Iraq, coalition officials scramble to prevent another 'Mosul massacre'

Joseph Votel, Head of the U.S. Central Command, confirmed at a hearing on March 29 that a formal investigation will be launched into the March 17 explosion in West Mosul.

US -led forces fighting the Islamic State are adjusting their tactics in Iraq and Syria based on evidence that the terrorist group lures airstrikes at buildings in which they have trapped civilians, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve said Thursday.

The UN chief said via Twitter that his main focus would be to focus on the dire humanitarian situation. Amid reports of dozens of civilians killed by airstrikes in Mosul, he added that "protection of civilians must be the absolute priority". 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. But tens of thousands more are still trapped inside homes, caught in the fighting, shelling and air strikes as Iraqi forces backed by a US-led coalition advance in the west.

After the beginning the operation to retake Mosul in October, Iraqi authorities in January declared they had liberated eastern Mosul.

"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.

The air strike took place on March 25, he said. Coupled with initial inquiries done by USA technical experts who later visited the scene, he said: "My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties".

"We are in the final stage of liberating Mosul and our forces are exerting their utmost efforts to protect the civilians", Abadi said at a joint press conference with Guterres after their meeting.

"We have to be able to positively identify the valid military target (and) positively identify the combatant", as well assess the potential collateral damage of a strike, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Still, the sheer volume of U.S. firepower that is being applied in Mosul underscores the risk for the hundreds of thousands of civilians who are believed to be trapped in the areas controlled by the Islamic State in western Mosul. USA officials have said they are reviewing images from more than 700 videos covering 10 days of airstrikes, along with information from human-rights groups and intelligence provided by Iraqi forces.

  • Leroy Wright