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US defense secretary: We're 'more sensitive to civilian casualties' than anyone else

Grandmother: My entire family had to share one glass of water under ISIS rule

Mosul, Iraq CNN  — 

At least 112 bodies have been pulled from the site of a US-led coalition airstrike in Mosul, senior Iraqi health official Ahmed Dubardani said Monday.

The deaths have sparked renewed concerns about civilian casualties from coalition airstrikes targeting ISIS fighters in the city.

A senior Iraqi military officer said a March 17 coalition airstrike on an explosives-laden ISIS truck led to the deaths of dozens of civilians.

A man mourns near the bodies of Iraqi residents killed in a March 17 airstrike in Mosul.

The coalition said a review confirmed one strike that day in the area where the casualties were reported. But US officials have not confirmed the senior Iraqi officer’s account.

Both the Iraqi and US defense departments launched investigations Saturday into possible civilian deaths in airstrikes between March 17 and 23.

While those investigations continue, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said, “There is no military force in the world that is proven more sensitive to civilian casualties.”

“We are keenly aware that every battlefield where an enemy hides behind women and children is also a humanitarian field, and we go out of our way to always do everything humanly possible to reduce the loss of life or injury among innocent people,” Mattis said. “The same cannot be said for our adversaries.”

‘Told to stay at home’

US and Iraqi forces have been trying to regain control of Mosul – Iraq’s second-largest city – from ISIS since October.

ISIS had a firm grip on Mosul since 2014, but suffered a major blow when Iraqi security forces regained control of eastern Mosul in January. But the arduous fight for western Mosul continues.

According to Amnesty International, many of those killed in the airstrikes were “following Iraqi government advice not to leave during the offensive.”

“The high civilian toll suggests that coalition forces leading the offensive in Mosul have failed to take adequate precautions to prevent civilian deaths, in flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” said Amnesty’s Donatella Rovera, who carried out field investigations in Mosul, in a statement.

“The fact that Iraqi authorities repeatedly advised civilians to remain at home instead of fleeing the area, indicates that coalition forces should have known that these strikes were likely to result in a significant numbers of civilian casualties.”

Amnesty also accused ISIS forces of “shamefully resort(ing) to using civilians as human shields.”

Life under ISIS rule

For Iraqis in recently freed parts of Mosul, the haunting memories of ISIS are still fresh.