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Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Fighter jets taxi to the Canadian Air Task Force-Iraq ramp in Kuwait after dropping bombs on targets in Iraq during Operation IMPACT on November 3, 2014.Canadian Forces Combat Camera

The Canadian military has estimates on the casualties caused by its air strikes in Iraq but won't make this information public on the grounds it could compromise the mission.

A spokesman for the Canadian Armed Forces initially told journalists Thursday that Canada didn't possess estimates of Islamic State militant or civilian casualties caused by CF-18 air strikes.

Canadian fighter jets have dropped bombs on targets four times so far.

"We're not focused on numbers of casualties; we're focused on effects on the ground," Royal Canadian Navy Captain Paul Forget told a media briefing Thursday when asked for a count of injured and dead so far.

"There are no numbers."

But Capt. Forget later telephoned to correct the record, saying he misspoke.

In a follow-up interview, the officer said the battle damage assessments prepared after air strikes, through intelligence-gathering or with the help of surveillance aircraft, make estimates on the number of casualties incurred.

The Canadian Armed Forces won't release these estimates, citing operational security – meaning it believes doing so could help the enemy.

"We're not going to comment on the numbers of suspected [Islamic State] casualties," Capt. Forget said.

"The battle damage assessment is classified."

He emphasized that the military takes precautions to minimize casualties and assesses the success of bombings based on overall damage, not the number of dead or injured.

"We don't measure success based on numbers of [Islamic State] casualties. We try to focus on the effects," he said, meaning degrading the capability of militants.

The group wreaked havoc in parts of Iraq and Syria earlier this year.

Capt. Forget said successive air strikes by the U.S.-led coalition have now succeeded in blunting the Islamic State's offensive.

"They are no longer making large gains of any sort."

Iraq security forces are starting to regain territory, including reclaiming an oil field and large parts of Beiji, north of Baghdad, he noted.

Last week, the military said a Canadian air strike that hit Islamic State artillery on Nov. 11 appeared to have killed fighters with the extremist group.

While they've bombed only four targets, Canadian fighter jets have flown a total of 66 sorties since the mission began several weeks ago.

The military says the jets are also conducting surveillance as part of their duties.

The Australian military has disclosed that its pilots have aborted bombing runs in Iraq because of last-minute concerns about possible civilian casualties.

However, the Canadian military on Thursday said it couldn't say how many times its pilots have done the same.

"I don't have any data that I would even be able to provide you for an answer in that regard," Capt. Forget said.

Coalition forces have been bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq since August and extended the campaign to Syria in September, although Canada's participation is currently limited to Iraq.

A group called the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said last week that 50 civilians have so far been killed by U.S.-led air strikes in Syria.

So far, Canadian warplanes have bombed an Islamic State bunker in northern Iraq, a warehouse used to make explosives near Mosul, a piece of artillery near Beiji and construction equipment that Ottawa said was being used to divert water from the Euphrates river.

A Canadian refuelling aircraft has so far flown 18 sorties in Iraq to resupply coalition forces and two of this country's reconnaissance planes have carried out 19 surveillance flights.

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