The U.S. military is investigating reports that more than 100 civilians were killed in a coalition airstrike last week in Mosul, where U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are clearing the city of Islamic State militants.
If confirmed, it would be the largest civilian casualty incident in the coalition air campaign in Iraq and Syria, which is more than two years old.
The coalition said in a statement Saturday that the assessment is focused on a March 17 airstrike made at the request of Iraqi security forces in the area where the allegations surfaced. The coalition said it opened an initial “civilian casualty credibility assessment” to determine the validity of the reports.
Iraqi teams picking through the rubble of several buildings destroyed in the Al-Jadida neighborhood in west Mosul uncovered dozens of bodies. Iraq’s Civil Defense Department said workers discovered the bodies once it was safe to re-enter the area.
The Islamic State, also known as ISIS, often uses civilians as human shields and rigs entire buildings to explode. The militants frequently store explosives inside buildings and an airstrike could have set off a “secondary” explosion.
Iraqi security forces have been aggressively battling militants inside west Mosul, a densely packed neighborhood of narrow streets and alleyways.
It is generally difficult to use artillery and air support during urban combat. But the U.S.-led coalition has kept a steady pace of airstrikes during the Mosul offensive, using precision munitions and surveillance video to vet requests for air support.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jim Michaels