June 26, 2017

United Nations chief Guterres visits Iraq, calls for protection of civilians

03 April 2017, 03:13 | Clarence Schmidt

USA officials have said that an increase in civilian casualties was to be expected as the war against the insurgents entered its deadliest phase. "We need more solidarity from the global community", he said. More senior leadership at headquarters remains involved in planned strikes, ones using extended surveillance and not part of an ongoing fight.

Echoing Gen. Townsend, the CENTCOM chief told House lawmakers, "There is a fair chance that our operations may have contributed to civilian casualties [in Mosul]". According to Townsend, munitions used during the USA airstrike would not have collapsed an entire building. He said protecting civilians was an "absolute priority".

A USA military spokesman said Thursday (March 30) that Islamic State fighters had been herding local Iraqi residents into buildings in western Mosul, calculating that rising civilian casualties would restrain the United States from using airstrikes to help retake that half the city.

Votel also told the committee that almost 800 Iraqi security forces have been killed and 4,600 wounded in the increasingly brutal battle to retake Mosul from ISIS extremists that began last fall.

Ibrahim al Ansari incited vehicle, knife and arson attacks against American and Turkish citizens, Col. Joseph Scrocca, the USA spokesman in Baghdad for the American-led coalition fighting ISIS, said Thursday.

Reports from frontline units claim Iraqi forces are seeing twice as many Iraqi civilians attempting to flee western Mosul, compared to the flood of refugees who attempted to escape the city's east side at the beginning of the operation, according to Gen. Townsend.

The United Nations human rights office has estimated that least 300 people have been killed since mid-February - including 140 from a single March 17 airstrike in western Mosul.

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Yarallah stated that Iraqi troopers had flown the national flag over a number of buildings in the area, after inflicting heavy losses on Daesh ranks and destroying their military hardware. Guterres s visit comes at a critical time for Iraq, which is fighting to retake Mosul in a battle that has sparked myriad humanitarian concerns.

His visit comes as Iraqi forces battle to retake second city Mosul, which was seized by the Islamic State jihadist group in 2014.

"Throughout the last couple of weeks we've suspected it, we've heard rumors of it", Scrocca said.

Interviews with survivors of the March 17 attack conducted by the group indicate that dozens of families had taken refuge inside the building in the days before the strike, driven from other areas of the city by the fighting.

While he did not disclose the source of the airstrike, western Mosul has recently been the target of fierce bombardments by a USA -led anti-Daesh air coalition. Gunfire, shelling, bombs and air strikes have all taken their toll.

The official said delegating the authority for certain airstrikes in the fight for Mosul down to the tactical level enables American advisers accompanying Iraqi troops to more effectively coordinate Iraqi offensive operations.

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