US military launches probe into Mosul strike after civilian deaths reported

US military launches probe into Mosul strike after civilian deaths reported
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The U.S. military is investigating reports that U.S.-led coalition airstrikes killed dozens of civilians in Mosul, Iraq.

U.S. Central Command said in a statement Saturday reported by Reuters that it opened an investigation "to determine the facts surrounding this strike and the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties."

The New York Times on Friday reported that the strikes may have killed as many as 200 civilians. If confirmed, it would be among the deadliest airstrikes to hit civilians since the U.S. began the war in Iraq in 2003.

Mosul is at the center of a U.S.-led coalition offensive to retake Iraq's second-largest city from Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants. The operation has been ongoing since last year.

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Reports of the civilian casualties come after two coalition airstrikes in Syria killed dozens of civilians, according to activists and residents.

It was not clear who exactly was responsible for the strikes in Mosul.

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command Col. John Thomas said the military was trying to figure out if it was an American attack or a coalition strike. He also said it could have been a bomb detonated by ISIS.

"We’ve literally had people working nonstop throughout the night to understand it,” he told the Times.

Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, an Iraqi special forces commander, said the deaths were caused by a coalition airstrike called in by his forces. The U.S. military on Saturday acknowledged the coalition struck at the request of the Iraqi security forces, Reuters reported.

Al-Saadi said officials were not aware that there were civilians in the area at the time of the attack, according to the Times.

The reports also prompted questions as to whether the civilian casualties were the result of President Trump's vow to step up the U.S. fight against ISIS. Military officials, however, denied that the country's rules of engagement in the region have been relaxed.