The number of civilian causalities from the U.S.-backed battle to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State was 10 times higher than previously reported, an Associated Press investigation finds. That figure, says a human rights group, shows a brazen disregard for the need to minimize civilian harm.
"We are horrified, but not surprised, by these new figures," said Lynn Maalouf, head of research for Amnesty International in the Middle East.
AP says the figure is based on morgue records as well as databases from groups including Airwars, Amnesty International, and Iraq Body Count, as well as a report from the United Nations.
During the military campaign waged from October 2016 to July 2017, AP reports that between 9,000 and 11,000 people were killed; 4,200 were confirmed as civilian dead.
Of the nearly 10,000 deaths the AP found, around a third of the casualties died in bombardments by the U.S.-led coalition or Iraqi forces, the AP analysis found. Another third of the dead were killed in the Islamic State group's final frenzy of violence. And it could not be determined which side was responsible for the deaths of the remainder, who were cowering in neighborhoods battered by airstrikes, ISIS explosives and mortar rounds from all sides.
Among the chilling details noted in the investigation are that morgue logs indicate many people were killed by being "blown to pieces" in west Mosul, where as ISIS fighters "packed hundreds of families into schools and government buildings," ostensibly to dissuade airstrikes. That tactic failed.
Many of the dead are still being excavated.
The reporting also notes that the coalition's "investigators have neither visited the morgue nor requested its data."
Amnesty's Maalouf said that the figures from the AP investigation "are directly in line with our previous findings that thousands of civilians were killed during the battle for Mosul—and that these deaths were caused not only by the so-called Islamic State group, but also by Iraqi and coalition forces."
"The failure of Iraqi and coalition forces to acknowledge and investigate civilian deaths in Mosul is a blatant abdication of responsibility. We are demanding transparency and an honest public account of the true cost to civilians from this war, as well as an immediate investigation by U.S.-led coalition and Iraqi forces into the violations and unlawful attacks documented by Amnesty International and other independent groups during the battle for Mosul," she added.
Questioned by AP about the tally, coalition spokesman Col. Thomas Veale said, "It is simply irresponsible to focus criticism on inadvertent casualties caused by the coalition's war to defeat ISIS."
Yet as author and commentator Tom Engelhardt has previously observed, "from Afghanistan to Libya, the war on terror has (not to mince words) been murder on civilian populations."