Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Airstrikes across Rebel-Held Syria Kill and Wound Scores

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Airstrikes across Rebel-Held Syria Kill and Wound Scores

Article excerpt

An initial investigation of a recent airstrike believed to have killed more than 200 civilians in Mosul found it was conducted by the U.S.-led coalition at the request of Iraqi security forces, the Pentagon said Saturday.

Witnesses said the airstrike killed hundreds of residents on Baghdad Street in west Mosul's Aghawat Jadidah neighborhood March 17, including many women and young children. On Friday, in an area where apartment blocks were reduced to rubble, at least 50 bodies could be seen, including those of pregnant women, children and newborns.

On Saturday, a day after announcing that the incident was under investigation, Pentagon officials released a statement saying the coalition had targeted Islamic State fighters and equipment in the area March 17, "at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties."

The coalition said that it takes allegations of civilian casualties seriously and that a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment of the airstrike and the civilian toll is underway.

"The coalition respects human life, which is why we are assisting our Iraqi partner forces in their effort to liberate their lands from ISIS brutality," the statement said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

The airstrike, if found to be responsible for the fatalities, would mark the deadliest civilian casualty incident by far since the U.S. military began its involvement in mid-2014. The credibility assessment, in which the military gathers and analyzes an array of information that is classified and public, is expected to take two to three weeks.

The focus of the inquiry will be whether the coalition airstrike hit civilian buildings; whether an accumulation of airstrikes in the area degraded the structural integrity of buildings before they fell; or whether Islamic State detonated an explosion after the airstrike to bring structures down, according to Col. John Thomas, Central Command spokesman.

"This sort of assessment is really complex," Thomas said. "It gets especially difficult to determine what happened in certain areas of the city where the streets are so narrow that large vehicles cannot get through."

Another likely possibility is that an airstrike hit or triggered an Islamic State suicide car bomb. …

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