Rick Moran reported here at PJ Media last weekend that CENTCOM was investigating a March 17 U.S. airstrike in Mosul, Iraq, that some claimed had killed up to 200 civilians:
— PJ Media (@PJMedia_com) March 25, 2017
On Sunday, CENTCOM published a statement confirming that they conducted an airstrike in that area at the request of Iraqi allies:
An initial review of strike data from March 16-23 indicates that, at the request of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Coalition struck ISIS fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties.
CJTF–OIR takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and a formal Civilian Casualty Credibility Assessment has been opened to determine the facts surrounding this strike and the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties.
Needless to say, Russian media propaganda outlets are having a field day with the claim, as Russia was called out for the intentional bombing of civilians in Aleppo in Syria:
— RT (@RT_com) March 24, 2017
— RT (@RT_com) March 25, 2017
The international media are pushing the story too:
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) March 27, 2017
While the world focused on London, it's thought 230 Iraqis have died in an American-led air strike https://t.co/ns8O7kwgfF
— The Independent (@Independent) March 23, 2017
— Anne Barnard (@ABarnardNYT) March 27, 2017
Rescue workers say they've finished clearing building allegedly destroyed by coalition airstrike- 101 bodies found https://t.co/3pdGMqOqEg
— Loveday Morris (@LovedayM) March 27, 2017
And human rights groups are specifically blaming President Trump, claiming the civilian casualties are the result of his loosening of Rules of Engagement:
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) March 24, 2017
But now there is some evidence that the U.S. airstrike — again, called in by our Iraqi allies — may not have been directly responsible:
— The Irish Times (@IrishTimes) March 26, 2017
Mosul offensive: Iraq denies air strike caused civilian deaths https://t.co/mcOIlYgHd7
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) March 26, 2017
— Telegraph Breaking News (@TelegraphNews) March 26, 2017
The BBC reports:
Reports suggested the disputed air strike, or strikes, killed more than 100 people in the Jadideh neighbourhood. But the details, and even the exact date, remain sketchy. Some reports suggested more than 200 bodies were pulled from a collapsed building.
However, the Iraqi military, on its Facebook page, has issued a detailed rebuttal of claims that an air strike was behind the deaths. The statement names al-Resala neighbourhood rather than Jadideh.
It says the coalition carried out an air strike, at the request of Iraqi forces, at 08:25 local time on 17 March.
Iraqi military experts checked a house “reportedly targeted by an air strike and they found out that the house was completely destroyed and there was no sign that it was destroyed by a strike”.
The Iraqi statement goes on: “A huge detonated booby-trapped vehicle was found near the house. Some 61 dead bodies were pulled from under the rubble.”
The military says eyewitnesses described how IS used houses, rigged with explosives and containing families, from which to fire at security forces.
And there is also independent evidence from inside Mosul as well.
One local operating on Twitter as “Mosul Eye” addressed the incident. He claims relatives were killed in the blast and attributes the ultimate cause to an ISIS VBIED stationed near the building:
I am aware this may endangers me, but my moral duty towards my city obliged to tell the facts even if costs my life. -5
— Mosul Eye عين الموصل (@MosulEye) March 25, 2017
The Jerusalem Post had a good run-down of what is now known about the incident beyond the immediate breathless media hype, including the lowering of fatalities from 200-plus to 61:
— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) March 27, 2017
CENTCOM said yesterday that the investigation into the incident continues:
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) March 27, 2017
A few observations regarding civilian casualties in Mosul:
First: the Pentagon, under Obama, was promising the Mosul offensive would be concluded TWO YEARS AGO:
U.S. sees Iraqi offensive to retake Mosul in April-May time frame http://t.co/k7zEKX1fDw
— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) February 19, 2015
Second: the battle for Mosul—Iraq’s second largest city with over a million residents—against Obama’s “JV team” has been fierce:
Gen. Townsend: Mosul is "the most significant urban combat to take place since World War II.”https://t.co/FuiLtmepnn
— Max Abrahms (@MaxAbrahms) March 28, 2017
Third: when it comes to civilian casualties in Mosul, some of the same groups and media outlets now attacking Trump for this incident were already saying months ago that civilian casualties in this offensive would be huge:
— Human Rights Watch (@hrw) October 20, 2016
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) October 14, 2016
Fourth: residents of Mosul were told to stay in place — and not by the U.S.:
— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) November 24, 2016
— Amnesty Iraq (@AmnestyIraq) March 28, 2017
Fifth: the claims that the loosening of the Rules of Engagement in the Mosul offensive are to blame for the high civilian casualties are getting pushback from some unlikely quarters, including former Vice President Biden’s National Security Adviser Colin Kahl, who has been a fierce critic of the Trump administration:
It could simply reflect the intensification of the campaign as assault on Western Mosul enters final phase. https://t.co/iciniuc0Jw 2/
— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) March 28, 2017
And also from Army officers (CAS = Close Air Support):
CAS in support of maneuver elements in close contact is going to have less restrictive rules due to nature of the threat. 2/2
— Luke O'Brien (@luke_j_obrien) March 28, 2017
And U.S. military brass:
— FDD's Center on Military & Political Power (CMPP) (@FDD_CMPP) March 24, 2017
The Pentagon and the media will continue to investigate this incident. But the breathless reporting with inflated casualty figures being used as a partisan battering ram to attack President Trump’s policies appears to not be accurate.