Published: Sun, April 02, 2017
Global | By Maureen Mccoy

US opens formal investigation into civilian deaths in Mosul


Guterres offered support for Iraq's fight against the Islamic State group during a visit to Baghdad on Thursday.

Gen. Townsend acknowledged Tuesday there was "a fair chance" a us airstrike played a role in the carnage resulting from the March 17 strike.

As of writing, over 110 bodies have been recovered from areas hit by coalition airstrikes.

"What you see now is not the use civilians as human shields", said Colonel Joe Scrocca, a spokesman for the Baghdad-based coalition.

Between March 17-23, the United States conducted strikes in western Mosul neighborhood that may have set off truck bombs, leading to the collapse of buildings, according to local officials, and the death of hundreds of civilians.

But with such an enormous number of innocents left dead, this is a hard assertion to defend.

Nevertheless, Amnesty's report suggests that a loosening of American military combat rules under President Donald Trump are to blame for the high number of civilian casualties in Mosul. According to Townsend, munitions used during the US airstrike would not have collapsed an entire building.

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What's more, this incident did not occur in isolation. "Iraqi and American forces both assured us that it will be an easy battle, that's why people didn't leave their houses". One Mosul resident, Mohammed, lost relatives to a coalition airstrike and laments the tactics at play: "Why now [is the Coalition] destroying our homes with our families inside, just to eliminate two or three [Islamic State fighters] on the roof?"

General Joseph Votel, the Army officer who heads the U.S. Central Command, described to lawmakers on Capitol Hill on Wednesday how the fight against Islamic State has changed in the dense urban terrain in western Mosul. The military is now regrouping and attempting to discuss the most efficient way to reclaim Mosul without killing innocent civilians. The new procedures also will apply to the efforts to retake Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State's capital.

The lawmakers' comments echoed the sentiments of Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of the war against ISIS, who told reporters a day earlier: "If these innocents were killed by the coalition, it was an unintentional accident of war, and ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis".

"These people have suffered enormously, and they go on suffering".

The deaths can not be attributed to any loosening of American military rules of combat, he said, and Washington hasn't made a decision to tolerate greater risk of civilian casualties in US airstrikes. The city is divided by the Tigris River into a western and eastern half and the initial operation to liberate Mosul of the extremists began last October. "If we did it - and I'd say there is at least a fair chance we did - it was an unintentional accident of war", he said.

IS planned the incident to "impact the civilians, to inflame the public and to convey a wrong message to the world that the joint forces and the worldwide coalition are behind the killing and bombings", Rasool said.

"I'm greatly surprised with such action of the US military, which has all the necessary equipment and yet were unable to figure out for several hours that they weren't striking the designated targets", Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, speaking at the U.N. Security Council about the March 17 strike.

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