Iraqi PM Abadi says Mosul civilian casualties reports designed to save IS

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. File photo.

Baghdad ( Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has defended his armed forces against accusations of causing civilian deaths while fighting Islamic State militants in Mosul, arguing that such accusations serve the group’s interests.

“Nobody should question our protection of civilians,” Abadi was quoted in a statement by his office as saying during a meeting with a number of political analysts and media figures in Baghdad Monday. He said “increasing allegations of targeting civilians are aimed at saving Daesh (Islamic State) in their final moments and to halt international support for Iraq in its war against terrorism.”

“We trust our forces and their commitment to protecting civilians,” the prime minister said.

His comments come as the Pentagon said it was going to investigate reports saying that more than 200 civilians died when fighter jets from the U.S.-led international coalition-which fights IS in Iraq and Syria- bombarded IS locations in a western Mosul district last week.

The Iraqi command leading battles against IS in Mosul since October said a few days ago it found no evidence that civilians died due to airstrikes, and accused IS of fabricating such allegations to defame the security campaign seeking to retake its biggest stronghold in Iraq.

While the Iraqi government said only 61 bodies were extracted at the site of the strike in Mosul al-Jadida district, local sources and rights groups put the toll at at as high as 500.

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