Mosul: US-led coalition steps up anti-ISIS campaign amidst allegations of civilian casualties

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US-led coalition steps up airstrikes in Syria and Iraq. File photo: AFP

ARA News

The US-led coalition has stepped up its air campaign against the Islamic State (ISIS) radical group in northern Iraq in support of the Iraqi ground troops. This comes amidst reports about possible civilian casualties under the coalition’s airstrikes in the war-torn city of Mosul in Nineveh Governorate.

The Coalition said there are no changes in operational procedures for approving airstrikes, despite allegations of increased civilian casualties in Western Mosul–final ISIS stronghold.

Local media said on Thursday that at least 230 civilians were killed in coalition airstrikes. However, this was not confirmed by independent sources.

Moreover, the Airwars, the organisation monitoring the international coalition’s airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, said that at least 440+ new civilian were killed recently by the coalition – though many of the claims are contested or poorly reported.

In an exclusive interview with ARA News, Col. Joe Scrocca, CJTF-OIR Director of Public Affairs, said: “There have been no recent changes in operational procedures for approving airstrikes.”

“In December 2016, based on lessons learned during phase I of the ISF liberation of East Mosul, the CJTF-OIR commander delegated approval authority for certain strikes to battlefield commanders to provide better responsiveness to the Iraqi Security Forces when and where they needed it on the battlefield,” the top coalition official said.

“You saw the results of that decision as the Iraqi Security Forces quickly liberated the second half of East Mosul after their rest and refit. This sped up the process but all strikes were still subject to the same due diligence and had to be approved by both a Coalition commander and an Iraqi commander,” Col. Scrocca told ARA News.

In the meantime, the U.S. State Department said that all allegations of civilian casualties are being investigated.

“”(…) whenever there are legitimate allegations of civilian casualties, we investigate them,” U.S. State Department spokesman Mark C. Toner said.

“There is a website that DOD, the Department of Defense, maintains that actually aggregates any of these claims and follows through on them, which means it puts out a report about the incident – whether it’s credible, whether it’s not, what happened, what steps are taken – going to be taken to address any civilian casualties and also amend it going forward,” he concluded.

Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News

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