US-led coalition not taking adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths: Amnesty International

A recent spike in civilian casualties in Mosul suggests the US-led coalition is not taking adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths as it battles the Islamic State group alongside Iraqi ground forces, Amnesty International has said.

The human rights group’s report comes after the coalition acknowledged the US military was behind a March 17 strike in a western Mosul neighbourhood that residents said killed more than 100 civilians.

US officials did not confirm there were civilian casualties but opened an investigation.

The report also cites a second strike on Saturday that it said killed "up to 150 people". The US-led coalition said in a statement that it was investigating multiple strikes in western Mosul that allegedly resulted in civilian deaths.

Evidence gathered on the ground in Mosul "points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition air strikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside", the report said.

It added that any failure to take precautions to prevent civilian casualties would be "in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law".

Iraqi forces began the assault on IS-held Mosul in October after months of preparation and build-up. In January, Iraq declared east Mosul "fully liberated" and government forces are now battling to retake the city’s western half.

Civilians, humanitarian groups and monitoring officials have repeatedly warned of the possibility of increased civilian casualties in western Mosul due to the higher density of the population and the increased reliance on air strikes and artillery.

Unlike its previous fights against IS, Iraq’s government instructed Mosul civilians to remain in their homes.

In the battles for Fallujah and Ramadi, the cities were entirely emptied of their civilian populations as Iraqi forces battled IS. In Mosul, the Iraqi government said it asked civilians to remain in place to prevent large-scale displacement.

When the operation to retake Mosul was launched, more than a million people were estimated to still be living in Mosul. The United Nations estimates about 400,000 people remain trapped in IS-held neighbourhoods in the city.

Amnesty International’s report quoted survivors and witnesses of air strikes as saying: "They did not try to flee as the battle got under way because they received repeated instructions from the Iraqi authorities to remain in their homes."

AP


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