US diplomat hits back at Mosul civilian death claims

Sharon Marris, News Reporter

A former US ambassador to the United Nations has hit back at claims of an increase in civilian casualties in the battle for Mosul.

John Bolton was speaking after around 200 civilians were feared to have been killed in a single incident on 17 March in the al Jadida area of the Iraqi city.

They are among scores of civilians thought to have died in coalition airstrikes in the west of the city this month as US-backed government forces fight to defeat IS jihadists.

Mr Bolton served as America's Permanent Representative to the UN from August 2005 until December 2006.

He was asked by Sky News's Dermot Murnaghan whether the US-led coalition had changed tactics, resulting in more civilian casualties.

He said: "I think the only people who would say that are ISIS sympathisers or people who don't like the use of US military force anywhere in the world.

"I would stack the US military up next to anybody in their concern to avoid collateral damage and to prevent humanitarian tragedies.

"The fact is ISIS has helped perfect the art of using civilians as human shields so if there's an uptick in civilian casualties I would blame it on ISIS."

Mr Bolton's words came after the top American commander in Iraq said the US probably had a role in civilian casualties in the battle to retake Mosul from Islamic State.

General Stephen Townsend, head of the anti-IS coalition in Baghdad, said coalition forces were "probably" involved in the deaths of civilians during recent bombings.

But he also cautioned that IS could have played a part.

He said: "My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties. What I don't know is were they (the civilians) gathered there by the enemy?"

Investigators are trying to work out whether a coalition airstrike or Islamic State-rigged explosives caused a deadly explosion in the al Jadida incident.

Mr Bolton warned that, while Iraqi forces may be gaining the upper hand against the terrorists in Mosul, that had not stopped their global spread.

"This is a global problem - it's not a case of an incidental lone wolf terrorist, it's not a case of of economic deprivation.

"It's an ideology based on religious fanaticism and it's very definitely committed to the destruction of the West as we know it.

"The longer it goes on and is able to have safe havens, the greater the danger that we face around the world.

"We didn't ask for this war - I'd be happy to say it was over tomorrow and that's what Obama tried to do.

"The problem is when the other side kills innocent civilians - ask the residents of London."

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