Syria, Iraq airstrike civilian death claims should be probed - Alex Salmond

Claims that airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Iraq and Syria should be "urgently" investigated by the UK Government, Alex Salmond has said.

The SNP foreign affairs spokesman has asked the Ministry of Defence to look into the findings of a report by Airwars, a group of independent journalists who published details of 52 strikes in the countries with what it believes are 'credible reports' of at least 459 civilian deaths, including more than 100 children.

MPs voted against military action in Syria but it emerged last month that UK military pilots embedded with other nations have been involved in airstrikes. Action in Iraq has previously been sanctioned.

Mr Salmond, the former first minister of Scotland, said the report was "alarming" and called for an urgent investigation into the role of UK-embedded military.

The MoD said it has not received any reports of civilian casualties.

Mr Salmond said: "The case for UK involvement in bombing in Syria has simply not been made - and the involvement of British service personnel in bombing without the approval of Parliament clearly flouts the democratic decision taken by the House of Commons.

"Significantly, the number of potential civilian deaths in Syria, identified by Airwaves, is almost as great as that in Iraq despite the air campaign being much more recent. That may be the result of the difficulty in identifying targets in Syria, a four way civil war of the most horrendous complexity.

"The Government's behaviour in this matter is entirely unacceptable - effectively participating in a bombing campaign by stealth. We now need an investigation into these new findings on civilian deaths, and we need it urgently.

"In any conflict there will be civilian casualties and that is particularly the case in aerial warfare. However, if these potential civilian deaths are already running into the hundreds, including children, then how will it be possible to win the battle for hearts and minds which all members of the coalition say they believe is the key to success against Daesh?

"It is this lack of overall strategy; the lack of diplomatic initiative, the failure to interrupt and destroy the financial power of Daesh, the failure to give priority to the battle of ideas which shows the weakness of the UK Government's approach to Daesh terrorism."

An MoD Spokeswoman said: "We are not aware of any incidents of civilian casualties as a result of UK strike activity over Iraq.

"Our overriding concern in conducting such strikes is to protect innocent people from the terrorists we are targeting and we take every possible measure to avoid any civilian casualties."

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