iStock/Thinkstock(MOSUL, Iraq) — The U.S. military is reviewing whether three airstrikes in Syria and Iraq over the past week were responsible for the reported deaths of more than 200 civilians.
U.S. Central Command confirms it has begun “credibility assessments” into allegations of civilian casualties in a possible airstrike in Mosul, Iraq, this week that reportedly killed 200 civilians, a March 16 airstrike near a mosque in al-Jinnah, Syria, that is said to have killed dozens, and an airstrike Monday on a school building outside of Raqqa, Syria, that may have also killed dozens of civilians fleeing local fighting.
Credibility assessments are initial reviews that seek to determine whether claims of civilian deaths from airstrikes are credible.
The U.S.-led coalition has conducted more than 19,000 airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since the summer of 2014. U.S. Central Command’s review of allegations of civilian casualties has determined that at least 220 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition airstrikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve.
The latest allegations of civilian deaths from a coalition airstrike involve reports that as many as 200 civilians were killed in an airstrike in western Mosul targeting three adjoining houses. Local news reports indicate ISIS may have used the civilians as human shields to prevent airstrikes on the buildings, and the Iraqi military’s media operations center claims ISIS was responsible for the civilian deaths.
“The coalition has opened a formal civilian casualty credibility assessment on this allegation and we are currently analyzing conflicting allegations and all possible strikes in that area,” said Col. Joseph Scrocca, a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve. “This process takes time though, especially when the date of the alleged strike is in question. Right now we are working with multiple allegations placing a strike in the area sometime between March 17 and 23.
“We will continue to assess the allegations and determine what if any role a coalition strike may have had in that area,” said Scrocca.
The spokesman noted ISIS’s previous disregard for civilians and civilian facilities by “using human shields, and fighting from protected sites such as schools, hospitals and religious sites.” He added there have been instances where ISIS forced families from their homes to booby-trap them with explosives to delay Iraqi forces.
U.S. Central Command has also opened a credibility assessment into an airstrike Monday night that targeted a school building near Raqqa, ISIS’s de facto capital inside Syria.
The activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights alleges that an airstrike on the school killed 33 civilians who had been seeking shelter from local fighting.
U.S. Central Command is also conducting a full investigation and credibility assessment into an airstrike on March 16 in the village of al-Jinnah in northwestern Syria.
U.S. officials said that airstrike killed dozens of al-Qaeda militants who had gathered for a meeting in a building near a mosque across the street. They emphasized that the mosque was not struck and that the building was not affiliated with the mosque. However, locals said that dozens of worshipers were killed in the airstrike and that the targeted building was, in fact, a mosque.
A U.S. Central Command spokesman confirms that earlier this week Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of U.S. Central Command, ordered a full investigation into the circumstances of the mission.
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