The U.S. military says the death of civilians in Iraq’s northern city of Mosul is “a terrible tragedy” and that it is investigating allegations that airstrikes from a U.S.-led coalition killed as many as 100 civilians there earlier this month.
The Pentagon has said an initial review showed coalition warplanes conducted strikes on March 17 “at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties” in western Mosul’s Old City.
Iraqi forces, with the coalition air support, are working to regain control of western Mosul from Islamic State fighters who seized the city in mid-2014.
Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, said in a statement Sunday that coalition forces will continue taking what he called “extraordinary measures to avoid harming civilians.”
“While Iraq’s security forces are making measurable progress, the fight in Mosul is a difficult one, and particularly because the enemy operates amongst the civilian population,” Votel said.
WATCH: Iraq continues Mosul offensive
The coalition’s daily airstrike data released Monday showed seven fresh airstrikes in the Mosul area on Sunday.
The Iraqi military cast doubt on U.S. blame for the March 17 casualties, citing new evidence it says shows Islamic State fighters placed explosives at the site.
“All of [the building’s] walls were rigged with bombs and there is no hole or signs that it was an airstrike target,” the Iraqi military’s Joint Command said.
More than a half-million civilians are still believed to remain in Islamic State-held areas of Mosul, with many of them used by Islamic State extremists as human shields as Iraqi forces advance.
Civilians, humanitarian aid groups and monitoring officials have warned about the possibility of increased civilian casualties because of an increasing demand for airstrikes and artillery.