Iraqi officials believe that the March 17 blast in Mosul that killed 61 civilians — including many women and children — was caused by the blast of an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria vehicle-borne explosive device.
Saeed al-Jayashi, a spokesman for the Iraqi military, said an examination of the site shows that the building was not hit by a coalition airstrike.
“There was no hole in the building,” Jayashi said to reporters traveling with Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Speaking through an interpreter, Jayashi said the coalition airstrike hit a building where ISIS fighters were holed up. “The strike was 100-percent accurate and it was correct,” Jayashi said.
The Iraqi spokesman said that Iraqi forces were coming under strong fire from a building and they properly identified the source of the fire and called for an airstrike. Next to it was another house and between them was a vehicle.
The strike came in and hit the target, but it also set off the bomb-laden vehicle. The ISIS bomb was packed with explosives and took out the whole block, said Iraqi Air Force Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim, a defense ministry spokesman. He said the size of the weapon the aircraft dropped could not have caused the kind of damage Iraqi troops found at the site.
When Iraqi forces approached the site, the house had pancaked down on the occupants. “Usually when there is an explosion, the explosion will throw everything to the outside,” Jayashi said. “This we did not see. There was no explosion from the inside out.”
People in the neighborhood told Iraqi forces that ISIS forced people into the house and made them stay, he said.
Nearby, Iraqi forces rescued 26 women and children who had been forced to stay in another house laden with explosives. “We got to them at night, but the house was contaminated with IEDs and we could not get them out,” Jayashi said. “We came back in the daytime to defuse the explosives and rescue them.”
Jayashi said that while Iraqi investigators have a lot of information, they are still working to uncover the complete truth. But, he said, everybody in Iraq understands what ISIS is doing in Mosul — the terror group is sowing fear and killing innocent civilians.
The spokesman quoted Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi who said, “There is no value in victory if we are not saving people’s lives.”
Fighting in the city increases the danger of civilian casualties, but Iraqi forces are taking casualties themselves rather than cause casualties among their fellow citizens, Jayashi said.
He said the investigators will submit their full report to the prime minister soon.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)