in Helmand on 14 December 2009, the equivalent of £1,055.90 per child.

A total of £586.42 was paid for the death of a 10-year-old boy in Helmand on 9 December 2009.

A payout of £1,333.33 was made for the death of a three-year-old boy in an incident involving British troops in Helmand on 26 December 2009.

The lowest payout was per death was £86.81, after just £260.42 was paid for three deaths in an undated incident in Helmand claimed for in 2007.

Another death claimed for in 2008 received a payout of just £104.17.

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said payouts are set for individual cases.

The spokesperson said: “While military operations are never without risk UK forces strive for the highest level of accuracy, which is why we use precise, low collateral systems supported by thorough intelligence.

“However, where civilians were proven to have suffered as a result of military action by UK forces in Iraq and Afghanistan it is right that compensation was paid.

“There is a system in place for handling compensation claims and amounts paid for civilian casualties varied, as they do in the UK, according to such factors as the earning capacity of the victim and family size.

“Claims would have been refused if the claims officer was not convinced that the alleged harm had actually happened and was caused by UK forces.”

  • This investigation was broadcast by Channel 4 News on 1 December 2015. You can see the original here.
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About 
Guy Basnett is an investigative journalist and reporter. He has held the posts of Chief Reporter at The Journal, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Features Writer at the News of the World, and Deputy Features Editor at the News of the World. He was awarded Young Reporter of the Year at the Press Gazette Regional Press Awards 2006, shortlisted for Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards 2009, and shortlisted for Young Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards 2010. He currently works in the Investigations Unit of Channel 4 News.

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