Saturday 21 October 2017

General denies 'war crimes' claim over battle to clear Isil from Mosul

Displaced children at Khazer camp, Iraq. Photo: Reuters
Displaced children at Khazer camp, Iraq. Photo: Reuters

Josie Ensor Mosul

A senior British commander hit out yesterday at a human rights group's claims that the US-led coalition and Iraqi forces used excessive force in the battle to recapture Mosul, calling the accusations "naive and deeply irresponsible".

Maj Gen Rupert Jones, the deputy commander of the international coalition against Isil, criticised a report published by Amnesty International the day after troops claimed victory over the jihadists as "disrespectful" to the Iraqi government.

Amnesty suggested the government troops and coalition carried out "disproportionate" and "unlawful" attacks in the fight to take back the city.

The organisation accused the forces of using unnecessarily powerful weapons in Mosul's densely populated Old City, which they say resulted in "needless loss of civilian lives" and could constitute war crimes.

Gen Jones said it was naive to think a city such as Mosul, with a population of 1.75 million, could be liberated without any civilian casualties while fighting an enemy that "lacks all humanity".

"It strikes me as being written by people who simply have no understanding of the brutality of warfare. But we should be absolutely clear who were deliberately killing civilians," he said. "It wasn't the government of Iraq, it wasn't the coalition, it was Isil - everybody should be entirely clear what they were doing with the civilians.

"It went way beyond human shields, they were out and out murdering civilians left, right and centre."

The UK has played a leading role in the coalition, striking 750 Isil targets in support of the Iraqi army during the nine-month offensive.

Thousands of Iraqi troops are thought to have been killed in the fighting, although the total number across the army may never be known as it does not release casualty figures.

Troops faced a hi-tech enemy in Isil, whose campaign was fought using drones carrying explosives, car bombs, foreign-trained snipers and a complex warren of tunnels. Snipers would regularly take over houses and round up civilians in the basements to use as protection against air strikes.

Whole neighbourhoods of the Old City and western side of Mosul were levelled in the operation, which has proved to be the deadliest urban battle since the Second World War.

The Iraqi government says the cost of rebuilding the city will run into the tens of billions of dollars. Airwars, a UK-based civilian casualties monitoring group, believes that as many as 5,800 civilians were killed in military activity in west Mosul. Iraqi civil defence officials have suggested that as many as 4,000 bodies may still be lying buried under rubble. (© Daily Telegraph London)

Irish Independent

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