Probe Into Mosul Blast Moves To Formal Investigation, US General Says

The U.S. military says it is investigating the blast, which may have been caused by an Islamic State truck bomb that was either hit by the airstrike or detonated by the militants near a building packed with dozens of civilians.

The ongoing investigation, led by Air Force Brig.

Defense Secretary James Mattis said Monday the military does "everything humanly possible to reduce the loss of life or injury among innocent people".

Civilians, humanitarian aid groups and monitoring officials have warned about the possibility of increased civilian casualties because of a growing demand for airstrikes and artillery.

The US has faced overwhelming criticism for its alleged involvement in the al-Jadida incident, which, if carried out by US forces, ranks among one of the worst US bombing of civilians in decades. Rupert Colville said IS militants are brazenly employing human shields, urging the coalition to "avoid this trap".

AP reporters saw on Friday at least 50 bodies being recovered from the wreckage of the buildings.

In the most extensive US explanation of what is known about the event, Townsend stressed that no one should think it was a deliberate USA act.

"ISIS knows they can use human shields to avoid being hit", Congresswoman and former air force pilot Martha McSally said.

He added that Islamic State is "exploiting" the U.S. "sensitivity for civilian casualties" and expressly agreed with the statement of the Rep. Martha McSally (R-Arizona), who said that if the USA doesn't kill ISIS terrorists, they will kill more civilians.

Iraqi firefighters search for bodies of civilians who were killed after an airstrike against ISIS fighters triggered a massive explosion in Mosul, March 27, 2017. "My initial impression is the enemy had a hand in this". He added that the deaths of 200 civilians "in return for liberating the entire city of Mosul - I think it is a normal thing".

Votel maintained that the U.S.' rules of engagement have not been relaxed since President Donald Trump came to power in January. Two witnesses who have now fled the city said that a building with around 170 people inside was destroyed in the Mosul al-Jadida area.

While the global coalition has not responded to the Amnesty claims, the Pentagon maintains that military planners do their best to avoid civilians deaths before a strike is launched.

"These are absolutely tragic and heartbreaking situations", Gen. Votel told committee members, adding each allegation of civilian casualties tied to USA operations is taken seriously. It cited a second strike Saturday that it said killed up to 150 people. A leading Syrian opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, has said it believes coalition forces were behind an airstrike March 21 alleged to have killed at least 30 civilians in a school outside of Raqqa, Syria.

The United Nations expressed profound concern over the incident, saying it was "stunned by this awful loss of life".

Witnesses told the United Nations that at least 140 civilians were being held there as human shields.

The operation by US-backed forces to drive Daesh out of Mosul is in its sixth month.

Colville added that the rights office has tallied the deaths of at least 307 people between February 17 and March 22, including 140 from the March 17 airstrike.

Still, he said increases in casualties were to be expected as the war against the insurgents entered its deadliest phase in the cramped, narrow streets of Mosul's Old City. "It is there that the fighting has gotten extraordinarily brutal".

  • Leroy Wright