The US military has confirmed a coalition airstrike on the site in Mosul where dozens of civilians allegedly died. The US said the strike was at the request of the Iraqi forces. An investigation into the case has been opened, it added.
“An initial review of strike data from March 16-23 indicates that, at the request of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Coalition struck ISIS fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties,” US Central Command said in a statement issued on Saturday.
Videos of the aftermath of the airstrike released Friday show scores of dead bodies being pulled out of a completely destroyed building in western Mosul.
There have also been reports by eyewitnesses who say over a hundred civilians were either killed or buried under rubble in the bombing raid.
At least 40 bodies had been recovered from collapsed buildings on Thursday, Reuters reported, citing Iraqi Civil Defense chief Brigadier Mohammed Al-Jawari. Many others were buried in the rubble, he added.
The United Nations on Saturday expressed concern over the high number of civilian casualties in Mosul.
“We are stunned by this terrible loss of life,” Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Iraq, said in a statement.
Saying that all allegations of civilian casualties are taken “seriously,” the Combined Joint Task Force said “a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment has been opened to determine the facts surrounding this strike and the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties.”
— RT (@RT_com) March 25, 2017
An Iraqi Federal Police spokesman told Reuters on Saturday that operations to drive Islamic State out of western Mosul were halted because of the “high death toll among civilians inside the Old City.”
Later, the Iraqi command denied this in a statement cited by Iraqi Alsumaria TV.
RT’s crew recently inspected the bombed-out streets of Mosul to assess the impact of US-led coalition airstrikes targeting IS. Stating that coalition air strikes are just as deadly for civilians as they are effective in killing jihadists, they report that luring warplanes to residential buildings so they will target the innocent has become a standard IS tactic in Mosul.
“ISIS made us keep our door open, so they could get onto the roofs at any time. They even broke down the walls between houses so they could move around,” a local resident told RT.
“I don’t know why they were climbing onto our rooftops, whether it was to fight or to provoke airstrikes,” another witness said.
Civilians fleeing Mosul to one of the nearby cities were indignant over what the US and Iraq say is “collateral damage.”
“Airstrikes destroyed us, the airstrikes were nonstop, falling and hitting. One Daesh [Arabic term for ISIS] soldier was on the roof of the house, and they attacked the whole house. Where this happened? There are families, and they don’t care. In Dwrat Abude area, about a hundred families got killed,” one of the locals, identified as Ali Hassan, told RT’s Ruptly news agency.
“Disaster, God knows, disaster. In my uncle’s house 15 people are under the concrete, because of the airstrikes… My house has also been destroyed by airstrikes and others: that means mortars were coming to us and airstrikes were coming to us,” a woman said.
Up to 600,000 civilians are still believed to remain in Islamic State-controlled areas of Mosul, according to Reuters. Some 700 civilians had been killed by government and coalition airstrikes in western Mosul since the launch of the offensive in late February, the agency added, citing unconfirmed reports from the Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights.