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US airforces could be relevant to deaths among civilians

Wed, 29.03.2017 13:42



The top US commander in Iraq on Tuesday acknowledged the likelihood that the US-led coalition played a role in blasts in Mosul that killed many civilians this month, but said an investigation was under way and ISIL may also be to blame.

"My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties ... What I don't know is were they [the civilians] gathered there by the enemy? We still have some assessments to do," Lieutenant-General Steve Townsend told a Pentagon news briefing, speaking from Iraq.

"I would say this, that it sure looks like they were."

Conflicting accounts have emerged since the March 17 explosion in al-Jadida district in west Mosul, where Iraqi forces, backed by US-led coalition air strikes, are fighting to clear Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters from Iraq's second city.

Investigators are in Mosul to determine whether a US-led coalition strike or ISIL-rigged explosives caused a blast that destroyed buildings and may have killed more than 200 people.

"My initial impression is the enemy had a hand in this. And there's also a fair chance that our strike had some role in it," Townsend said.

"I think it's probably going to play out to be some sort of combination. But you know what, I can't really say for sure and we just have to let the investigation play out."

More than 300 civilians have been killed in west Mosul since Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition began an offensive last month to push ISIL out of its last stronghold in Iraq, the UN said on Tuesday, adding the toll could exceed 400 if new killings are verified.

"This is an enemy that ruthlessly exploits civilians to serve its own ends, and clearly has not even the faintest qualm about deliberately placing them in danger," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in a statement.

"[ISIL's] strategy of using children, men and women to shield themselves from attack is cowardly and disgraceful. It breaches the most basic standards of human dignity and morality," he said.

Source: UNIAN

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