MOSCOW, October 8 (RIA Novosti) - Australia's Super Hornet pilots have pulled out of their first armed airstrikes in the US-led fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, saying that the risk of killing civilians was too high, Australia's News Limited reported Wednesday.
"One of our packages on the first night ... had an identified target which it was tracking and that target moved into an urban area where the risks of conducting a strike on that target increased to a point where it exceeded our expectations of the collateral damage," joint operations chief Vice Adm. David Johnston was quoted as saying by the newspaper during a high-level briefing by military commanders Wednesday morning in Canberra.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) has been flying its planes over Iraq since Sunday but has not participated in an armed airstrike so far.
With the objective to "contain, disrupt and degrade" the IS, the jets performing the airstrikes are operating under a "pre-planned, deliberate and dynamic" targeting where they would be ordered on to a target at the last minute.
According to Australian Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, the airstrikes conducted by the coalition forced the extremists to change their strategy and move into populated areas, where the risk of civilian deaths is much higher.
Binskin also stressed that Australia may not fire any weapons in the US-led campaign.
"There shouldn't be a rush to get a weapon away just for the sake of getting a bomb away — that would be the wrong reason for doing this," Binskin said.
Last week, Australia's Super Hornets were officially allowed to start airstrikes against the IS extremists, supported by 400 RAAF personnel. In addition, 200 special forces members are currently waiting for legal approval to be deployed in Iraq to train and advise Iraqi forces.
"It's an absolutely critical mission on which air forces will be embarked to advice and assist the Iraqi Armed Forces," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in the News Limited report, stressing the role of Australia in the operation.
The IS extremists have proclaimed a caliphate over the large parts of Syria and Iraq under their control. The United States launched airstrikes against the IS in Iraq on August 8, later initiating an international campaign to fight the IS threat and extending the operation into Syria. The coalition was joined by Washington's Arab allies, and a number of European countries. Some coalition members though refrained from any attacks in Syria.