For more than three years, the US-led coalition has been using air strikes to help Iraqi troops retake territory from Islamic State group jihadists. But some are now tallying the human cost of the bombings. In West Mosul in northern Iraq, where Islamist militants used the population as human shields, the loss of life was especially high. FRANCE 24 investigated one air strike that killed an entire family.
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Deep in the ruins of West Mosul in northern Iraq, an area closed to the population and which was booby-trapped by retreating Islamic State (IS) group fighters, another story from the long battle for Mosul is emerging: The story of the civilians trapped between the jihadists holed up in the old city and the Iraqi army, supported by coalition forces.
Every day roughly a dozen bodies – mostly those of women, children and the elderly – are dug up by firefighters. What exactly happened in west Mosul, which was liberated in July? Representatives of the international anti-IS group coalition say the lives of civilians remained a priority, although they admit that air strikes on Mosul probably killed around 350 civilians. Mosul residents say the number of collateral victims could range from 6,000 to as many as 8,500.
Our reporters looked at the story of one family that was wiped out by a single missile strike at the height of the battle against the jihadists. One of the 14,000 missiles fired by the coalition landed on their house on June 20. Did the family have jihadist links? Or did the coalition make a fatal mistake?
Our reporters also investigated the decision-making process that governs military air strikes. How is the decision taken to fire a missile and with what explosive charge? How quickly and on what basis? All of these factors can be decisive in avoiding the tragedies known collectively as "collateral damage".