Freedom from IS in Mosul costs lives of 9,000-plus civilians


Between 9,000 and 11,000 people were killed in the nine-month battle to liberate the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State group, a civilian casualty rate nearly 10 times higher than has been previously reported, an Associated Press investigation has found.

The deaths aren't acknowledged by the US-led coalition, the Iraqi government or IS's self-styled caliphate.

Iraqi or coalition forces are responsible for at least 3,200 civilian deaths from airstrikes, artillery fire or mortar rounds between October 2016 and the fall of IS in July 2017, according to the AP investigation, which cross-referenced morgue lists and multiple databases from non-governmental organisations. Most of those victims are simply described as "crushed" in health ministry reports.

The coalition, which has not sent anyone to Mosul to investigate recent allegations, acknowledges responsibility for only 326 of the deaths.

"It was the biggest assault on a city in a couple of generations, all told. And thousands died," said Chris Woods, head of Airwars, an independent organisation that documents air and artillery strikes in Iraq and Syria and shared its database with the AP.

"Understanding how those civilians died, and obviously ISIS played a big part in that as well, could help save a lot of lives the next time something like this has to happen. And the disinterest in any sort of investigation is very disheartening," Woods said, using an alternative acronym for IS.

In addition to the Airwars database, the AP analysed information from Amnesty International , Iraq Body Count and a United Nations report. The AP also obtained a list from Mosul's morgue of 9,606 people killed during the operation. Hundreds of dead civilians are believed to still be buried in the rubble.

Of the nearly 10,000 deaths the AP found, around a third of the casualties died in bombardment by the US-led coalition or Iraqi forces. Another third were killed in Islamic State group militants' final frenzy of violence. And it could not be determined which side was responsible for the deaths of the remainder.

But the morgue total would be many times higher than official tolls.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi told the AP that 1,260 civilians were killed in the fighting. The US-led coalition has not offered an overall figure. The coalition relies on drone footage, video from cameras mounted on weapons systems and pilot observations for investigations.

"The coalition never came to us or sent anyone else to us asking for data. They never came directly or indirectly," said Hatem Ahmed Sarheed, one of the Iraqi men responsible for recording Mosul's dead. An AP reporter visited the morgue six times in six weeks and spoke to morgue staffers dozens of times over the phone.

The Americans say they do not have the resources to send a team into Mosul. Because of what the coalition considers insufficient information, the majority of civilian casualty allegations are deemed "not credible" before an investigation ever begins.

The coalition has defended its operational choices, saying it was the Islamic State group that put civilians in danger as it clung to power.

"It is simply irresponsible to focus criticism on inadvertent casualties caused by the Coalition's war to defeat ISIS," Col. Thomas Veale, a coalition spokesman, told the AP in response to questions about civilian deaths.

"Without the Coalition's air and ground campaign against ISIS, there would have inevitably been additional years, if not decades of suffering and needless death and mutilation in Syria and Iraq at the hands of terrorists who lack any ethical or moral standards," he added.

What is clear from the tallies is that as coalition and Iraqi government forces increased their pace, civilians were dying in ever higher numbers at the hands of their liberators. (AP)

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