Washington: A Pentagon investigation has found more than 100 civilians were killed in a US bombing in Mosul, Iraq, in March, making it one of the largest incidents of civilian death since the US air campaign against Isis began in 2014. The military reports 101 civilians in the building were killed, and another four died in a nearby building. Thirty-six civilians remain unaccounted for.
The deaths represent about a quarter of all civilian deaths since the US air campaign began. “Our condolences go out to all those that were affected,” said Maj Gen Joe Martin,
commanding general of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJFLCC-OIR). “The coalition takes every feasible measure to protect civilians from harm,” he added. “The best way to protect civilians is to defeat Isis.”
The CJFLCC-OIR’s investigation was triggered by international outcry over reports of large-scale civilian deaths following the 17 March bombing. Critics claim the US has been too aggressive in bombing congested areas like Mosul. The major Iraqi city – and last Isis city stronghold – has a population of more than 660,000.
The incident generated backlash strong enough to halt the Iraqi government forces’ six-month advance into Mosul. “It’s a time for weighing new offensive plans and tactics. No combat operations are to go on,” a federal police spokesman said at the time. A new plan for defeating Isis, commissioned by President Donald Trump in January, has not been detailed to the public.
The newly released Pentagon report, however, casts blame for the casualties on Isis. According to the report, the US bomb was intended to destroy only the top floor of the building. But the bomb triggered secondary explosions from devices planted in the building by Isis fighters, causing the concrete building to collapse.
The military cites an analysis of the building’s debris, which found materials common to Isis-made bombs, but not found in the GBU-38. Air Force Brig Gen Matthew Isler says American-led forces dropped the bomb under request from Iraqi Counter-terrorism Services. The counter-terrorism forces were reportedly facing gunfire from two Isis snipers.
Coalition aircraft responded to the calls for assistance with a 500-pound, GBU-38 precision-guided bomb. “The weapon appropriately balanced the military necessity of neutralising the snipers with the potential for collateral damage,” Brig Gen Isler said.