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US probes Mosul airstrikes which left Iraqi civilians dead

The coalition against the "Islamic State" (IS) armed group is to investigate whether civilians were killed by its airstrikes in Mosul. The US-led force has admitted the March 17 incident may have hit non-combatants.

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Mosul offensive called to a halt

The US military acknowledged on Saturday that American aircraft struck a location in West Mosul where dozens of civilian casualties have been reported.

US Central Command said in a statement that it took the allegation seriously and has opened an investigation "to determine the facts surrounding this strike."

Iraqi and US-led coalition jets have been carrying out ariel bombardments in recent weeks, as part of an offensive to retake the densely-populated western part of Mosul from the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group. IS occupied the northern Iraqi city in 2014.

The internationally-backed forces captured the eastern half of the city last month and have vowed to completely crush the jihadi group.

UN uneasy 

The United Nations has spoken of its concern over reports of an incident on March 17 that killed or wounded dozens of people in the al-Jadidah district of the city.

Iraqi officials and witnesses say dozens of people have been killed by airstrikes in recent days, but the number of victims could not be independently confirmed.

Irak Kampf um Mossul Flüchtlinge in Hammam al-Alil Camp (Reuters/K. al Mousily)

Around 200,000 civilians have fled western Mosul after months without most day-to-day supplies

Civil defense officials and residents have said many people lay buried in collapsed buildings. The air strikes may have detonated an IS truck filled with explosives, destroying buildings in the heavily-populated area, a local lawmaker and two residents said.

To counter the offensive, the insurgents have used car bombs, snipers and mortar fire, while using civilians as human shields.

As many as 200,000 civilians have fled western parts of Mosul in recent weeks, according to Iraq's ministry of migration and displaced. Some residents have reported being shot at by the jihadis as they tried to escape IS-held neighborhoods.

Advance put on hold

A spokesman for Iraq's security forces said on Saturday its fighters have paused their offensive because of the high rate of civilian casualties.

An Iraqi army statement published in the al-Sabah state newspaper said that future operations would be carried out by ground troops highly trained for urban combat.

As many as 600,000 civilians remain in the western half of Mosul, according to aid agencies. Fleeing residents have described grim living conditions inside IS-held areas, with no running water or electricity and no food supplies.

An Iraqi observation group has said that nearly 700 civilians have been killed since the campaign on western Mosul began on February 19.

mm/jm (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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