Air strikes likely behind fatal building collapses

  • 25/03/2017

Dozens of residents were buried in collapsed buildings in the Iraqi city of Mosul after an air strike against Islamic State triggered a massive explosion last week, and rescuers are still recovering bodies.

The exact cause of the collapses was not clear, but a local politician and two local residents said air strikes by the US-led coalition targeting Islamic State militants may have detonated a truck filled with explosives, destroying buildings in a heavily populated area.

Civil Defence chief Brigadier Mohammed Al-Jawari told local reporters that rescue teams were retrieving bodies from under the debris in the Mosul Jadida district near Rahma hospital, the site of heavy fighting between Iraqi forces and Islamic State.

Reports of numbers of civilian casualties varied greatly after last Friday's air raid but Jawari was quoted by al-Mosuliliya channel in a statement saying teams had so far recovered 40 bodies from buildings that collapsed.

"Finding survivors is very difficult because the area is completely destroyed," he told reporters.

"It's a very big disaster, indeed we can describe it as a disaster."

The coalition did not give details on any specific air strike or comment on a Mosul Jadida district operation.

"We are aware of reports on air strikes in Mosul resulting in civilian casualties. The coalition conducted several strikes near Mosul and we will provide this information to our civilian casualty team for further investigation," the coalition said in a statement.

One Iraq official put the total casualties at more than 137. Bodies were believed to be still buried inside collapsed homes.

"A coalition air strike hit a residential street last Friday and destroyed at least 30 houses," a police civil defence official said.

Rights groups have expressed concern over the mounting civilian death toll, with Islamic State fighting among homes and densely-populated areas as the campaign to defeat the militant group in its last Iraqi stronghold enters its sixth month.