US confirms 229 civilian deaths in coalition airstrikes

Published 02.04.2017 22:04

Airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition against the Daesh terror group have likely "unintentionally" killed 229 civilians since the offensive began in 2014, according to the U.S. Central Command.The tally does not include civilian casualties from March.

Stephen Townsend, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, said coalition forces "probably had a role in those casualties."

The coalition has said it has launched an investigation into the reported deaths.

Iraq is also probing the deadly air strikes in the western district of Mosul where the number of victims is said to be in the hundreds.

As of the end of February, "It is more likely than not, at least 229 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve" in Iraq and Syria, according to a statement from Centcom, the U.S. military command in the Middle East.

Some 43 different reports of possible civilian deaths in the two countries are still under investigation by the coalition, the statement said. The coalition insists that Daesh has targeted civilians and used them as human shields.

The U.S. military has acknowledged the U.S.-led coalition probably had a role in the March 17 explosion but said Daesh also could be to blame. Local officials and eyewitnesses say as many as 240 people may have been killed in the al-Jadida district when a huge blast caused a building to collapse, burying families inside.

At least 307 civilians were killed and 273 wounded in western Mosul between Feb. 17 and March 22 as Daesh fighters herd people into booby-trapped buildings as human shields and fire on those who flee, according to U.N. figures.

The rules of war, as set out in the Geneva Conventions, require respecting the principles of precaution, proportionality and distinguishing between combatants and civilians. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein called on. Iraqi and coalition forces to conduct transparent investigations into the deadly incidents.

Meanwhile, 548 Iraqis were killed and another 567 injured in violence in Iraq in March, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq said. Some 543 civilians were among last month's fatalities, while the number of injured was 561, according to casualty figures recorded by the mission.

The northern province of Nineveh was the most affected area with 541 casualties (367 killed, 174 injured) followed by Baghdad with 84 killed and 246 injured, UNAMI said.

"The terrorists have used every possible wicked way to inflict casualties on civilians," Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Jan Kubis, said.

Western Mosul contains the old city center with its ancient souks, the Grand Mosque and most government administrative buildings. It was from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque that Daesh leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a self-styled "caliphate" over parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014. The city, Iraq's second biggest, is the largest urban center captured by Daesh in both countries and its de facto capital in Iraq. Daesh was thought to have up to 6,000 militants in Mosul when the government's offensive started in mid-October. Of those, more than 1,000 have been killed, according to Iraqi estimates.

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