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4,000 Iraq civilians killed in west Mosul offensive

Collapsed buildings and damaged vehicles are seen during an operation to retake Mosul from Daesh, on March 12, 2017 [Hemn Baban/Anadolu Agency]
Collapsed buildings and damaged vehicles are seen during an operation to retake Mosul from Daesh, on March 12, 2017 [Hemn Baban/Anadolu Agency]

As many as 3,864 civilians have been killed in western Mosul since mid-February when the Iraqi army began a wide-ranging campaign to wrest the area from the Daesh extremist group, according to an Iraqi army source.

"Those who have fled the combat areas are reporting high civilian casualties," Army Brigadier-General Thaer Al-Mousawi told Turkish Anadolu Agency.

Al-Mousawi also said that nearby refugee camps and field hospitals had received more than 22,000 injured Mosul residents since the start of the army campaign almost six weeks ago.

Read: Civilians bear brunt of US, Iraq assault on Mosul

In terms of material damage, the army officer said that more than 10,000 residential homes in western Mosul had been destroyed over the same period.

He went on to assert that Iraqi forces had so far driven Daesh militants from slightly more than half of western Mosul.

On Wednesday, an Iraqi army officer in western Mosul – who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media – told Anadolu that as many as 43 civilians were believed to have been killed in an attack launched "in error" by a US-led coalition airstrike.

On the same day, Iraqi officials announced that the bodies of some 80 dead civilians had been pulled from the rubble of destroyed buildings in both sides of the city.

On Thursday, another airstrike, likely again launched by the US-led coalition or its Iraqi allies, bombed two residential compounds, killing 237 civilians in a single air raid.

In mid-February, Iraqi ground forces – backed by US-led coalition air power – began fresh operations aimed at ousting Daesh militants from western Mosul, the extremist group's last bastion in northern Iraq.

UN: Size of Mosul crisis exceeds our current capacity

The offensive is part of a wider campaign launched last October to retake the entire city, which Daesh overran in mid-2014, after two divisions of the Iraqi Security Forces fled the city following an onslaught by a few hundred militants.

However, the large number of civilian casualties coupled with the mass destruction of the city has led many to believe that Daesh could score a political and ideological victory by being able to point to the devastation and blaming it on the United States and the Green Zone regime in Baghdad.

Rather than engage Daesh in close-quarters combat in order to preserve civilian lives, the Iraqi military has long resorted to artillery and aerial bombardments, leading to catastrophic civilian death tolls.

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