Pentagon to Investigate Claim of 200 Civilian Deaths in Mosul Airstrikes

Pentagon to Investigate Claim of 200 Civilian Deaths in Mosul Airstrikes

Iraqi Vice President Osama Nujaifi has called for an immediate investigation into the impact of the Mosul airstrikes, which he called a "humanitarian disaster".

The objective, he said, was to "tighten the noose" around IS.

Iraqi children stand on the road as they flee west Mosul, Iraq, with their families on March 17. If they push farther north, this would help encircle the Old City.

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command Col. John Thomas said the military was trying to figure out if it was an American attack or a coalition strike.

The coalition is taking it seriously because the US Department of Defense Civilian Casualty Assessment said in November 2016 that "as many as 64 civilians" had been killed in one year of fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Previously, American advisors on the ground were required to go through an approval process with a command center in Baghdad before strikes were carried out.

But once operations there wind down, Iraqi forces will need to capture and clear rural centres like Badush as they move west towards the Syrian border and the next target, the Islamic State-held flashpoint town of Tal Afar.

Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration's rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt.

The Iraqi speaker of parliament has expressed concern over an air raid that killed more than 200 civilians in western Mosul where US-backed troops are fighting the Islamic state group.

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The military statement differed from reports by witnesses and local officials that as many as 200 bodies had been pulled from a collapsed building after a coalition strike last week targeted IS militants and equipment in al Jadida district area.

"So apparently numerous air strikes, according to the people we spoke here, hit the wrong target - simply by the time the air strike arrives and is called in, the ISIL fighters have disappeared".

Brigadier General Matthew Isler, a deputy commanding general for the coalition, said on Sunday it took "every feasible measure to protect civilians" and was investigating all "credible allegations".

"We were sleeping when the house literally collapsed on us", she told Amnesty, adding: "We ran to my uncle's house nearby".

At the Pentagon on Monday, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis defended the USA actions, saying, "There is no military force in the world that has proven more sensitive to civilian casualties".

"Sometimes there are 10 vehicle bombs driven into the area in one day", Alaa Abboudi, a soldier, said.

Civilians, humanitarian groups and monitoring officials have repeatedly warned of the possibility of increased civilian casualties in western Mosul due to the higher density of the population and the increased reliance on airstrikes and artillery. Since taking office, his administration has intensified the use of force in conflicts across the Middle East, almost doubling the number of US troops in Syria and expanding American operations in Yemen.

"There is no military force in the world that has proven more sensitive to civilian casualties", Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Monday. There's no question that the jihadists are using civilians as shields, forcing them to stay in homes that are used as firing positions. "The same can not be said for our adversaries ...", he said.

On Sunday, parliament's human rights committee called on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to launch urgent investigations into reports of "massacres" being committed in western Mosul by US -led coalition warplanes.