December 12, 2016 1:04 pm

Civilian death toll in ISIS fight underreported by US-led coalition: watchdog

Syrians evacuate a toddler from a destroyed building following a reported air strike on the rebel-held neighbourhood of al-Kalasa in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, on April 28, 2016. The civilian death toll of the US-led coalition airstrikes has been greatly under-reported, critics say.

Ameer Alhalbi/AFP/Getty Images
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BAGHDAD – A report released Monday by Airwars, a London-based project aimed at tracking the U.S.-led coalition’s air strikes targeting the Islamic State group, criticized the coalition’s lack of transparency when assessing civilian casualties. Coalition airstrikes have been critical in the fight against ISIS in Iraq where Iraqi forces are currently trying to push the militant group out of Mosul.

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While U.S. officials have acknowledged that 173 civilians have died in coalition airstrikes since the launch of the campaign against ISIS in the summer of 2014, the Airwars group says the number of civilian casualties is much greater: at least 1,500.

READ MORE: 54 civilians in Iraq, Syria killed in US-led airstrikes: US military

The Airwars project said the discrepancy in the numbers of acknowledged civilian casualties is partially due to how civilian deaths are investigated, assessments carried out by the coalition are “opaque, ad hoc, and significantly biased towards internal military reporting,” the group said.

The coalition has been repeatedly criticized for the slow pace of investigations into civilian casualties in the fight against ISIS. The coalition has carried out more than 16,500 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria against IS targets since the fight against the militant group was launched more than two years ago.

WATCH: Russian releases aerial video showing 20,000 civilians leaving eastern Aleppo

In Mosul, Iraqi forces continue a slow advance on the city’s eastern front. During meetings with Iraqi military commanders south of Mosul Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi emphasized the operation is being waged in an effort to reduce casualties among Iraqi troops and civilians, according to a written statement released by his office.

Iraqi forces inside Mosul were more optimistic about the pace of the fight.

“Within days we will be advancing toward the six remaining districts and reach the left bank of the Tigris (River), meaning we will have liberated the whole of the east side of Mosul,” said Iraqi special forces Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi in Mosul’s eastern Nour neighbourhood on Sunday.

READ MORE: ISIS leader linked to Charlie Hebdo attack killed in Syria airstrike: U.S. military

 

In Fallujah, two suicide car bombings targeting security checkpoints in the city of Fallujah have killed at least two people on Sunday, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen Saad Maan. He said the attacks killed a civilian and a policeman, and wounded seven.

A local police officer and a medical official put the casualty toll at three killed and 11 wounded. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to talk to reporters. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement. The authenticity of the claim couldn’t be confirmed but it was posted on a militant website commonly used by the extremists.

Last month, IS launched three separate suicide attacks in and near Fallujah, killing at least 16 people. Fallujah was recaptured from IS in June.

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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