The Iraqi military is casting doubt on reports that U.S.-led coalition airstrikes killed as many as 100 civilians sheltered earlier this month in a building in the contested city of Mosul, citing new evidence it says shows Islamic State militants rigged the site with explosives. A Pentagon statement Saturday said an "initial review" showed coalition airstrikes March 17 "at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties" in western Mosul's Old City. The statement said an investigation is underway.
It also said coalition planes "routinely strike" IS targets in the neighborhood, and coalition forces "take all reasonable precautions during the planning and execution of airstrikes to reduce the risk of harm to civilians." For its part, the Iraqi military's Joint Command released a statement later Saturday that confirmed airstrikes in the embattled city.
But it said an investigation of the site showed "all of [the building's] walls were rigged with bombs and there is no hole or signs that it was an airstrike target." It also said 61 bodies had been recovered from the site, as investigators continued to probe the wreckage. More than a half-million civilians are still believed to remain in IS-held areas of Mosul, with many of them used by IS extremists as human shields as Iraqi forces advance. Civilians, humanitarian aid groups and monitoring officials have warned about the possibility of increased civilian casualties because of an increasing demand for airstrikes and artillery.