The Syrian city suffered the same fate as Dresden at the end of World War II. UN investigation speaks of "shocking loss" of human lives among civilians. Washington replies: risk of collateral damage minimized. At least 270,000 displaced people, it will take months for their return.
Raqqa (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The US-led coalition, the protagonist of an intense bombing campaign on Raqqa to wrest it from the Islamic State (IS), has erased the city from the face of the earth. This is the harsh accusation from Russia, which equates the destruction of what once was the stronghold of the Caliphate to the devastation suffered by the German city of Dresden at the end of World War II.
Last week the Syrian Democratic Forces (FDS) took the Syrian city and the oil centers in the surrounding area. A massive bombing campaign was conducted by US air forces to favour the advancement of the Arab-Kurd coalition. The US coalition leaders have repeatedly stated that they have tried to "minimize" risks and damage to civilians. In the past, Russia had been accused of war crimes in the context of targeted bombing for the liberation of Aleppo, which ended in December last year.
A survey conducted by UN inspectors last week shows that there was a "shocking loss" of human lives among civilians at Raqqa. Sources reported by local activists speak of a number of deaths varying between 1130 and 1873 among the population. Many of these civilian casualties are attributable to the intense air raid campaign conducted by the US in support of Syrian land forces.
A spokesman for the Russian defence ministry recalled the destruction of Nazi Germany. "Raqqa inherited the fate of Dresden in 1945 - pointed out Major General Igor Konashenkov - swept away from the face of the earth by the Anglo-American bombing." The West later sent a massive amount of humanitarian aid to the German city to compensate for the damage caused and the crimes committed.
In response, the US-led coalition said it has followed stringent procedures and targeted bombings to minimize the risk of civilian casualties. Last week, Syrian forces regained what was the capital of the Islamic State (IS, formerly Isis) after four months of intense battle.
They also took some important oil wells, which represented an essential source of profit for the jihadists.
The fighting resulted in the displacement of at least 270,000 people; before their return, reclamation will be needed for the removal of explosives scattered by Isis underground and in the streets. The inhabitants were warned not to try to force their return before the end of the operation. Local experts say it will take months to clean up everything and start reconstruction of destroyed buildings and homes. (DS)