London [U.K.]: The U.S. military conducted airstrikes at a location in western Mosul more than a week ago where there were allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Central Command has said.
The military said it determined that warplanes struck ISIS fighters and equipment on March 17, but it’s also investigating whether civilian casualties occurred, CNN quoted the Pentagon as saying.
Meanwhile, Col. Laith Al-Nuaimi, spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry, said an initial investigation of the recent airstrike (March 22-23) found it was conducted by the U.S.-led coalition at the request of Iraqi security forces.
The U.S. Central Command report, however, doesn’t mention strikes on March 22-23.
The U.S. and Iraqi forces are trying to regain Mosul from ISIS. Iraq’s second-largest city has been under the terrorist group’s control since 2014.
The U.S. military previously said it was trying to determine the validity of allegations that sometime between March 17 and 23, U.S. warplanes dropped bombs in a western Mosul neighbourhood that killed more than 200 civilians. It is also investigating allegations of civilian casualties during two recent airstrikes in Syria.
After an initial review of strike data from March 16 to 23, the U.S. military said that ISIS targets were hit on March 17 at the request of Iraqi security forces.
The military has opened a formal probe “to determine the facts surrounding this strike and the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties.”
“The coalition respects human life, which is why we are assisting our Iraqi partner forces in their effort to liberate their lands from ISIS brutality,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement Saturday.
“Our goal has always been for zero civilian casualties, but the coalition will not abandon our commitment to our Iraqi partners because of ISIS’s inhuman tactics terrorising civilians, using human shields, and fighting from protected sites such as schools, hospitals, religious sites and civilian neighborhoods.”
The credibility assessment, in which the military analyses an array of information that is both classified and public, is expected to take two to three weeks.
The airstrike, if confirmed, would mark the deadliest civilian casualty incident by far since the U.S. military began it involvement in mid-2014.
The focus of inquiry will be whether the coalition airstrike hit the building; whether an accumulation of airstrikes in the area degraded the structural integrity of the building before it fell; or whether the Islamic State detonated an explosion after the air strike to bring the building down. (ANI)