The Defence Minister, Steven Vandeput (New Flemish Alliance), is awaiting the findings of the inquiry led by the international anti-IS coalition. When these are released, he will come to a decision upon the potential involvement of Belgian F-16s in the Mosul bombing on March 17th. This caused the deaths of more than one hundred civilians.
Questioned this morning (Monday) on Radio 1 (VRT), the Minister gave assurances that Belgian pilots were applying very strict rules of engagement at the time of the incident.
He mentioned that Belgian F-16s were then taking part, on a daily basis, in missions with various objectives and configurations.
He pointed out that on March 17th, it is absolutely correct that Belgian aeroplanes were in the vicinity of Mosul. Vandeput emphasised, “However, it is not clear exactly where the photographs of the victims were taken.” He says that Belgium is collaborating in the international inquiry.
The Minister said that it is only when this is completed that it be possible to see if “the rules we laid down were followed, and whether there was an issue somewhere.”
Vandeput confirms that Belgian pilots are sticking to the principal of judicial restraint in case of any doubt. This principal is only waived in one given scenario, in the event of support to ground troops.
Mr Vandeput has been told to be available for the Parliamentary Committee for Overseas Missions, which monitors missions abroad. This is meeting today (Monday). The Minister stressed, “I have already provided explanations of the incident to this committee.” He is asking committee members to comply with the rules on confidentiality in camera.
Following opposition calls for open communication on the Mosul bombings, the Minister acknowledges that the population has the right to a lot of information, but that some information should, however, remain secret. “How far should we go so as not to give too much information away to the enemy?”