Iraq’s military claims explosives rigged by the Islamic State — rather than airstrikes — killed civilians at a home in Mosul earlier this month.
On Sunday, the military said in a statement that experts checked a house “reportedly targeted by an airstrike and they found out that the house was completely destroyed and there was no sign that it was destroyed by a strike.”
The Iraqi statement, obtained by the BBC, said investigators found “a huge detonated booby-trapped vehicle” near the house.
The statement said 61 dead bodies were pulled from under the rubble and 25 women and children had been rescued alive.
The military quoted eyewitnesses as saying the Islamic State used rigged explosives at homes occupied by families to fire at security forces.
On Saturday, defense departments from Iraq and the United States launched formal investigations into airstrikes between March 17 and 23 in the city’s west side.
The U.S. Central Command said an airstrike on March 17 was carried out in west Mosul “at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties,” according to a statement.
The coalition said it “takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment has been opened to determine the facts surrounding the strike.”
The statement added: “The coalition respects human life, which is why we are assisting our Iraqi partner forces in their effort to liberate their lands from [Islamic State] brutality. Our goal has always been for zero civilian casualties, but the Coalition will not abandon our commitment to our Iraqi partners because of [Islamic State’s] inhuman tactics terrorizing civilians, using human shields, and fighting from protected sites such as schools, hospitals, religious sites and civilian neighborhoods.”
Civil defense groups first reported the civilian deaths on social media.
On Saturday, Bashar al Kiki, chairman of the Nineveh Provincial Council, told CNN that up to 200 people were killed in “indiscriminate airstrikes” by Iraqi and coalition air forces.
Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq has been under the Islamic State’s control since 2014. But U.S. and Iraqi forces are seeking to regain control.
In a statement, the United Nations said it is “profoundly concerned” about the “high number of civilian casualties” in the city’s al Jadidah section.
“Nothing in this conflict is more important than protecting civilians,” said Lise Grande, the humanitarian coordinator for Iraq. “International humanitarian law is clear. Parties to the conflict — all parties — are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians. This means that combatants cannot use people as human shields and cannot imperil lives through indiscriminate use of fire-power.”
By Allen Cone