'Unlawful' anti-IS strike near Mosul highlights forgotten civilian toll

'Unlawful' anti-IS strike near Mosul highlights forgotten civilian toll

2 min read
26 January, 2017
An air raid in a village close to the Iraqi city of Mosul last month killed and injured 12 civilians
HRW uncovered no evident IS target in the vicinity of the air raid [Getty]

An 'unlawful' air raid in a village close to the Iraqi city of Mosul last month killed one civilian and wounded 11 others in an attack likely carried out by the US-led coalition or Iraqi government forces, Human Rights Watch [HRW] has said.

The attack hit Ashwa, which was under the control of the Islamic State group [IS], killing 22-year-old Salah Ali in a camp erected near by the village to avoid an ongoing operation to recapture Mosul from IS.

"Attacking forces are obligated to take all feasible precautions to avoid harming civilians, including by first identifying the military target," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

"The large numbers of families on the move in IS-held territory are especially vulnerable to attacks," Fakih added.

HRW said that because of the possible laws-of-war violation, all government forces involved in the attack should conduct a thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation to determine whether it was unlawful.

It added that governments should pursue war crimes prosecutions as appropriate, and pay compensation to victims. Under Iraqi law, a governmental committee is empowered to provide payment to victims of "terrorism and military errors."

Iraqi forces retook the last area of Mosul east of the Tigris River on Tuesday, 100 days into an offensive whose next phase aid groups warned could have dire consequences for civilians.

Army units flushed out fighters of the Islamic State group from a rural area on the northern edge of Mosul, completing an important step in Iraq's largest military operation in years.

The three months it took to reconquer Mosul's east saw some tough fighting, but even deadlier battles are expected on its west bank, home to the narrow streets of the Old City and some of IS's traditional redoubts.

That has sparked deep concern among the aid community over the fate of the estimated 750,000 civilians still believed to live in western Mosul.

Tens of thousands of security forces now surround the jihadists in west Mosul, who are all but trapped in the city where their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi proclaimed his "caliphate" in 2014.