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Iraq, US Investigate Mass Civilian Deaths in Mosul


Smoke rises from the old city during a battle against Islamic State militants, in Mosul, Iraq, March 26, 2017. (REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal)

The U.S. led coalition in Iraq says it is investigating reports that coalition airstrikes killed as many as 100 civilians in western Mosul this month.

Military officials called the death of civilians in Iraq's northern city of Mosul "a terrible tragedy."

The U.S. Defense Department has said an early examination showed coalition warplanes attacked at the place where civilians reportedly were killed on March 17.

Iraqi forces, with coalition air support, are working to capture western Mosul from Islamic State fighters. The Islamic State group has controlled the area since 2014.

The head of U.S. Central Command said Sunday that coalition forces will continue taking what he called "extraordinary measures to avoid harming civilians."

General Joseph Votel said, "While Iraq's security forces are making measurable progress, the fight in Mosul is a difficult one, and particularly because the enemy operates amongst the civilian population.”

The Iraqi military has suggested that Islamic State fighters were responsible for the deaths on March 17. It said new evidence suggests that Islamic State fighters placed explosives at the site.

The Iraqi military’s Joint Command said, "All of [the building's] walls were rigged with bombs and there is no hole or signs that it was an airstrike target."

More than 500,000 civilians are believed to be living in Islamic State-held areas of Mosul. Reports say Islamic State extremists use civilians as human shields against Iraqi forces.

The family of Ammar Hazzin (3rd from L) says their flight from New Mosul was delayed after 21 people were executed by IS militants for attempting escape on March 26, 2017 in Hammam Alil, Iraq. (H.Murdock/VOA)
The family of Ammar Hazzin (3rd from L) says their flight from New Mosul was delayed after 21 people were executed by IS militants for attempting escape on March 26, 2017 in Hammam Alil, Iraq. (H.Murdock/VOA)

VOA spoke Sunday to 28-year-old Ammar Hazzim who had just arrived at a refugee camp near Mosul.

He said, “We tried to run the day before yesterday, but Islamic State militants executed 21 people that day for fleeing, including women. Today, we decided we had to go.”

Hazzim said there had been much violence in his neighborhood, called New Mosul, in the past month. He said an airstrike there 40 days ago killed his brother and his brother’s three children.

Hazzim’s family said the airstrikes, car bombings, executions and suicide attacks have turned the area into a disaster zone. Other families fleeing western Mosul this week agree.

Hazzim’s brother Lazem added, “The militants gather families into small areas. The families hide in the basements and the airplanes don’t see them. They are hidden.”

“In western Mosul, there is no place to strike without hitting families,” he said.

Caty Weaver adapted this for Learning English from VOANews reports. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

particularly adv. more than usually

rig v. to put something secretly in (a place) — usually + with

shield n. something that defends or protects someone or something

casualty n. a person who is hurt or killed during an accident, war, etc.

zone n. an area that is different from other areas in a particular way

basement n. the part of a building that is entirely or partly below the ground

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