Saturday 21 October 2017

Iraq denies attack on Mosul killed at least 160 civilians

An Iraqi rescue worker gestures towards bodies wrapped in plastic in Mosul's al-Jadida area following air strikes in which civilians have been reportedly killed during an ongoing offensive against the Islamic State group. Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES
An Iraqi rescue worker gestures towards bodies wrapped in plastic in Mosul's al-Jadida area following air strikes in which civilians have been reportedly killed during an ongoing offensive against the Islamic State group. Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Sara Elizabeth Williams

Iraqi officials have denied claims that more than 160 civilians in Mosul were killed by a US-led coalition air strike.

The coalition confirmed its aircraft attacked Isil fighters in Mosul's al-Jadidah neighbourhood on March 17, at Iraq's request. But a statement by the Iraqi military's joint command said there was no sign of an air strike against a "destroyed" house where the casualties were thought to have taken cover.

Journalists and local officials were reportedly denied access to the site yesterday.

"All walls were booby-trapped and there is no hole that indicates an air strike," the statement said.

Witnesses spoke of carnage in the aftermath of the blast, with more than 50 bodies dug from beneath one home alone (pictured inset).

The World Health Organisation has confirmed at least 100 deaths. Bashar al-Kiki, head of the provincial council for Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital, said "dozens" of bodies were still buried under rubble.

Ninevah provincial governor's health directorate said 160 bodies had been buried.

"Six alleyways of the neighbourhood were completely destroyed," said Laith Habbaba, head of Nineveh health directorate. "Civil defence has extracted and buried 160 bodies up to this moment."

The Iraqi military said just 61 people had been killed. It cited witnesses saying that the building was booby-trapped and militants had forced residents inside basements to use them as shields.

If the deaths are found to have been a result of an air strike, it would be one of the deadliest US attacks on civilians in recent history.

What happened on March 17 remains unclear and details are difficult to confirm as Iraqi forces battle with Isil to recapture the densely populated parts of the western half of Mosul, the militant group's last stronghold in Iraq.

Eyewitnesses described horrific scenes from the blast, with body parts strewn over rubble, residents trying desperately to pull out survivors and other people buried out of reach.

"We felt the earth shaking as if it was an earthquake. It was an airstrike that targeted my street. Dust, shattered glass and powder were the only things my wife, myself and three kids were feeling," said one resident, Abu Ayman.

"We heard screams and loud crying coming from the house next door. After the bombing stopped, I went out with some neighbours and found that some houses on my street were levelled."

Meanwhile, a pause in operations announced on Saturday to review tactics in the wake of the rising civilian death toll did not appear to have taken place. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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