US air strike on IS killed 105 civilians in Iraq’s Mosul

  •  President Trump Throws His Weight Around at NATO Summit

The United States has admitted that at least 105 Iraqi civilians were killed in an air strike it carried out in Mosul in March.

US Central Command (CentCom) said it had targeted two snipers from so-called Islamic State (IS) with what it called a “precision-guided munition”.

However, the strike detonated explosives that militants had placed in the building, CentCom said.

Civilians sheltering in the lower floors were killed when it collapsed.

In another incident, 35 civilians were killed on Thursday in US-led coalition air strikes in an eastern Syrian town, monitors said.

The strikes targeted the IS-held town of Mayadeen in the province of Deir Ezzor, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Families of IS fighters, including children, were among those killed, it added.

CentCom said the death toll in the March attack in Iraq included four civilians in another nearby structure.

Eyewitnesses claimed another 36 non-combatants were also in the building, but US authorities said it had “insufficient evidence to determine their status”.

CentCom previously said the planes had acted at the request of Iraqi security forces, as coalition forces attempted to wrest control of the city from IS.

The civilians had gathered in the lower floors of the building after being expelled from their homes by IS fighters, a declassified summary of the report said.

Those organising the strike “could not have predicted the presence of civilians in the structure prior to the engagement,” it added.

US officials said the type of bomb was chosen “to minimise collateral damage,” but the explosives hidden by IS were at least four times more powerful than the weapon itself.

“Our condolences go out to all those that were affected,” Major General Joe Martin said in a statement.

“The coalition takes every feasible measure to protect civilians from harm.”

Initial media reports had placed the casualty estimates as high as 200.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians have fled the northern Iraqi city as the operation to reclaim it has continued.

Thousands of Iraqi security forces, Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, Sunni Arab tribesmen and Shia militiamen, assisted by US-led coalition warplanes and military advisers, are involved in the offensive, which was launched in October 2016.

The government announced the full “liberation” of eastern Mosul in January 2017. But the west of the city has presented a more difficult challenge, with its narrow, winding streets.

Iraq has also opened an inquiry into claims that its forces abused and killed civilians in the battle for the city.

In the meantime, President Donald Trump engaged in some sharp-elbowed diplomacy Thursday when he appeared to shove aside the prime minister of a tiny Balkan country and barge to the front of the pack for a group photo at the NATO summit.

In a video that quickly went viral, an apparently grimacing Trump can be seen placing his right hand on the shoulder of Montenegro prime minister Dusko Markovic and then pushing him aside during the photo op in Brussels.

If Markovic, whose country has about as many residents as all of Washington, D.C., was miffed, it wasn’t evident on his face. He continued to smile as Trump rearranged his jacket and chatted with other NATO leaders.

A White House official told NBC News the president was moving to a pre-determined location and was simply standing in the place he was assigned.

But it was yet another odd body language moment from Trump on his first trip abroad as president. And it came as the internet was still feasting on not one but two of the president’s intense, white-knuckled handshakes with newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron.

In the first, Macron is seen shaking hands with other European leaders before turning to Trump, who practically grabs the Frenchman’s hand and shakes it like he’s sawing wood.

In the second, it’s Macron who grabs Trump’s extended hand and gives it a vigorous shake for what appears to be a beat or two longer than necessary.

Earlier, it was video of Trump appearing to touch First Lady Melania Trump’s rump — after she appears to reject holding his hand while getting off Air Force One in Rome — that had tongues wagging.

BBC with additional report from NBC