Iraq probes reports of civilian deaths in Mosul
BAGHDAD / MOSULIraq is investigating air strikes in west Mosul that reportedly killed large numbers of civilians in recent days, a military spokesman said on March 26.
Iraqi officials and witnesses said that air strikes killed civilians in the Mosul al-Jadida area in recent days, but the number of victims -- said to range from dozens to hundreds -- could not be independently confirmed.
“The defense ministry opened an investigation into this issue,” Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, the spokesman for the Joint Operations Command, told Agence France-Presse.
Iraqi’s military, meanwhile, said on March 26 61 bodies were recovered from a collapsed building that Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) boobytrapped in west Mosul, but there was no sign it had been hit by a coalition strike although a large vehicle bomb was discovered nearby.
What happened on March 17 remains unclear and details are difficult to confirm as Iraqi forces battle with ISIL to recapture the densely populated parts of the western half of Mosul, the militant group’s last stronghold in Iraq, Reuters reported.
Rasool accused ISIL of gathering civilians together and then blowing up explosives-rigged vehicles nearby to make it look like “Iraqi forces... are targeting innocent civilians.”
The U.S.-led coalition backing Iraqi forces on Saturday said it carried out a strike on ISIL militants and equipment in the area of the reported deaths, but it was still investigating. It did not give figures for any casualties or details on targets.
The Iraqi military command said witnesses had told troops that the building was boobytrapped and militants had forced residents inside basements to use them as human shields. ISIL militants had also fired on troops from houses, it said.
A coalition air strike had hit the area, but a military team had not found any sign the collapsed building had been hit.
“A team of military experts from field commanders checked the building where the media reported that the house was completely destroyed. All walls were booby-trapped and there is no hole that indicates an air strike,” it said.
“Sixty-one bodies were evacuated,” the statement said.