Mosul battle: Iraqi forces edge closer to al-Nuri mosque

Elias Hubbard
April 1, 2017

While the Pentagon has denied loosening its rules of engagement, an Associated Press report last month quoted a spokesman for the coalition, Air Force Col. John Dorrian, as saying U.S. operators no longer needed to clear airstrikes with a Baghdad office, empowering coalition forces to more easily call in airstrikes.

The Iraqi authorities have blamed an Isis explosive-laden tanker truck which was targeted by a strike for causing a huge explosion and such a high civilian death toll. In recent weeks, IS defenders have packed into neighborhoods with narrow streets and trapped civilians, Townsend said.

Iraqi coalition ground forces, backed by a US-led coalition bombing campaign, began the colossal Operation Inherent Resolve to remove Isis from Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, in October 2016.

On Thursday, Iraq's militarized federal police inched deeper into Mosul's old city - a dense urban core in the western half of the city - where they met with stiff resistance from IS militants.

Coalition forces "probably" played a role in the deaths of numerous civilians during a recent airstrike in west Mosul, the U.S. commander of the anti-Daesh "IS" coalition in Iraq said Tuesday.

Local officials in Mosul have accused Iraqi security forces and the the US-led global coalition against IS of using excessive force and killing hundreds of residents in western Mosul by shelling their houses during the last few weeks. The militants have been using small commercial models to spy and drop munitions on Iraqi military positions.

Iraqi military command has said one line of investigation is whether Islamic State rigged explosives that ultimately caused the blast that destroyed buildings. Rescue workers are still pulling bodies out of the site.

A man purported to be ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at a mosque in the centre of Iraq's second city, Mosul, according to a video recording posted on the Internet on July 5, 2014. Iraqi military said there was no indication the building was hit directly by the strike.

This is likely to be the excuse the Pentagon is leaning heavily toward right now, as Townsend insisted that the bombs the United States dropped on the buildings shouldn't have collapsed the buildings, so the fact that they collapsed, burying hundreds within, "contradicts our involvement".

Amnesty International has said the high civilian toll in Mosul suggested US -led coalition forces had failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths.

"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".

If confirmed, the toll would be one of the worst since the 2003 US-led invasion, raising questions about civilian safety as Iraq's Shi'ite-led government tries to avoid alienating Mosul's mostly Sunni population. We still have some assessments to do.

Islamic State (IS) militants in western Mosul are moving residents into booby-trapped buildings and drawing air strikes with sniper fire to maximise civilian casualties, Iraqi military commanders and local officials have told Middle East Eye.

"It sure looks like they were", Townsend said.

"If we did it - and I'd say there is at least a fair chance we did - it was an unintentional accident of war", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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