A high-ranking US commander has admitted that there was a “fair chance” that a coalition airstrike in western Mosul killed a large number of Iraqi civilians.
“We probably had a role in those casualties,” said Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend while talking to reporters on Tuesday.
He noted that the reason for the high number of casualties was Daesh’s repulsive practice of using civilians as human shields.
On March 17, Iraq’s Kurdish-language Rudaw television network reported that 237 people had been killed in US-led coalition airstrikes on a Daesh-held neighborhood in western Mosul.
“The enemy had a hand in this,” he added, stressing that “It sure looks like” the civilians has been forced to gather in the building by the terrorists. “What I don’t know is why they [the civilians] gathered there by the enemy?”
Despite admitting to the US’s involvement in the incident, Townsend noted that the munitions used by US-led coalition forces in densely-populated urban areas were not designed to cause such a level of destruction.
Last week, a senior Iraqi military official announced that a US-led coalition airstrike on a Daesh truck carrying explosives resulted in the civilian deaths in Mosul incident.
On Monday, the Pentagon announced that it was analyzing over 700 video feeds from airstrikes on west Mosul following the increasing number of reports of civilian causalities.
A spokesman for the US Central Command, Colonel J.T. Thomas, stressed that high priority was being given to the reports. He added that the US was aware they were dropping bombs in the “immediate vicinity” of areas with a high civilian population but their bombs were “quite precise.”
The US had previously admitted to having launched airstrikes in Mosul on the day of the deadly tragedy.
UN cautions US-led cotillion to avoid civilian casualties
Meanwhile, the UN has called on the US-led coalition in Iraq to take further measures towards protecting civilians while noting that Daesh was sending residents into buildings and areas which were the targets of airstrikes.
In a report, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, also called on all forces engaged in anti-terror operations in Iraq to “avoid the trap” of hitting buildings in which Daesh had placed explosives and sent locals to take shelter in.
He added that the terrorists “strategy of using children, men and women to shield themselves from attack is cowardly and disgraceful. It breaches the most basic standards of human dignity and morality.”
On Monday, Amnesty International also voiced its concerns over the number of civilian casualties in Mosul, suggesting the US-led coalition may not be doing enough to avoid such casualties.
Iraqi army soldiers and allied fighters launched an offensive to retake Mosul in October 2016. The forces took control of eastern Mosul in January and launched the battle in the west on February 19.