Iraqi military says 61 bodies pulled from collapsed Mosul site

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 26, 2017 4:20 AM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi's military said on Sunday 61 bodies had been recovered from a collapsed building that was boobytrapped by Islamic State in Western Mosul, but there was no sign it had been hit by a coalition strike though a large vehicle bomb was discovered nearby.

The statement was a response to reports by eyewitnesses and local officials that as many as 200 bodies had been pulled from a collapsed building after a coalition strike last week targeted IS militants and equipment in al Jadida district area.

The incident remains far from clear and details are difficult to confirm as Iraqi forces battle with Islamic State to recapture the densely populated parts of the western half of Mosul, the militant group's last stronghold in Iraq.

The US-led coalition on Saturday said it carried out a strike on Islamic State militants and equipment in the area of the reported deaths, but it was still investigating. It did not give figures for any casualties or details on targets.

The Iraqi military command said eyewitnesses had told troops that the buildings were boobytrapped and militants had forced residents inside basements to use them as human shields. IS militants had also fired on troops from those houses, it said.

But its figures were lower than other local officials. A local municipal official said on Saturday, 240 bodies had been pulled from the rubble. A local lawmaker and two eyewitnesses say a coalition air strike may have targeted a large truck bomb, triggering a blast that collapsed buildings.

The incident has highlighted the complexity of fighting around Western Mosul's Old City, where Islamic State are hiding among families and using the narrow streets and alleys to their advantage, forcing Iraqi forces into street fighting.

(Reporting by Baghdad bureau; writing by Patrick Markey; editing by Susan Thomas)