Pentagon Investigating Civilian Deaths in Iraq and Syria
The US Department of Defense Reviewing Video of Coalition Strikes
The Pentagon said Monday it was reviewing more than 700 video feeds of coalition air strikes on west Mosul, Iraq after reports of a large number of civilians killed in bombings.
More Than 130 Civilian Deaths
Amid rising concern over a jump in civilian casualties in fighting in Iraq and Syria, Colonel J.T. Thomas, a spokesman for the US Central Command, said they were putting a high priority on investigating the Mosul reports.
Nineveh provincial governor Nawfal Hammadi said “more than 130 civilians” were killed in strikes over several days in Mosul’s al-Jadida area, and attention has focused on one allegedly particularly deadly strike on March 17.
Investigating Syrian Deaths
US investigators are also looking at the apparent bombing of a school in Mansura near Raqqa, Syria on March 21, and a building next to a mosque on March 16 in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said that 33 people were killed in the Mansura bombing and 49 in Al-Jineh, where the US target was a meeting of Al-Qaeda officials.
Investigations a Priority
Thomas called examining what happened in west Mosul “the priority at this time” for Central Command.
He said the reports of a heavy civilian toll in the northern Iraqi city could represent several days of bombing against the Islamic State group.
“In Mosul, there are multiple days of strikes,” he told journalists in Washington in a Pentagon conference call.
“The numbers of civilian casualties that have been reported variously — one of the things we’re looking at is if some of those numbers are cumulative from different incidents, different engagements, in this highly contested, very ferocious battle that’s going on in Mosul.”
Investigators are studying more than 700 video feeds taken during air strikes on that area of Mosul over a 10-day stretch around March 17, he said.
“We know that we were dropping bombs in the immediate vicinity,” he said, noting that the bombs used are “quite precise.”
He also said they were studying “intriguing information about secondary explosions” that news reports suggest could have been sparked by the bombing.
Not Yet An Official Investigation
“We have not made any specific determinations at this time,” he said, adding that the probe had not risen yet to an official investigation.
Thomas declined to discuss speculations made by US media hostile to President Donald Trump as to whether his administration had eased controls on coalition air strikes against Islamic terror groups in Syria and Iraq, possibly contributing to the increase in civilian deaths.
“With a densely populated area, and the kind of door-to-door, street-to-street fighting, with more bombs being dropped, and there are still thousands of civilians still in western Mosul, that is one of our significant concerns.”
It remains to be said that civilian casualties are inevitable in urban fighting and that the US military is now forced to divert resources to investigations that could be better spent on fighting the war against ISIS.