The Islamic State is packing civilians into buildings and baiting the United States into bombing them in order to maximize civilian casualties, a Department of Defense spokesman said.
“What you see now is not the use of civilians as human shields,” Colonel Joseph Scrocca said. “Now, it’s something much more sinister. ISIS is smuggling civilians into buildings so we won’t see them, trying to bait the coalition to attack, to take advantage of the public outcry and deter action in the future.”
There was a domestic and international outcry, to include accusations of ‘loosening the rules of engagement,’ after a building in Mosul was bombed on March 17th, resulting in the deaths of potentially hundreds of innocent people.
Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of Operation Inherent Resolve, has launched an official investigation into the event, citing the possibility that U.S. forces may have contributed to the loss of life in some capacity.
Colonel Scrocca says the Department of Defense now has a video record of ISIS rounding up and forcing civilians into a building to be used as human shields. The building was then used as a fighting position against Iraqi government forces.
The video is currently in the process of being declassified for public release.
Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Townsend appeared to have had enough of the seemingly myopic focus on the civilian casualty incident on March 17, saying “[It’s] a little disappointing to me that all the questions were about our airstrikes, and our process, and our decisions,”
“If these innocents were killed by the coalition, it was an unintentional accident of war, and ISIS is slaughtering Iraqis and Syrians on a daily basis. ISIS is cutting off heads. ISIS is shooting people, throwing people from buildings, burning them alive in cages and they are making the video record to prove it. This has gotta stop. This evil has gotta be stamped out. And in my mind any responsibility for any civilian deaths, the moral responsibility for civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria belongs to ISIS.” Townsend said.
According to Colonel Scrocca, U.S. and coalition aircraft are adjusting their procedures to respond to this ISIS tactic, but he would not disclose what that entails.
According to CENTCOM Commander General Joseph Votel, the fighting in Mosul is reportedly the most intense urban combat seen since World War II. The dense urban terrain has made much of the fighting done house to house by Iraqi infantry and coalition advisers, where tanks and other armored vehicles cannot provide direct support.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Army
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