Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi has blamed civilian deaths in western Mosul on Thursday on an “excessive use of airstrikes, artillery and rockets” by Iraqi forces and allied troops during operations against Islamic State militants.
In a statement on Friday, Nujaifi said mutual trust between the armed forces and Mosul citizens “should not be violated by some groups of fighters who use unsuitable weapons in targeting Daesh (Islamic State).”
“Longe- effect weapons, such as cannons and rockets, cause damages which our citizens in Mosul suffer from more than Daesh criminals do, and they also destroy the infrastructure owned by people,” according to the vice president. “The intensity of the fight against Daesh does not spare officials and commanders the moral and humanitarian responsibility for the increasing number of innocent civilian victims who had been obliged by the terrorist group to stay home”.
On Thursday, at least more than 200 civilians reportedly died in an aerial bombardment of western Mosul’s Mosul al-Jadida district as operations enter a second month to clear the area from Islamic State militants. Iraqi forces recaptured eastern Mosul in January.
The reports, which failed to verify the source of the bombardment, quoted some military sources and local officials saying hundreds of bodies were extracted while others remained under debris as forces lacked digging tools needed to pull out victims, and as IS fighters continue to fire at the affected areas.
Officials from the U.S.-led coalition, which fights IS alongside the government, and which reports said was suspected to be behind several civilian deaths, said it they would investigate recent incidents. The Iraqi military command denied involvement in the deaths on Thursday, accusing Islamic State of fabricating the reports to mislead the public.
Nujaifi, in his statement, urged the Iraqi government and the U.S. coalition to reconsider engagement rules and to reuse the :successful” strategy adopted in recapturing the eastern side of the city. “Changes to the rules of engagement are a very serious matter, especially in the presence of 400.000 citizens,” he said, urging the Iraqi command to issue orders not to target populated areas.
The conflict in Mosul has displaced at least 355.000 people, according to government data.