A one-year-old baby boy was among dozens of children killed following British military action in Afghanistan, an investigation has found.
The armed forces paid compensation to the relatives of 64 confirmed victims under the age of 18 over the course of nine years.
But the true number of fatalities could be as high as 135 if those described as someone’s “son”, “daughter”, “nephew” or similar are taken into account.
The Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) findings suggest there is “absolutely no evidence” of British forces deliberately targeting civilians or children, with the deaths necessarily put down to “poor targeting, over-use of heavy weaponry or fighting in populated areas”.
This number rises to 135 across 47 incidents if more vague mentions of “son”, “daughter” or “nephew” are factored in over the wider nine-year period.
The AOAV pointed out that Afghanistan has a young population with a median age of 18, making it fairly likely that any given mention of someone’s “son” or “daughter” refers to a child.
It found that the average age of children killed, in some 27 cases where this was given, was six.
The youngest was a one-year-old baby boy, who died in March 2009.
Just months later, an 18-month-old girl was also killed.
The two most common specified causes of death were crossfires and airstrikes, with a strike on one village killing eight members of the same family.
Narrowing this down to claims involving child deaths – 36 from 27 incidents – the average payout per victim comes to £1,656. This includes compensation covering injuries and property damage.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “Any civilian death during conflict is a tragedy, more so when children and family members are involved. The UK armed forces work hard to minimise that risk, which regrettably can never be entirely eliminated.
“This is done through a package of rigorous targeting processes built upon committed intelligence work, strong engagement protocols, thorough training for those operating in conflict and clear-eyed assessments after an engagement.
“We investigate reports of civilian casualties and are always open to re-examine where new information is submitted.
“We are following the US Department of Defence review in this field and will take into account any outcomes that may assist our own processes.”