The death of innocent civilians during war is a terrible tragedy that weighs heavily on everyone, the commander of the coalition effort to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria told Pentagon reporters today.
Speaking from Baghdad via teleconference, Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, addressed reports of civilian casualties on March 17 in Mosul, Iraq.
Townsend said the coalition takes all casualty reports “very seriously” and uses a deliberate approach to assess every one and report the results publicly. Air Force Brig. Gen. Matthew C. Isler is leading a credibility assessment now under way on the reported civilian casualties, which could lead to a formal investigation, he added.
“Right now there are a lot of conflicting reports [about] what brought down the building or buildings that caused civilian casualties,” Townsend said. “What we know for sure is we did conduct a strike in that area. What we don’t know for certain is if that strike is responsible for the casualties in question.”
The general noted reports that ISIS might have trapped civilians in a house and rigged it to blow up and that a secondary vehicle-borne homemade bomb might have destroyed the house.
“It could have been a combination of events that caused this tragedy, and that’s why we’re hesitant to say anything definitive until our proper process is completed,” Townsend said.
“I’ll say this: If we did it – and there’s a fair chance that we did – it was an unintentional accident of war, and we will transparently report it to you when we’re ready,” the general said.
Highest Regard For Civilians
The coalition freely and transparently takes on the responsibility to act in accordance with the law of armed conflict in all operations, Townsend told reporters.