Commander: 'Fair chance' US-led Mosul strike played role in civilian deaths

The senior US commander in Iraq acknowledged on Tuesday that the USA -led coalition probably had a role in an explosion in Mosul believed to have killed scores of civilians but said Daesh could also be to blame.

Addressing a media briefing at the Pentagon via satellite link from Baghdad on Tuesday, Lt Gen Stephen Townsend said of an investigation by United States technical experts on the ground: "My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties".

The Israeli military knows the challenges of fighting an enemy embedded in a civilian population. "We still have some assessments to do", Lieutenant General Steve Townsend told a Pentagon news briefing, speaking from Iraq.

"I do agree that as we move into these urban environments, it is going to become more and more hard to apply extraordinarily high standards for the things that we're doing, although we will try", General Votel said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

USA defense officials have acknowledged that coalition aircraft did strike a location in the Iraqi city of Mosul where scores of civilians were reportedly killed last week.

Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, said initial assessments show that US forces did strike in an area in west Mosul, Iraq, where a building collapse killed as many as 200 civilians.

Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend said Tuesday there is "at least a fair chance" that American forces had a role in killing civilians. We don't know yet.

The rights office said it was not in a position to provide a breakdown of the deaths caused by IS violence and air strikes by the worldwide anti-Jihadist coalition. But the top commander of US forces in Iraq said investigations may reveal a more complicated explanation, including the possibility that militants rigged the building with explosives after forcing civilians inside.

He said it was also possible that the civilians killed had been "forced" to remain in the building by IS.

It comes a day after the top U.S. commander in Iraq said the coalition "probably had a role" in an explosion in western Mosul that killed as many as 200 people.

As investigators probe the blast, Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend strongly defended USA behavior in the war and pushed back against accusations the United States had loosened safeguards meant to protect civilians as it ramps up the battle against Islamic State. He said coalition forces struck the approximately 30 ISIS fighters believed to be there and he thinks the investigation will show the allegations are unfounded.

The U.S. has been flying missions against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since Fall 2014, in addition to supporting local Iraqi and Syrian forces on the ground to defeat ISIS.

More than 3,000 civilians are believed to have died since US-backed government forces launched their onslaught into the city.

"The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of worldwide humanitarian law", she said.

With the battle entering the densely populated areas of western Mosul, civilian casualties are becoming more of a risk.

"The aircraft see one Daesh guy on the roof and drops a bomb to get him but, in the basement below, a family of 10 people are sheltering and they get killed too", he continued, referring to the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Amnesty said that, in many cases it investigated, east Mosul residents said IS fighters had been present in or near houses targeted in the strikes.

The battle to recapture the city began five months ago, and the eastern part has been retaken in that time.

  • Leroy Wright