The US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group is likely to have killed civilians in an air strike on a hospital car park in northern Iraq on Thursday, officials said.
The Iraqi army, supported by the coalition, began the second phase of its offensive to retake Iraq’s second city of Mosul, which has been under IS control for more than two years.
The coalition aircraft targeted a “van carrying ISIL fighters” in the area, according to CENTCOM, the US military command for the Middle East, using an alternate acronym for the IS group.
The strike took place “in what was later determined to be a hospital compound parking lot resulting in possible civilian casualties,” a statement read.
IS fighters had been observed firing an anti-tank gun “before loading the weapon in the van and driving off,” CENTCOM added, promising the incident will be “fully investigated and the findings released in a timely and transparent manner.”
The coalition said it was taking extensive precautions to avoid killing civilians during its bombings of IS group targets. It routinely uses precision-guided bombs or missiles to hit targets that are often observed by drones for hours before being hit.
But the coalition has already admitted to killing at least 173 civilians in its strikes in Iraq and Syria since the start of its campaign against the IS group, a number which independent observers believe is greatly understated.
The London-based NGO Airwars estimates the coalition campaign has actually killed more than 2,000 civilians.