West Mosul: Iraqi military revises down civilian death toll, denies air strike

Conflicting reports are emerging of the death toll and extent of damage caused by a collapsed building in west Mosul last week (March 17).

Iraq’s military claims some 61 bodies were recovered from the site after ISIL militants booby-trapped the building with explosives.

The statement, which refers to an incident in the al-Resala neighbourhood of the city, casts doubt on earlier accounts by local authorities. They reported up to 200 civilian deaths in an air strike led by the US-led coalition, which targeted ISIL fighters and equipment in the Jadida district.

A spokesperson for the Iraqi armed forces said there was no sign of a coalition air strike on the building.

This further heightened the confusion surrounding the March 17 incident. On Saturday, US officials said they were investigating an air strike on that date at “the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties.”

Iraqi forces are battling to fully recapture Mosul, ISIL’s last major stronghold in Iraq.

Recent fighting has focussed on the al Nuri mosque, from which ISIL leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a caliphate almost three years ago.

According to UK-based monitoring group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, nearly 700 civilians have died since the offensive in west Mosul began last month (February 19). Hundreds more are said to flee each day, but some 600,000 are believed to remain in the besieged area of the city.

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