Al­lies ramp up bomb­ing in ‘bru­tal’ Mo­sul bat­tle

The Dominion Post - - World -

IRAQ: The US-led coali­tion has in­ten­si­fied the bat­tle for Mo­sul even as it ad­mits that its bombs prob­a­bly killed more than 130 civil­ians in a sin­gle airstrike two weeks ago.

War­planes have in­creased the num­ber of sor­ties by 14 per cent this month, with an av­er­age of 500 bombs be­ing dropped on west Mo­sul each week, but Iraqi forces are still en­coun­ter­ing fierce re­sis­tance on the ground.

A US com­man­der has re­vealed that 774 Iraqi troops have lost their lives in Mo­sul so far; 490 in the east­ern half of the city and 284 in the con­tin­u­ing bat­tle for west Mo­sul. At least 4600 have been in­jured. The US yes­ter­day be­gan a for­mal in­quiry into what caused the worst loss of civil­ian life at the hands of western forces since the start of op­er­a­tions in Iraq.

The in­quiry was an­nounced in Wash­ing­ton by Gen­eral Joseph Vo­tel, head of US Cen­tral Com­mand. He said it would look into all the cir­cum­stances in which a coali­tion airstrike is be­lieved to have been or­dered on a row of houses in west Mo­sul on March 17, killing about 137 peo­ple.

De­tails of ca­su­al­ties not pre­vi­ously re­leased among Iraqi troops paint a gloomy pic­ture of an of­fen­sive that has be­come bogged down in the wind­ing streets of Mo­sul’s old city, with civil­ians pay­ing the price of any at­tempt to ac­cel­er­ate the ad­vance.

In a brief­ing to jour­nal­ists at the Pen­tagon on Wed­nes­day evening Lieu­tenant- Gen­eral Stephen Townsend, over­all leader of the coali­tion fight against Isis, said: ‘‘It is the tough­est and most bru­tal close-quar­ters com­bat that I have ex­pe­ri­enced in my 34 years of ser­vice.’’ He has pre­vi­ously com­manded troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The fight­ing is cen­tred on the Old City sur­round­ing the al-Nuri mosque, where Abu Bakr alBagh­dadi, the Isis leader, pro­claimed his caliphate nearly three years ago.

Thou­sands of Mo­sul res­i­dents have fled from the ar­eas held by the ji­hadists but tens of thou­sands more are trapped in their homes, sur­rounded by the fight­ing and with no de­fence against the shelling and airstrikes from above.

Coali­tion he­li­copters cir­cling west Mo­sul strafed Isis po­si­tions be­yond the city’s main train sta­tion yes­ter­day, Reuters re­porters said. Heavy, sus­tained gun­fire could be heard from the Old City area, where Isis fight­ers were hid­ing among res­i­dents and us­ing the al­ley­ways, tra­di­tional fam­ily homes and snaking nar­row roads to their ad­van­tage, flee­ing res­i­dents said.

The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the airstrike on March 17 are hotly dis­puted, al­though wit­ness and sur­vivor ac­counts sug­gest that Isis fight­ers were near or even on top of the row of houses when they was hit. They al­lege that Iraqi ‘‘spot­ters’’ called in strikes even though they were aware that civil­ians were shel­ter­ing in the base­ment. - The Times

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.