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Pentagon responds to criticism over civilian deaths in Mosul blast

Pentagon responds to criticism over civilian deaths in Mosul blast

Pentagon responds to criticism over civilian deaths in Mosul blast

After his arrival in Baghdad, Guterres met Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, President Fuad Masum, parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi and Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Meanwhile, at least 14 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at an entrance to Baghdad, in an attack claimed by the Islamic State group, officials said yesterday.

In a message on his arrival, the Secretary General called protection of civilians his absolute priority.

USA military leaders say the ammunition used in the coalition strike on civilians this month was insufficient to explain the amount of destruction and number of casualties observed.

After the beginning the operation to retake Mosul in October, Iraqi authorities in January declared they had liberated eastern Mosul.

IS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in 2014, but Iraqi forces backed by US-led air strikes have since regained much of the territory they lost. Human rights groups already are slamming the United States military for an increase in the allegations of civilian casualties in recent weeks.

During his visit, Guterres also met Iraqi President Fuad Masoum and the speaker of the parliament, Salim al-Jubouri, who expressed hope that the global organization would increase its humanitarian aid in Iraq.

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"We will continue to assess and adjust our tactics to account for civilians on the battlefield while striking ISIS whenever and wherever we safely can", the colonel said.

Iraqi witnesses have said air strikes earlier this month killed scores of civilians - with some estimates as high as 400 dead.

Asked if the US military was alarmed at the high number of casualties suffered by the Iraqi military in Mosul - 774 killed and 4,600 wounded, according to Votel - Scrocca declined to weigh in.

Guterres described his visit to Iraq as "historic" and confirmed that it comes to show solidarity with the Iraqi people in its war against terrorism, noting "the liberation of Mosul and the defeat of IS will contribute to support the unity of Iraq", according to the statement.

Iraqi special forces and police battled Daesh militants in close-quarters fighting to edge closer to the al-Nuri mosque in western Mosul on Wednesday, tightening their control around the landmark site in the battle to recapture Iraq's second city.

The bombardment, which also killed four other IS jihadists, destroyed a multimedia operation team, said another Defense Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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