The number of civilians killed during the assault on Mosul in Iraq is much higher than earlier estimates from the Iraqi government and the US.
Hoshyar Zebari, the Kurdish leader and former Iraqi foreign minister, told writer Patrick Cockburn, “Kurdish intelligence believes that over 40,000 civilians have been killed as a result of massive firepower used against them, especially by the Federal Police, air strikes and Isis itself.”
Cockburn describes how, as it lost territory, Isis corralled civilians into smaller and smaller areas of the city. Those who tried to escape were killed.
But then the Iraqi and US-led forces blasted them indiscriminately.
Cockburn says, “People tend to assume that most of this destruction was the result of airstrikes—and much of it was—Mr Zebari is correct in saying that it was shell and rocket fire from pro-government ground forces, particularly by the Federal Police, that caused the greatest destruction and loss of civilian life.”
This account confirms a report from Amnesty International on 11 July.
While documenting the cruelty of Isis it also says, “Starting in January 2017, Iraqi government and US-led coalition forces carried out a series of unlawful attacks in west Mosul. Pro-government forces relied heavily upon explosive weapons with wide area effects such as IRAMs (Improvised Rocket Assisted Munitions).
“With their crude targeting abilities, these weapons wreaked havoc in densely populated west Mosul, where large groups of civilians were trapped.”
Meanwhile Human Rights Watch (HRW) has detailed appalling atrocities by Iraqi forces after the fall of Mosul. They include an “execution site” where there was “a row of 17 male corpses in civilian dress, surrounded by pools of blood.”
Among a collection of torture and abuse videos, one shows Iraqi soldiers beating a detainee then throwing him off a cliff.
HRW says the Iraqi prime minister “is ignoring the flood of evidence of his soldiers committing vicious war crimes in the very city he’s promised to liberate”.