Mosul Civilian Casualties Difficult To Avoid - US General

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday visited Baghdad and met with top Iraqi officials to show support for the Iraq's fight against the Islamic State (IS) militant group, as the country is facing a growing humanitarian crisis following fierce battles in Mosul.

"ISIS is smuggling civilians so we won't see them and trying to bait the coalition to attack to take advantage of the public outcry and the terror", he added, using an alternate acronym for the IS group.

The United Nations human rights office has estimated that least 300 people have been killed since mid-February - including 140 from a single March 17 airstrike in western Mosul.

The U.S. military believes ISIS may have rigged the building targeted by the coalition on March 17 with explosives after forcing civilians to hide inside.

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.

More than 280 members of the Iraqi security forces had been killed since the beginning of the battle to retake western Mosul from ISIS, officials said on Wednesday.

General Votel, the head of US Central Command, said there had been no change in the rules of engagement.

The militants have suffered a string of defeats over the past two years in the lead-up to the Mosul operation, but have continued to regularly launch attacks in and around Baghdad.

The deaths can not be attributed to any loosening of American military rules of combat, he said, and Washington hasn't chose to tolerate greater risk of civilian casualties in US airstrikes.

The top USA commander in Iraq was on the defensive Wednesday as sought to deflect questions about deadly anti-Daesh coalition airstrikes that killed hundreds of civilians.

Scrocca said officials had suspicions of the tactic, and yesterday's video now provides proof and offers signs of what to look for. Protection of civilians must be the absolute priority.

The senior USA commander in Iraq also acknowledged on Tuesday that the US-led coalition probably had a role in a a deadly explosion in Mosul on March 17, believed to have as many as 240 people, but said Islamic State could also be to blame.

Colonel Joe Scrocca, a spokesman for the Baghdad-based coalition, said: "What you see now is not the use of civilians as human shields".

Now, the group is using the civilian deaths purportedly as a result of USA -led airstrikes in its propaganda machine.

Iraqi forces are fighting IS in western Mosul, where some 2,000 IS fighters are launching fierce counterattacks.

Before March 21, almost 10,000 civilians have lost their lives in Iraq and Syria In the past two-and-a-half years, according to airwars.org.

  • Leroy Wright