Iraq, coalition officials scramble to prevent another 'Mosul massacre'

Apr 09, 2017, 01:42
Iraq, coalition officials scramble to prevent another 'Mosul massacre'

The current operation to recapture Mosul carried out by the Iraqi troops backed by the US-led worldwide coalition began in October 2016 and resulted in the liberation of the eastern part of the city this January. But the attack occurred with Islamic State battling Iraqi forces in its last stronghold in the country in the city of Mosul.

Testifying before the House Armed Services committee Wednesday, General Joseph Votel of US Central Command insisted the military has the highest standards for protecting civilian life and the rules of engagement haven't changed.

Iraqi special forces and police fought ISIS militants to edge closer to the al-Nuri mosque in western Mosul on Wednesday, tightening their control around the landmark site.

But given the fluid fight in Mosul, where USA and coalition aircraft, Apache helicopters, Paladin howitzers, and HIMARS precision rockets stationed outside the city are firing 24 hours a day at an enemy on the move, those calls are being made quickly.

Heavy sustained gunfire could be heard from the Old City area, where militants are hiding among residents and using the alleyways, traditional family homes and snaking narrow roads to their advantage, fleeing residents say. That's when Iraqi security forces were taking unsustainable casualties and had to pause their operations in order to reinforce, Scrocca said Thursday.

Confusion still surrounds the incident: Iraqi military authorities are saying the casualties were caused by booby traps the Islamic State had planted in the house, or by a suicide vehicle bomb that detonated nearby.

In a rare admission, US military officials released a statement in which they acknowledged that the bombing - while meant to hit Islamic State targets in Mosul - appears to be "corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties". The Iraqi military said in a statement that 61 bodies were subsequently pulled from the ruins, while a municipal official said the death toll of the attack was as high as 240.

Retired Lt. General James Dubik, a former commander of the multinational security and transition command in Iraq, said what the go-fast approach misses is the reality that "ISIS is a revolutionary group and a revolutionary group can't be defeated by military means alone".

General Votel's comments about standards are likely to cause concern, with human rights groups already slamming the U.S. military for an increase in the allegations of civilian casualties in recent weeks.

An Iraqi policeman kicks open the door of a house as fighting against IS militants continues on the western side of Mosul on Monday.

The fight to drive the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, from the rest of the city will be hard.

He added than an in-depth investigation into the strikes had been opened on March 17.

Al Ansari was killed with four others in a strike Saturday in al Qaim, Iraq, on the border with Syria, Scrocca said.

Defense Department officials said the US-led coalition had carried out attacks with 700 bombs and rockets and another 400 strikes with satellite-guided Himars missiles over the past week in Mosul.

"What I don't know is were they (the civilians) gathered there by the enemy?"