New ISIS tactic in Iraq fight: Gather Mosul's civilians, then lure airstrike

US sees probable role in Mosul blast, probe under way

Backed by a US-led worldwide coalition, Iraqi forces launched an operation in February to drive IS from the western half of Iraq's second-largest city, after declaring eastern Mosul "fully liberated" the previous month.

Iraqi forces launched a major operation to retake Mosul last October, retaking its eastern side before setting their sights on the smaller but more densely populated west.

Iraqi forces are fighting IS in western Mosul, where some 2,000 IS fighters are launching fierce counterattacks.

Thousands of residents have fled from ISIS-held areas inside Mosul, the militants' biggest remaining stronghold in Iraq. "Iraqi and American forces both assured us that it will be an easy battle, that's why people didn't leave their houses".

Eyewitnesses have said a strike may have hit a massive truck bomb parked by the building.

The senior USA commander in Iraq acknowledged on Tuesday that the US -led coalition probably had a role in an explosion in Mosul believed to have killed scores of civilians, but said Islamic State could also be to blame.

The stepped-up pace for carrying out airstrikes has been welcomed by Iraqi forces, which have suffered enormous casualties in the Mosul operation.

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Rescue workers on the ground are still finding bodies in the rubble, and some local officials said Wednesday that 250 corpses have been pulled from the site over the past 12 days.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to reporters, said that the officials will also "seriously" discuss stopping the use of heavy weaponry in the narrow alleyways of western Mosul.

Guterres also said that he was "extremely encouraged by the commitment that expressed by the Prime Minister Abadi about the protection of civilians during the military operations". "[The Islamic State] is smuggling civilians into buildings so we won't see them, and trying to bait the coalition to attack".

The Iraqi military says ISIS may have booby-trapped a building, knowing a mass death toll would bring bad publicity, and a likely slow-down in the fight.

An analysis by the Soufan Group consultancy warned that rumors and accusations of coalition atrocities "will certainly help shape popular opinion once Mosul and Raqqa are retaken, thus serving a objective for the next phase of the Islamic State's existence".

"We have not relaxed the rules of engagement", Votel said. "For the first time we caught this on video yesterday as armed ISIS fighters forced civilians into a building, killing one who resisted and then used that building as a fighting position against the (Counter Terrorism Service)", Colonel Joseph Scrocca said.

The United States has begun a formal investigation into the March 17 strike and other air attacks in that neighbourhood where civilians were injured or killed.

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