Investigation of Mosul civil casualties expanded

Army General Joseph Votel said during a congressional hearing that in addition to the casualties in western Mosul, the battle for eastern Mosul had lead to 490 members of the Iraqi security forces being killed with over 3,000 wounded.

The senior USA commander in Iraq acknowledged on Tuesday that the US -led coalition probably had a role in an explosion in Mosul believed to have killed scores of civilians, but said Islamic State could also be to blame.

Iraqi witnesses have said that airstrikes earlier this month killed scores of civilians.

According to Iraqi authorities, more than 200,000 civilians have fled west Mosul since the operation to retake it was launched last month.

Scrocca said the US -led coalition airstrikes in mid-March left the coalition with some culpability and it would be disingenuous to continue with credibility assessments. But the civilian deaths can not be attributed to any loosening of American military rules of combat, he said, and Washington hasn't made a decision to tolerate greater risk of civilian casualties in US airstrikes.

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

He said the Islamic State had shifted to this tactic as an attempt to increase civilian casualties in order to "take advantage of the public outcry and deter action in the future".

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. "The explosion damaged number of buildings, including the one where IS crammed about 130 civilians", said the ministry's spokesman, Brig. "We are strongly hopeful that the liberation of Mosul will soon be completed", Guterres said alongside Abadi, according to a copy of his remarks.

Baghdadi and other IS leaders are believed to have left the city but USA officials estimate around 2,000 fighters remain inside the city, resisting with snipers hiding among the population, vehicle bombs and suicide trucks targeting Iraqi positions.

The U.N. Assistance Mission to Iraq says Antonio Guterres landed in Baghdad on Thursday to focus on the dire humanitarian situation on the ground.

Two U.S. generals said this week that they believe their aircraft likely were involved in some way in the incident, which would stand as the largest U.S. -caused civilian casualty event since the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Pope Francis said at his weekly audience in St Peter's Square on Wednesday that it was "urgent and imperative" to protect civilians in Iraq, and he expressed concern about those trapped in western Mosul.

Residents carry the bodies of several people in air strikes on the western side of Mosul last week.

US -backed forces are attempting to push IS fighters out of west Mosul after having liberated the less-populated eastern part of Iraq's second-largest city.

  • Leroy Wright