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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Amnesty report on Mosul naive, says British general in anti-ISIL coalition

'The sad reality is you can’t take a city like Mosul without risks involved,' said Major General Rupert Jones, the deputy commander of the coalition

People celebrate after prime minister Haider Al Abadi declared victory over ISIL militants in the de facto Iraqi capital of their self-declared caliphate in Mosul, Iraq on July 11, 2017. Reuters
People celebrate after prime minister Haider Al Abadi declared victory over ISIL militants in the de facto Iraqi capital of their self-declared caliphate in Mosul, Iraq on July 11, 2017. Reuters

The senior British general in the coalition against ISIL hit out against accusations Iraq and its partners were responsible for excessive use of force on civilians in the Mosul offensive.

Major General Rupert Jones, the deputy commander of the coalition, said a report from Amnesty International was both irresponsible and naive and failed to take into account the demands of war.

ISIL was crushed in its last strongholds in Mosul earlier this week after a long, gruelling campaign by the Iraqi army assisted by coalition air strikes and special forces activity.

Gen Jones praised the sacrifices made by the Iraqis in recovering the ancient heart of country's second largest city almost three years after ISIL had overrun state positions.

“We would all love a situation where Mosul could be liberated without any damage to the city, without any suffering for the civilian population,” Gen Jones said. “But that is naive, that was simply not possible.

“The Iraqi security forces went to every length possible to protect civilian lives, and so did we as a coalition. The sad reality is you can’t take a city like Mosul without risks involved.

“The civilian population was used ruthlessly by ISIS, and we were fighting against that at every stage. We as a coalition routinely investigate all civilian casualties.”

The report from Amnesty is just the latest in a series of claims civilians were being killed in areas targeted by the coalition. Another activist group has estimated that almost 6,000 civilians died as a result of coalition military activity in the closing weeks of the conflict.

The allegations have provoked considerable anger among experienced military commanders, especially as there has been little public reaction to a landmark achievement for Iraq and its allies in the fight against ISIL.

“In global terms, this is a highly significant moment with ISIL beaten in Iraq and soon to be in Syria,” said Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, a former British Army colonel. “Yet Amnesty have produced a bizarre piece of work that condemns the soldiers involved for fighting their enemy.”

The report said Amnesty workers had uncovered “repeated violations of international humanitarian law” in the city, some of which “may amount to war crimes”.

Read in detail, the Amnesty report catalogued a systematic effort by ISIL to herd civilians into its last strongholds and detain them as human shields against their will. Those that tried to escape were killed as a warning to the others.

“We did not have any options," Amnesty quoted “Hasan” from west Mosul as saying.

"If you stayed, you would die in your house from the fighting. If you tried to run away, they would catch you and kill you, and hang your body from the electricity pylon as a warning.

“Four of my neighbours were caught trying to escape, and I saw them hanging,” he added. “They were left for days.”