British jets near site of civilian massacre in Mosul

By James Rothwell, Sara Elizabeth Williams

Ahmed Pesher cries next to the destroyed houses where he says 23 members of his family were killed during fights between Iraq security forces and Isis on the western side of Mosul. Photo / AP
Ahmed Pesher cries next to the destroyed houses where he says 23 members of his family were killed during fights between Iraq security forces and Isis on the western side of Mosul. Photo / AP

Britain's Ministry of Defence was facing questions after it admitted that British jets were flying in the region of west Mosul where a coalition air strike is feared to have killed more than 100 civilians fleeing Isil.

A spokesman said the RAF was providing "close air support" to ground forces in the city, where on March 17 a US-led air strike destroyed several buildings in the al-Jadidah area.

The MoD refused to confirm whether British jets were directly involved in the strike, but said they had seen "no evidence" of causing civilian deaths.

"As operations to liberate western Mosul and Raqqa intensify, the RAF continues to provide precision close-air support to ground forces engaged in difficult urban combat," the spokesman said.

"We conduct detailed assessments after each strike and review information from organisations such as Airwars and we have not seen evidence that we have been responsible for civilian casualties so far.

Through our rigorous targeting processes we will continue to seek to minimise the risk of civilian casualties, but that risk can never be removed entirely."

The MoD issued the response after Iraqi officials denied claims that more than 100 civilian deaths in Mosul were caused by an air strike by the US-led coalition.

The coalition has confirmed that its aircraft attacked fighters from Isis (Islamic State) in al-Jadidah, at Iraq's request.

It added in a statement that it took every allegation of civilian deaths seriously and that Iraqi forces have been committed to protecting civilians in the advance on the militant stronghold of Mosul.

US Brigadier General Matthew Isler, Deputy Commanding General Operation Inherent Resolve, said he could not provide details of the military investigation into civilian deaths in western Mosul on March 17.

Iraq's military said that 61 bodies were recovered from a collapsed building that Isis had booby-trapped.

It also cited witnesses saying that militants had forced residents inside basements to use them as shields.

Relatives and friends bury the body of Khadeer Hassan, who was killed during fighting between Iraqi security forces and Isis in Mosul, Iraq. Photo / AP
Relatives and friends bury the body of Khadeer Hassan, who was killed during fighting between Iraqi security forces and Isis in Mosul, Iraq. Photo / AP

It added that there was no sign of an air strike against a "destroyed" house where the casualties were thought to have taken cover.

However, bystanders in Mosul spoke of carnage in the immediate aftermath of the blast, with more than 50 bodies being dug out from beneath one home.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed at least 100 deaths, which contradict the Iraqi Government's figures.

Bashar al-Kiki, head of the provincial council for Nineveh, of which Mosul is the capital, said "dozens" of bodies were still buried in the city.

If the deaths are found to have been a result of an air strike, it would be one of the deadliest coalition attacks on -civilians in recent history.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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