The Department of Defense’s investigation into a coalition strike that killed civilians in Mosul, Iraq has determined that the Islamic State (ISIS) packed the targeted building with explosives and human shields.
Investigators found that a “secondary explosion” caused the building to collapse, killing 101 civilians inside and four in a nearby structure. Two ISIS snipers also died, and 36 other civilians remain unaccounted for.
“The investigation determined that ISIS emplaced a large amount of explosive material in a structure containing a significant number of civilians and then attacked Iraqi forces from the structure,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The strike in question occurred the morning of March 17, when Operation Inherent Resolve coalition aircraft struck the building after the two snipers engaged Iraqi Counterterrorism Service forces. Coalition forces dropped a guided a GBU-38 bomb to neutralize the terrorists. Military personal consider the 500 pound weapon to be a lighter munition, and deem it “the most appropriate and proportionate means of engagement to neutralize the threat and to minimize collateral damage.”
The bomb struck the top floor of the building and set off a “large amount of explosive material.” Coalition forces were not aware of the presence of the munitions prior to the strike, according to Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve.
Investigators analyzed residue from the bomb site and determined that it was consistent with explosives used by ISIS, but not a GBU-38. Experts also determined that damage caused by the explosion exceeded the destructive force of the bomb.
“Our condolences go out to all those that were affected,” Army Maj. Gen. Joe Martin said in a statement. “The Coalition takes every feasible measure to protect civilians from harm. The best way to protect civilians is to defeat ISIS.”
ISIS forces are well-known for their use of “human shields,” or the placement of civilians among armed fighters. The tactic is common among insurgent groups in an effort to prevent U.S. forces from using airstrikes against them.
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