An airstrike in the Iraqi city of Mosul in which more than 200 civilians are said to have been killed was carried out by the U.S.-led military coalition, officials confirmed on Saturday, adding that an investigation is underway.
The incident occurred last week when airstrikes struck a number of homes in the al-Jadidah neighborhood in Mosul, where a months-long offensive is continuing in an effort to liberate the city from the Islamic State group (ISIS).
A correspondent for the Rudaw news organization said on Thursday that as many as 230 people were killed when airstrikes struck the two houses they were in. The correspondent said the majority of those killed were civilians, though some ISIS militants could be among the dead.
On Saturday, the U.S.-led military coalition confirmed that it carried out the airstrike and said a formal investigation has been launched to "determine the facts surrounding this strike and the validity of the allegation of civilian casualties."
"An initial review of strike data from March 16-23 indicates that, at the request of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Coalition struck ISIS fighters and equipment, March 17, in West Mosul at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties," the coalition said in a press statement.
Earlier on Saturday, the United Nations said it was "profoundly concerned" by the news of the airstrikes, which were carried out in a densely populated neighborhood in western Mosul, one of the last ISIS strongholds in the city.
"We are stunned by this terrible loss of life and wish to express our deepest condolences to the many families who have reportedly been impacted by this tragedy," said Lise Grande, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. "Nothing in this conflict is more important than protecting civilians."
Local officials and residents told Reuters that the airstrikes against ISIS had triggered a bigger explosion, trapping many people under the rubble of collapsed buildings. The exact circumstances remain unclear but a local lawmaker said the airstrikes may have detonated an ISIS truck filled with explosives.
The latest incident comes amid a surge in civilian casualties which have allegedly been caused by the U.S.-led coalition. Since January, for the first time since Moscow's intervention in Syria, the number of civilians allegedly killed by the U.S.-led coalition has surpassed that of claims against Russia.
This month alone, more than 1,000 civilians are alleged to have died in airstrikes carried out by the U.S.-led coalition, according to Airwars, a nonprofit group that monitors civilian casualties in Syria and Iraq. Hundreds more are alleged to have died in Russian airstrikes.
"Researchers at Airwars are tracking a record number of Coalition civilian casualty allegations," the group said in an assessment earlier this month. "While this trend began in the final months of the Obama administration, claims have accelerated sharply since President Trump took office."
Since the start of U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, the coalition has acknowledged that it killed at least 220 civilians, but monitors say the true figure is well into the thousands and most of the alleged civilian casualties have not been addressed. The vast majority of airstrikes are carried out by the United States.
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