IS fighters in Mosul provoking coalition strikes on civilians

Yet their opponents are "smuggling civilians so we won't see them and trying to bait the coalition to attack", said US Colonel Joe Scrocca, a spokesman for the Baghdad-based coalition, on Thursday.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called Thursday for protection of civilians to be the "absolute priority" as he visited Iraq, where hundreds of thousands are caught up in the battle for Mosul.

The Pentagon on Thursday said it would soon release a video showing Islamic State militants herding civilians into a building in the Iraqi city of Mosul and then firing from it, the US military's latest response to an outcry over a separate explosion thought to have killed scores of civilians.

Jaafari highlighted the issue of reconstruction in talks with Guterres - a major challenge in areas that have been devastated by heavy fighting to retake them from IS.

"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", Votel said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

At least 11 people were killed in a Thursday airstrike that targeted a historical district of western Mosul as Daesh militants clashed with tribal volunteer fighters to the city's south, local sources have said.

"The munition that was employed here should not have created the effects that we - that have been observed", Votel said. Remaining in the city has posed deadly danger to residents, with the United Nations human rights office saying more than 300 civilians were killed in west Mosul in a little over a month.

He later travelled to Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

The Iraqis have proven to be a tenacious, brave, professional fighting force as they place their lives in harm's way to protect Iraqi civilians and to defeat ISIS in Mosul, Scrocca added.

Officials and witnesses say air strikes have taken a devastating toll on those who remain.

The IS group had an estimated 2,000 fighters in west Mosul when the Iraqi push on the northern city began in mid-February.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost.

Abadi accused IS militants of "intentionally using civilians as human shields, while intensifying their propaganda machine to spread rumors" that Iraqi forces and worldwide aircraft caused casualties among civilians.

Along with civilian casualties, Iraqi troops have suffered significant losses, with almost 300 men killed since the west Mosul pushback began over a month ago.

At his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square, Francis said he was "concerned about civilian populations trapped in the neighborhoods of western Mosul". In the first 37 days of the Iraqi offensive to take western Mosul, 284 Iraqi troops were killed and more than 1,600 were wounded.

  • Leroy Wright