Reuters reported that the U.S. military confirmed on Saturday that a U.S. air strike had hit an Islamic State area in western Mosul where local residents and officials say as many as 200 civilians may have been killed.
The American confirmation followed a decision by Iraqi government forces to pause their drive to recapture west Mosul on Saturday because of the high rate of civilian casualties, a security forces spokesman said, a move apparently motivated by the incident.
What happened in the incident on March 17 in Mosul al-Jadida district is still unclear. Some residents say a coalition air strike hit an explosive-filled truck, detonating a blast that collapsed buildings packed with families.
Mosul municipality chief, Abdul Sattar al-Habbo, who is supervising the rescue, said 240 bodies had been pulled from the rubble of collapsed buildings. Previous estimates from local officials had said around 130 people had died.
Residents escaping besieged western Mosul have told of Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition air strikes demolishing buildings and killing civilians in several cases.The insurgents have also used civilians as human shields and opened fire on them as they try to escape Islamic State-held neighborhoods, fleeing residents said.
The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights said that since the campaign on western Mosul began on Feb. 19, unconfirmed reports said nearly 700 civilians had been killed by government and coalition air strikes or Islamic State actions.
The ISIS militants have used car bombs, snipers and mortar fire to counter the offensive. They have also stationed themselves in homes belonging to Mosul residents to fire at Iraqi troops, often drawing air or artillery strikes that have killed civilians.