U.S. vows ‘re­straint’ in Mo­sul airstrikes

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By W.J. Hen­ni­gan

BAGH­DAD — As Iraqi and Kur­dish mil­i­tary forces con­verge on the eastern out­skirts of Mo­sul, U.S. com­man­ders are con­cerned about their abil­ity to launch airstrikes with­out lay­ing waste to the an­cient city and the civil­ians who live there.

The Sunni Mus­lim in­sur­gents who cap­tured the city two years ago have in­creased the risk of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties by round­ing up thou­sands of Iraqis at gun- point and herd­ing them into ar­eas un­der their con­trol, ac­cord­ing to U.S. of­fi­cials.

The mil­i­tants’ goal, ac­cord­ing to the Pen­tagon, is to force coali­tion war­planes to bomb civil­ians trapped in the city or to hold their fire.

The U.S.-led coali­tion has launched over 2,900 aerial bombs, ar­tillery and mor­tar shells, ground-launched rock­ets and dronelaunched mis­siles since the Mo­sul of­fen­sive be­gan Oct. 17, the Pen­tagon said.

But as the bat­tle moves into a city of cob­ble­stone path­ways and clus­ters of shops, homes and Mus­lim shrines, U.S. pi­lots will “ex­er­cise tac­ti­cal re­straint,” ac­cord­ing Lt. Gen. Jef­frey Har­ri­gian, Air Force com­man­der in the Mid­dle East.

“We’re go­ing to take a look in the area of the tar­get to make sure there are no civil­ians mov­ing to­ward the area,” he said.

Last week, U.S. planes de­stroyed 40 empty trucks near Mo­sul that mil­i­tants planned to use to trans­port civil­ians into the city, U.S. of­fi­cials said.

“Our en­e­mies rec­og­nize how much of an is­sue this is for us and how con­cerned we are about this,” said Gen. Joseph Vo­tel, U.S. com­man­der in the Mid­dle East. “I think try­ing to keep the pop­u­la­tion on our side by the way we con­duct our op­er­a­tions is very im­por­tant.”

The Pen­tagon is in­ves­ti­gat­ing al­le­ga­tions that a U.S. airstrike killed eight mem­bers of an Iraqi fam­ily Oct. 22.

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