US military hits Islamic State mortar team near Mosul school

Yesterday, US Central Command announced that Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve launched an airstrike against an Islamic State mortar team while it was positioned “in between two empty school buildings.” The announcement is part of a US military effort to stay ahead of criticism from media and international non-governmental organizations for striking jihadists as they use protected sites to attack allied forces.

The US military is sensitive to hitting protected targets such as hospitals and schools; an accidental strike on a Médecins Sans Frontières-run hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan in Oct. 2015 killed 42 people and sparked international condemnation.

The CENTCOM announcement is not without precedence. On Dec. 8, CENTCOM released a statement that it struck Islamic State forces at a Mosul hospital who were launching attacks on Iraqi troops. According to CENTCOM, the Islamic State was using the hospital as “a base of operations and command and control headquarters.” [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, US military bombs Mosul hospital as Iraqi troops retreat.]

Full text of CENTCOM’s Jan. 1, 2017 press release:

At the request of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Coalition struck an ISIL mortar tube, which was firing on Iraqi Security Forces in East Mosul, Jan. 1. A precision guided artillery round hit the mortar tube in between two empty school buildings. No civilians were in the area and minimal damage was reported to the buildings.

ISIL is known to use facilities such as mosques, hospitals, and schools, which are protected under the rules of international law as weapons storage facilities, fighting positions, and bases for its terrorist operations. We have seen this tactic used in ever greater numbers as the Iraqi Security Forces successfully push further into Mosul.

While the Coalition takes extraordinary effort to protect civilians and strike appropriate military targets, we will continue to strike ISIL wherever and whenever our partner’s lives are in danger in accordance with the Law of Armed Conflict. All Coalition strikes are coordinated with and approved by the government of Iraq. ISIL’s days in Mosul are coming to an end. Supported by the Coalition, the Iraqi Security Forces will soon liberate their city and return it to the people of Iraq.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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4 Comments

  • Truthful James says:

    Is anybody putting our a daily map of the front lines in this Mosul offensive?

    Why the difference between the “air strike” in the opening para and “precision guided artillery” in the CENTCOM press release?

  • Ken says:

    The Islamists use these same tactics against Israel. They hide behind the innocent.
    It’s a complicated question. I can’t take seriously the international condemnation.
    Are you telling me that the U.S. is being condemned for attacking terrorists, for not
    carrying out a no-casualty war where no civilians are ever involved. And in what war
    did that dream ever happen in. I think that hiding behind a lady’s skirt is exactly what
    these cowards (Islamicists) do best. Notably the schools were empty.
    What I would like to see is an over arching strategy and plan for global subordination
    of terror. Someone has got to be supplying these Islamicists. That supply chain has
    got to be interrupted. You can’t just shoot rats at the city dump as they poke their heads
    out of the hole.

  • John says:

    Constant fear of international outcry won’t help US defeat ISIS. When comes the time of war, it is war and civilian casualties cannot be avoided. If Russia had listened to the same naive outcry, Aleppo would not have been liberated today.

    Where is the CENTCOM ? to end quickly the suffering of population of Mosul. Strike and strike again, until you defeat ISIS. Today, this same population is dying slowly in the hands of the same ISIS: no water, no food, no electricity, they are used as human shields, etc. what is the difference for this trapped population ?

    So, it is better to end their suffering by striking again and again until the complete defeat of the cursed ISIS in Mosul. Don’t listen to those naive outcryers. Do your job CENTCOM !

  • Craig Thomas says:

    The fight is asymmetric, so it makes sense that one side is among civilians – if the Palestinians were supplied with F-16s and Apache helicopters same is Israel is, then they wouldn’t need to use hand-made rockets fired from hidey-holes in amongst civilians to fight the invaders.

    Hand-wringing about civilian casualties is a handicap to success, the Russians demonstrated how much easier it is if you simply don’t give a $#[email protected]

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