Belgium probes Mosul airstrikes that killed civilians

AFP , Friday 31 Mar 2017

Belgium has opened an investigation into the suspected involvement of Belgian fighter planes in air strikes in west Mosul that killed dozens of civilians, prosecutors said on Friday.

Iraqi authorities believe more than 130 civilians were killed in strikes over several days in Mosul's al-Jadida area, and attention has focused on one allegedly particularly deadly strike on March 17.

"We have opened a preliminary investigation to establish... whether all procedures were observed during two incidents," prosecutors' spokesman Eric Van Der Sypt told AFP.

"If rules of engagement were properly observed... it is possible that no crime was committed," Van Der Sypt said.

Belgian MP Wouter De Vriendt told Flemish broadcaster VRT the case involved strikes carried out by Belgian F16 fighter jets on March 17.

The coalition had previously said it carried out a strike on March 17 in an area of west Mosul in which civilian casualties were reported, and that it had opened an investigation.

Belgium takes part in the US-led coalition against the Islamic State group, which has conducted tens of thousands of air strikes against the jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

The coalition insists that IS has targeted civilians and used them as human shields, while acknowledging that strikes by anti-IS forces have also left civilians dead.

The United States carries out most Iraq air operations, but Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and Britain also carry out missions.

General Stephen Townsend, the senior US commander in Iraq, said this week that a coalition strike in the northern city earlier this month "probably" killed dozens of civilians.

US investigators are also looking at the apparent bombing of a school in Mansura near Raqa, Syria on March 21, and a building next to a mosque on March 16 in Al-Jineh, in Aleppo province.

Short link: