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Iraq, US Look into Scores of Civilian Deaths in Mosul


Smoke rises while displaced Iraqis wait to get food supplies as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State militants, in western Mosul, Iraq, March 27, 2017.

The U.S. military is looking at more than 700 separate video feeds covering 10 days of airstrikes in Mosul to determine whether reports that counter-Islamic State coalition strikes killed as many as 100 civilians in Mosul are credible, a spokesman said on Monday.

“We’re looking at trying to get ground truth on the facts involved,” said Air Force Colonel John Thomas, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East. “It is of the highest priority in Mosul right now.”

The Pentagon has called the death of civilians in Iraq's northern city of Mosul a terrible tragedy.

"There is no military force in the world that has proven more sensitive to civilian casualties,” U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said Monday. “We go out of our way to always do everything humanly possible to reduce the loss of life or injury among innocent people. The same cannot be said for our adversaries.”

The Pentagon has said an initial review showed coalition warplanes conducted strikes on March 17 "at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties" in western Mosul's Old City.

“We know that we were dropping bombs in the immediate vicinity,” said the spokesman, adding that some bombs were dropped just tens of meters away from areas where civilian casualties were reported.

Residents carry the body of several people killed during fights between Iraq security forces and Islamic State on the western side of Mosul, Iraq, March 24, 2017.
Residents carry the body of several people killed during fights between Iraq security forces and Islamic State on the western side of Mosul, Iraq, March 24, 2017.

Thomas said that the U.S. military is fully capable, however, of striking one building while leaving its surrounding unscathed.

He noted that those assessing the situation also hope the video could provide clarity on reports of secondary explosions, which some news outlets have blamed on Islamic State improvised explosive devices.

The Iraqi military cast doubt on U.S. blame for the March 17 casualties, citing new evidence it says shows Islamic State fighters placed explosives at the site.

"All of [the building's] walls were rigged with bombs, and there is no hole or signs that it was an airstrike target," the Iraqi military's Joint Command said.

WATCH: Iraq continues Mosul offensive

Iraq Continues Mosul Offensive Amid Reports of Civilian Casualties
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Iraqi forces, with the coalition air support, are working to regain control of western Mosul from Islamic State fighters who seized the city in mid-2014.

"While Iraq's security forces are making measurable progress, the fight in Mosul is a difficult one, and particularly because the enemy operates amongst the civilian population," Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, said in a statement released Sunday.

More than a half-million civilians are still believed to remain in Islamic State-held areas of Mosul, with many of them used by Islamic State extremists as human shields as Iraqi forces advance.

Civilians, humanitarian aid groups and monitoring officials have warned about the possibility of increased civilian casualties because of an increasing demand for airstrikes and artillery.