Mosul massacre aftermath: US-led coalition 'failing to protect civilians'

Mosul massacre aftermath: US-led coalition 'failing to protect civilians'
Amnesty International says that coalition forces battling the Islamic State group in Mosul may be in 'flagrant violation' of international law by failing to take measures to prevent civilian deaths.
2 min read
28 March, 2017
Over a hundred civilians were reportedly killed in a US airstrike on March 17 [AFP]
A recent rise in civilian casualties in the battle against the Islamic State group in Mosul suggests that the US-led coalition is failing to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.

The human rights watchdog's report follows the coalition's acknowledgement that the US military was behind a deadly March 17 airstrike in Mosul, which Amnesty says killed "up to 150 people".

US officials did not confirm there were civilian casualties, but opened an investigation.

According to Amnesty, evidence gathered from the ground "points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside".

It added that any failure to take precautions to prevent civilian casualties would be "in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law."

In Baghdad, US army chief of staff, Gen. Mark A. Milley, said on Monday that the cause of the explosion was still unknown and that "some degree of certainty will be known in the coming days following the investigation".

"It is very possible that Daesh [IS] blew up that building to blame it on the collation in order to cause a delay in the offensive into Mosul and cause a delay in the use of collation airstrikes, that is very possible," Milley told reporters after meetings at the Iraqi Defence Ministry.

"And it is possible the collation airstrike did it," he added.

Humanitarian groups and monitors have repeatedly warned of the possibility of increased civilian casualties in western Mosul, due to the higher density of the population and the reliance on airstrikes and artillery in the battle there.

Unlike in previous urban battles against IS in Iraq, the country's government has told civilians to remain in their homes. This approach, which was not adopted in Fallujah and Ramadi, was adopted in order to avoid mass displacement.

The United Nations estimates about 400,000 people remain trapped in IS-held neighbourhoods in western Mosul.

Amnesty International's report quoted survivors and eyewitnesses of airstrikes that have killed civilians as saying that "they did not try to flee as the battle got underway because they received repeated instructions from the Iraqi authorities to remain in their homes".