Iraqi officials demanded compensation from the US-led coalition following an investigation into a March 17 airstrike in which the Pentagon acknowledged a US bomb targeting Islamic State group fighters in Mosul set off a series of explosions that killed more than 100 civilians.
However, several residents of the Mosul neighborhood told The Associated Press on Friday there were no IS fighters or explosives inside the house struck by the US bomb.
“We call upon the international community and especially the United States to compensate the victims,” said Nuraddin Qablan, the deputy president of the Nineveh provincial council. The US should rebuild the homes of all the victims affected by the strike, he said, “so that the psychological damage will be mitigated.”
The Pentagon released the March 17 findings Thursday, reporting the airstrike targeted two IS snipers in a single building, setting off a series of explosions that killed 105 civilians. The Pentagon report added that another 36 civilians may have been at the building at the time, but “there is insufficient evidence to determine their status or whereabouts at this time.”
Civil protection rescue teams reported recovering more than 200 bodies from the area in the days following the March 17 strike. A number of other houses in the area were also destroyed by clashes between IS fighters and US-backed Iraqi forces around the same time, according to residents interviewed by The Associated Press, but the Pentagon investigation looked into the single March 17 airstrike that hit at 8:24 a.m. local time.
Residents of the al-Jadida neighborhood, interviewed by the AP on Friday countered the Pentagon conclusions that there were two IS snipers in the house struck by the bomb and that secondary explosions caused by explosives packed into the house by the extremists were largely responsible for the high civilian death toll.
“There were no explosives in the house, only families,” said Ahmed Abdul Karim, who was sheltering in his own home across from the house hit on March 17. “There were children in the basement and in the garden is where the women were.”
The bombing is the largest single instance of civilian deaths confirmed by the coalition in the nearly three-year-old campaign against IS and brings the total number of civilians confirmed killed by the Pentagon in the IS fight to 457. Independent monitoring groups put the total number of civilian killed much higher, estimating thousands have been killed in Iraq and Syria since 2014, according to tallies kept by Iraq Body Count and Airwars.
The Mosul operation, launched in October, has been the largest and most difficult fight against IS since the extremists overran nearly a third of the country in 2014. Mosul is Iraq’s second largest city after Baghdad and when the operation began more than a million civilians were estimated to still be living there, according to the United Nations.
While just a few small neighborhoods around western Mosul’s old city remain under IS control, coalition and Iraqi commanders have warned the most difficult battles may lie ahead as the city’s older districts are a densely populated warren of narrow streets and closely packed houses.
Abdul-Zahra reported from Baghdad.