United States general says coalition 'probably' had role in civilian casualties in Mosul

The Pentagon is continuing its investigation of a March 17 air strike in Mosul that reportedly hit and destroyed a building full of civilians, potentially killing 150 or more people.

Cautioning that initial assessments can sometimes be wrong, Townsend said, "My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties".

Townsend said he did not have information on the Iraqi officer's specific role, but explained that any USA airstrike requested by the Iraqis would also need to be approved by US forces.

"The fact is ISIS has helped flawless the art of using civilians as human shields so if there's an uptick in civilian casualties I would blame it on ISIS".

Despite admitting to the US's involvement in the incident, Townsend noted that the munitions used by US-led coalition forces in densely-populated urban areas were not created to cause such a level of destruction.

Rights group Amnesty International said the high civilian toll suggested us -led coalition forces had failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths. The current pace of USA airstrikes against ISIS have come under scrutiny after a US airstrike may have played a role in the collapse of a building on 200 civilians on Mar 17.

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.

Hundreds of thousands more civilians are still trapped inside west Mosul after Iraqi forces and the US-coalition recaptured the city's east from IS in January.

More than 286,000 civilians living in the city have fled their homes during the fighting but many more have followed the Iraqi government's repeated instructions to stay put until they are reached by troops.

He said investigators are assessing whether ISIS was fighting from the building with civilians in order to "lure" the United States "deliberately, or they were just using them as human shields to try to protect their fighting position". Gen. Matthew Isler as the official in charge of the investigations into the Mosul civilian casualties, Townsend said.

"If we did it, and I'd say there's at least a fair chance that we did, it was an unintentional accident of war and we will transparently report it to you when we're ready", Townsend said in an audio briefing from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters.

The rights group Amnesty International warned that any failure to take adequate precautions would be a "flagrant violation of international humanitarian law".

Even before the strike, the number of allegations of civilian casualties in the air campaign has increased significantly this year. About 5,000 US troops are already in Iraq.

Witnesses say the March 17 explosions may have killed at least 100 people.

Iraqi federal police secure a city street in West Mosul, Iraq on March 2. But many families couldn't escape because ISIS has been using civilians as human shields. "That is not what we used in this case".

US officials did not confirm there were civilian casualties but opened an investigation.

Around 200 civilians are feared to have been killed in a single incident on 17 March in Mosul's al Jadida area.

Votel also told the committee that almost 800 Iraqi security forces have been killed and 4,600 wounded in the increasingly brutal battle to retake Mosul from IS extremists that began last fall. The United Nations is warning that the worst is to come in Mosul, where an estimated 400,000 are trapped in Iraq's second largest city. Iraqi government forces are now battling to retake the city's western half.

  • Leroy Wright