Published: Wed, March 29, 2017
Global Media | By Meredith Barber

Top US commander admits coalition role in Mosul blast


"A team of military experts was formed from field commanders to inspect the house where the media reported, the house was completely destroyed 100% and all its walls are booby-trapped and there is no hole or indication that was subjected to an air strike", the command said.

"If we did it, and I'd say there's at least a fair chance that we did, it was an unintentional accident of war and we will transparently report it to you when we're ready", Townsend said in an audio briefing from Baghdad with Pentagon reporters.

It was the fullest acceptance of responsibility by a USA commander since the March 17 strike.

Thomas said the assessment is looking at 700 videos from the area over a ten-day period.

"We are often sorting through having poor access on the ground to the area to the area to get good understanding of it", he said, including that access to the site of the March 17 attack will likely improve as the battle wages on.

It's unfortunate, but they're just stuck in the crossfire.

Survivors and neighbours told the group's researchers that, as far as they knew, no IS fighters had been present in or around the house.

"I'm not targeting civilians; ISIS is", Townsend said Tuesday. But he asserted that "the munition that we used should not have collapsed an entire building".

"Isis reportedly filled the house with people from the surrounding neighbourhood, including children, and then used the house to launch rocket-propelled grenades against the Iraqi Security Forces", the report said.

"Right now there are a lot of conflicting reports [about] what brought down the building or buildings that caused civilian casualties", Townsend said. And ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis. "There are countless mass graves surrounding Mosul".

The coalition commander said the battle to defeat ISIS is a brutal fight on multiple fronts, and the most hard he's seen in his career. In the battles for Fallujah and Ramadi, those cities were entirely emptied of their civilian population while Iraqi forces fought to push out IS.

The search must be transparent, to identify the causes and numbers of civilian casualties in each case, to be able to make it public, he said.

The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of global humanitarian law.

Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said a recent spate of civilian casualties in Mosul was "fairly predictable" given the densely populated urban neighborhoods that the ISIS fighters are defending against Iraqi government troops. The Islamic State has had two and a half years to build up its defenses in that part of the city.

"The fact that the whole building collapsed contradicts our involvement", he said.

Townsend said that the battle for the west of the city was even more hard because of what he called its "claustrophobically close terrain" of narrow streets and buildings, repeating several times that the house-to-house fighting was the most intense urban combat since World War II.

The coalition has supported the assault by carrying out hundreds of air strikes and deploying military advisers and special forces personnel on the ground. "I think that's really the explanation for civilian casualties".

USA commanders appear to understand the stakes. Local reports allege the airstrike struck a crowded mosque during evening prayers, killing dozens of civilians.

At least 307 civilians have been killed and 273 wounded in western Mosul between February 17 and March 22 as Daesh fighters herd people into booby-trapped buildings as human shields and fires on those who flee, according to United Nations figures.

To retake Mosul from the Islamic State, the president has ordered 200 more USA soldiers into the fight and has allowed them to go closer to the front lines to support Iraqi forces. Monitoring groups say the number is much higher.

"In addition, between 23 and 26 March, reports were received that at least 95 civilians were killed in". The human rights organization said such actions could amount to war crimes.

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