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Amnesty International Criticizes U.S.-Led Coalition For Mosul Civilian Deaths


And now to the Iraqi city of Mosul. That is where Iraqi forces along with the U.S. coalition are in a battle to retake the city from ISIS.

Over the weekend, the U.S. military acknowledged carrying out an air strike on March 17 in the western part of Mosul. Civilians say an explosion killed more than 100 people. And today in a new report, Amnesty International charges that the U.S.-led coalition is not taking adequate precautions to protect people in Mosul.

Donatella Rovera is the author of the report, and she is with us on Skype. Welcome to the show.


MCEVERS: You talked to a number of people for this report. Tell us what life is like for people who are living in Mosul right now.

ROVERA: Well, part of the city has been recaptured from the Islamic State. But the situation remains pretty dire because there is a lot of destruction. Infrastructure is very severely damaged. There is no water, no electricity. There is hardly anything by way of medical care. There are still body parts under the rubble everywhere where coalition air strikes killed civilians in their homes. And there are a lot of residents who are feeling very bitter and very abandoned because they were told to remain in their homes. That is what their government advised them to do.


ROVERA: And they did so. And many of them lost their families because their homes were bombed.

MCEVERS: Right. That's one of the main criticisms in your report is that Iraqi authorities did this, told civilians, stay home, knowing that coalition forces were going to launch some of these air strikes and that could lead people to being killed. What should they have told civilians instead?

ROVERA: Well, I mean, you know, there was no easy option because obviously prior to the fighting, Islamic State did not allow people to leave. However, once the fighting got underway, possibilities are created for people to leave. And we're seeing now a lot more people leaving west Mosul. And it's very likely that it's because people have realized that remaining in their homes may not be the safest option.


ROVERA: It's also very clear that there is no easy or clean way to have urban warfare. However, there are measures that can and should be taken to minimize civilian casualties.

MCEVERS: Spell those out for us. What are they?

ROVERA: Well, first and foremost is ensuring that civilians are systematically provided with a way out in the safest possible way. Secondly, it's really a lot to do with the choice of munitions. And what we've seen being used in Mosul, both in terms of the air strikes that are being carried out by coalition forces and in terms of the weapons that are being used by Iraqi forces as well as IS fighters on the ground, there is a lot of area weapons, weapons that have a large blast radius. And they do have a margin of error, and they cause a lot of collateral damage even when they do hit their targets.

MCEVERS: How likely is it, do you think, that Iraqi forces and coalition forces will respond to this report, will accept some of these recommendations?

ROVERA: Well, what we've seen until now really, it's only been sort of general statements made by coalition forces representative mostly of U.S. military personnel saying that they take all possible precautions to minimize civilian casualties. That is not the result of our findings.

There are precision munitions that can cause a lot less collateral damage, and that's certainly one very concrete thing that could be done because in the middle of a city, even just a few meters' error can make the difference between bombing an empty house and wiping out an entire family in the house next door.

MCEVERS: Donatella Rovera of Amnesty International, thank you for talking to us today.

ROVERA: Thank you.

MCEVERS: The U.S. military acknowledges it did launch air strikes in western Mosul on March 17. It says it's still trying to determine if one of those strikes hit the building where more than a hundred civilians were killed and if those killed were placed there by ISIS. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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