U.S. Didn't Expect Major Explosions When an ISIS Bomb Factory Was Bombed

U.S. Didn't Expect Major Explosions When an ISIS Bomb Factory Was Bombed

By The Intercept

When the U.S. military was planning an airstrike on an Islamic State bomb factory in Iraq, it failed to adequately consider the possibility of secondary explosions from munitions stored there, according to military documents that have been hiding in plain sight for several months. The bomb factory in the city of Hawija reportedly contained more than 18,000 kilograms of explosive material — and secondary explosions from the 2015 airstrike killed scores of Iraqis and damaged or destroyed thousands of homes. One of the survivors later told an interviewer from the Iraqi NGO Al-Ghad League for Woman and Child Care, “I thought it was a nuclear bomb.”

In the wake of the carnage, the chief of targets for U.S. Central Command insisted in an email, included in a detailed follow-up assessment of the attack by military investigators, that the strike had been conducted by the book, including the pre-attack “collateral damage estimate,” or CDE. “My targeteers actually spent hours working and reworking this target just to make the CDE ‘executable,’” he wrote in the email. “This was a perfectly accurate CDE call,” he insisted, emphasizing in another email that “CDE Methodology does not account for secondary explosions.”

The emails and other investigation documents are included in 73 pages of post-strike assessments of the Hawija attack that are part of a 5,400-page archive of the Pentagon’s confidential reviews of civilian casualty allegations resulting from U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. The archive was published in December by the New York Times, which obtained the documents through the Freedom of Information Act. The documents, part of the Times’s award-winning “Civilian Casualty Files” series, offer an unvarnished glimpse of the faulty intelligence and inaccurate targeting that led to thousands of noncombatant deaths. They also offer a look into little-known policies and procedures — such as the failure to factor secondary explosions into estimates of potential collateral damage from an attack on a bomb factory.

Ashwaq Ebad ul Kareem Sharif, left, sits with her son Omar, whose face was burned as a result of the June 2015 airstrike and subsequent secondary explosion in Hawija, Iraq, in February 2022.

Photo: Courtesy of Ayman al-Amiri/PAX

Read Full Story At: The Intercept.

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