An aging Russian warplane piloted by the Iraqi air force accidentally dropped a bomb on a Baghdad residential neighborhood on Monday, killing or injuring over a dozen people.
Evidently the jet was involved in airstrikes against ISIS targets when one of its bombs failed to detach from the plane, due to a mechanical failure. While the plane was en route back to the Rasheed air base, the bomb suddenly dropped and hit three houses, killing at least five people, according to the Baghdad police. Some sources, including Sky News, put the death toll at seven, plus ten or eleven injuries. Women and children were reportedly included among the casualties.
The Iraqi air fleet is not in great shape. “Iraq received Sukhoi Su-25 jets from Russia and Iran last year as it sought to bolster its fledgling air force to combat the Islamic State jihadist group, which overran large parts of the country,” Sky News reports. “The Su-25s are designed for ground attack missions, but Iraq’s Sukhoi fleet is made up of ageing planes that have seen heavy use as Baghdad’s forces battle to push the jihadists back.”
As quoted by NBC News, a spokesman for the Iraqi military said the pilot of the plane was “considered one of the best in the country.” A full investigation of the incident has been promised.
A local taxi driver offered a very different opinion, growling, “I cannot imagine how such stupid pilots are given the chance to fly and kill innocent people.” Another local resident cried, “Instead of targeting ISIS terrorists, our government targeted its people.”
This is not the first grave error by Iraqi pilots in the war against ISIS. In October, supplies– including food, water, and ammunition– were inadvertently dropped on ISIS positions instead of Iraqi units desperate for the supplies. At the time, Iraqi officials complained about having too many young and inexperienced pilots in their ranks.
The ability of the Iraqi military to defeat ISIS, with expensive training and equipment provided by America and her allies, is key to the Iraqi war strategy. As the outraged reactions from local residents demonstrate, faith in the Iraqi armed forces and government is running perilously low among citizens.