July 13 (UPI) — Amnesty International published a report that says the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has committed war crimes during the fight to gain control in the Iraqi city of Mosul against Islamic State.
“The scale and gravity of the loss of civilian lives during the military operation to retake Mosul must immediately be publicly acknowledged at the highest levels of government in Iraq and states that are part of the US-led coalition,” Lynn Maalouf, Director of Research for the Middle East at Amnesty International, said in a statement.
The report says the U.S.-led coalition killed 3,706 civilians between Feb. 19 and June 19, using numbers from Airwars, a war watchdog group.
Islamic State has also killed killed “hundreds, if not thousands” of people , according to Amnesty.
According to the report, many of the deaths caused by coalition forces were due to the use of weapons, such as improvised rocket-assisted munitions, which Amnesty describes as having “crude-targeting abilities.” When used in densely populated areas such as Mosul, the second-largest city in Iraq, civilians can be inadvertently killed.
“Even in attacks that seem to have struck their intended military target, the use of unsuitable weapons or failure to take other necessary precautions resulted in needless loss of civilian lives and in some cases appears to have constituted disproportionate attacks,” Amnesty says.
The problem was compounded by Islamic State, which Amnesty said forced civilians to remain in areas that would be targeted by coalition forces. Civilians were also threatened with death if they picked up leaflets that would warn of coming attacks.
After the heavy civilian death toll became known during the first few weeks of the Mosul siege, military planners should have change their tactics, but that didn’t happen, Amnesty says.
“They continued to rely upon imprecise, explosive weapons, ignoring the ever-growing toll of civilian death and injuries,” the report states. “In such a densely populated urban environment, military planners should have taken extra care in targeting and their choice of weapons to ensure that attacks were not unlawful.”
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Andrew Croft told NPR that he read the Amnesty report and disagreed with its findings.
“I’ll tell you that, from the way we do our airstrikes, we use the most precise and discriminate weapons that we can ever use and are available in the world to avoid targeting civilians,” he said, adding that civilian casualties are “going to happen, just based on the nature of the war, but I can tell you that to be effective we’ve got to support the Iraqi security forces and that’s what we’ve done.”