Over 9,000 people died in Mosul battle with IS militants
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2017-12-21 03:41:30

Over 9,000 people died in Mosul battle with IS militants


The price Mosul’s residents paid in blood to see their city freed was between 9,000 and 11,000 dead ─ a civilian casualty rate nearly 10 times higher than what has been previously reported.

The number killed in the nine-month battle to liberate the city from the militant Islamic State group’s marauders has not been acknowledged by the US-led coalition, the Iraqi government or the self-styled caliphate.

But Mosul’s gravediggers, its morgue workers and the volunteers who retrieve bodies from the city’s rubble are keeping count.

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 the IS group in July 2017, according to an Associated Press investigation that cross-referenced independent databases from non-governmental organisations.

Fatima Ahmed Aswad cries as she touches the grave of her 15-year-old daughter Sana in Mosul. — AP
Fatima Ahmed Aswad cries as she touches the grave of her 15-year-old daughter Sana in Mosul. — AP
Most of those victims are simply described as “crushed” in health ministry reports.

The coalition, which says it lacks the resources to send investigators into Mosul, 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.

“There doesn’t seem to be any disagreement about that, except from the federal government and the coalition. And 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.

In addition to the Airwars database, the AP analysed information from Amnesty International, Iraq Body Count and a United Nations report. AP also obtained a list of 9,606 names of people killed during the operation from Mosul’s morgue.

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 bombardments by the US-led coalition or Iraqi forces, the AP analysis found.

Another third of the dead were killed in the IS’s final frenzy of violence. And it could not be determined which side was responsible for the deaths of the remainder, who were cowering in neighbourhoods battered by airstrikes, IS explosives and mortar rounds from all sides.

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. Its investigators have neither visited the morgue or requested its data.


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: from 20 the week the operation began in mid-October 2016 to 303 in a single week at the end of June 2017, according to the AP tally.

Abdel-Hafiz Mohammed, who kept his job as undertaker throughout the militants’ rule, has carved approximately 2,000 headstones for the al-Jadidah graveyard alone since October 2016, the month the battle began.

After the city fell to IS in 2014, undertakers like him handled the victims of beheadings and stonings; there were men accused of homosexuality who had been flung from rooftops. But once the operation to free the city started, the scope of Mohammed’s work changed yet again.

“Now I carve stones for entire families,” Mohammed said, gesturing to a stack of four headstones, all bearing the same name. “It’s a single family, all killed in an airstrike,” he said.

Dying at home, on the front

Mosul was home to more than a million civilians before the fight to retake it from IS. Fearing a massive humanitarian crisis, the Iraqi government dropped leaflets or had soldiers tell families to stay put as the final battle loomed in late 2016.

Thousands were trapped as the front line enveloped densely populated neighbourhoods.

Blast injuries, gunshot wounds and shrapnel wounds killed thousands as the Mosul operation ground westward, according to morgue documents.

When Iraqi forces became bogged down in late December, the Pentagon adjusted the rules regarding the use of airpower, allowing airstrikes to be called in by more ground commanders with less chain- of-command oversight.

At the same time, IS fighters took thousands of civilians with them in their retreat west. They packed hundreds of families into schools and government buildings, sometimes shunting civilians through tunnels from one fighting position to another.

They expected the tactic would dissuade airstrikes and artillery. They were wrong.

As the fight punched into western Mosul, the morgue logs filled with civilians increasingly killed by being “blown to pieces.” By early March, Iraqi officials and the US-led coalition could see that civilian deaths were spiking, but held the course.

The result, in Mosul and later in the group’s Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, was a city left in ruins by the battle to save it.

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Tags:   Iraq ، Mosul Battle ،
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