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US airstrike may have killed 18 women, kids in Mosul

Military helicopters carry coalition troops from Nineveh Joint Operations Command headquarters to various parts of Mosul, on October 19, 2016.
US military forces in Iraq on 19 October 2016 [File photo]

The US-led military coalition against Daesh said today said its forces destroyed a "five-storey facility" in the main medical complex of western Mosul, that the United States said housed a suspected Daesh militant command centre.

The militant group disputed the assertion, saying in an online statement that yesterday's strike killed 18 people, mostly women and children, and wounded 47 others.

Independent media have no access to western Mosul or other areas under Daesh control in Iraq and Syria, and are mainly embedded with Iraqi units in areas under government control, with people afraid to speak out against the government or their allies, fearing retaliation from Shia jihadists.

The militants are essentially under siege in western Mosul, along with an estimated 650,000 civilians, after US-backed forces surrounding the city dislodged them from the east in the first phase of an offensive that concluded last month.

The coalition accused the Daesh militant group of using the five-storey building as a military command and control facility.

"The coalition was able to determine through intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts that ISIS did not use the building for any medical purposes and that civilians were no longer accessing the site," a coalition statement said, using an acronym for Daesh.

The strike followed reports that the militants are dug in among civilians on the western side of Mosul and storing weapons in hospitals, schools, mosques and churches as a tactic to avoid targeting.

However, the Iraqi government has been known to frequently use the excuse that hospitals are being used by Daesh for military purposes, despite only civilians being present. For almost two years, the Iraqi military and Iran-backed Shia jihadists shelled the city of Fallujah's main hospital that was being operated and used by civilians.

The offensive to dislodge Daesh from Mosul, its last major city stronghold in Iraq, started in October with Baghdad mustering 100,000 men versus around 5,000 Daesh fighters. After four months of fighting, the Iraqi military and its allies have lost more than 6,500 men and have failed to make any incursions into western Mosul.

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