Last week, I received the following email:
As you might have heard, the American Coalition have been bombing civilian areas in Mosul. Over the past few days the coalition targeted 3 houses of well known professors and researchers in Mosul University. One of them was my college professor and mentor Prof. Dr Mohamad Tybee Al-Layla.
Dr Al-Layla got his PhD in Geotechnical Engineering from the University of Texas, USA. Worked as a faculty member in the Department of Civil Engineering in the Engineering College of University of Mosul since the early seventies of the last century. He was assigned as a Chairman of the Civil Engineering Department and the dean of the college twice. Supervised more than 30 PhD and Master degree thesis in Geotechnical Engineering and Civil Engineering. He published 48 research and technical papers in Iraq and abroad, and became an editing member of 3 scientific journals and magazines.
He received the prestigious award of the Iraqi Science Day on June 2nd, 2014.
He worked sincerely and hard for about 40 years to educate and help thousands of highly efficient and intelligent engineers graduate, many of whom became ministers, deputy ministers, academics and high ranking executive directors in Geotechnical, Irrigation Engineering and other civil and political posts inside Iraq and abroad.
Being one his students, it breaks our hearts that even though Dr Al-Layla was such a great scientific Iraqi figure who never let down or disappointed the University of Mosul community or even the city of Mosul in its hardest times, the crime of targeting his house by the American Coalition and his painful death along with his innocent family under the rubbles of his house, will remain an unforgettable disaster to us, one that all parties hold responsibility for, that reminds all of us that we are still sinking into the abyss the criminal US occupation of Iraq has led to.
May his soul rest in piece, and the souls of the many innocent thousands dying every month in Mosul by ISIS and the Coalition without accountability nor remorse.”
The battle for Mosul, an Isis stronghold in northern Iraq, has raged on for months. In the last four months alone, an estimated 145,000 people have been displaced and the vast majority of them are in need of major humanitarian assistance, according to the UN.
Civilians have been caught in the crossfire between Iraqi ground troops and Isis militants. The later also shoot at anyone leaving the city without their authorisation. Militias allied to Iraqi regular forces have been accused of sectarian atrocities. But by far the biggest cause of civilian fatalities is Coalition air strikes, which UK forces are also involved in. Some of these, it is alleged, have deliberately targeted hospital and educational establishments.
What’s not in doubt is the huge increase in bombardments killing civilians since the start of 2017. The website Airwars attempts to record all reported instances of these strikes. It also comments on the degree to which each has been independently corroborated. Just to give a flavour of the level of bombardment, I will quote from their reports for the first twelve days of this year:
January 2nd: Mosul: Four women were killed and 8 injured by Coalition strikes, according to local reports. January 3rd: As many as 22 civilians were reported killed, and 29 injured, in air strikes by an unspecified party in eastern Mosul according to local media. Yaqein reported that one civilian was killed and 11 injured in the Noor neighbourhood of eastern Mosul. January 4th: Press and local sources said that 16 displaced civilians were killed or injured, mostly children and women, after Coalition warplanes targeted their houses in 17 July neighbourhood, at the right side of Mosul. A local sources said that a named civilian, Imad Ahmed, was killed in raids on Farms district, north of Mosul. January 5th: Five members of the same family were killed when a Coalition air strike hit a house, according to local sources. Multiple reports referenced dead and wounded Iraqi troops killed in a friendly fire incident by Coalition strikes. Local sources told Mosul Ateka that 26 civilians from 4 families were killed when their home was bombed by Coalition strikes. Fourteen people including women and children were killed, and 15 wounded by Coalition strikes in the Garage and Fatih areas, according to local reports. Local sources said two named civilians (a father and son) were killed after a missile targeted their house in the left side of Mosul. January 6th: Local sources and relatives of victims said that more than 20 civilians from three families were killed, including children and women, after Coalition air strikes targeted their houses in front of Saddam mosque at the entrance of Farms district, north of Mosul. Local sources said that a family of three children and their grandmother were killed after their house was hit by a missile during raids in the Agricultural residential neighbourhood in central Mosul area, which is still under ISIL control. Local sources said civilians were killed and injured after Coalition Apache helicopters targeted a market in Sumer neighbourhood, southeast of Mosul, with machine guns. January 7th: Five civilians were reported killed, including 3 children and 2 women in raids in West Mosul. Local and medical sources said that 15-27 civilians were killed and many others injured and children displaced, in an alleged Coalition air strike. Local and medical sources said that 12 civilians were killed and many others injured, mostly displaced women and children, in the locality of Ibn al-Haytham area of Mosul due to Coalition air strikes southeast of Mosul. January 8th: One civilian was reported killed in alleged Coalition air strikes that targeted an ISIL member in a civilian vehicle, in Hadbah neighbourhood in the northeast of Mosul. Local reports say that the streets in eastern Mosul were covered by the bodies of dozens of civilians – their deaths caused by Coalition airstrikes and heavy artillery. Local reports indicated that shelling struck civilian homes in Sukkar, Talla and Mufthana neighbourhoods in eastern Mosul, “resulting in the burying of dozens of civilians under the rubble,” according to an account in a report by Iraqi Spring Media Centre. Local sources and relatives of victims said that Coalition air strikes targeted a family house in Muthanna neighborhood northeast of Mosul. January 10th: Local sources reported that the Coalition targeted Hadbah neighbourhood, northeast of Mosul, with three raids. January 11th: Local sources said Coalition air strikes and artillery shelling targeted Hadbah neighbourhood northeast of Mosul , killing dozens of civilians. Local sources reported that Coalition air strikes bombed a house with three missiles in Second Ka’afat neighborhood, northeast of Mosul. Local sources reported that Coalition air strikes bombed a house in Maliah neighbourhood, at the left side of Mosul during an operation to retake it. Up to 17 civilians were killed and five others injured, mostly women and children from the same family who were inside the house at the time of the strike. January 12th: Local sources reported that the international Coalition and/or US aircraft had carried out air strikes in New Mosul neighbourhood, at the right side of Mosul, leaving up to 30 civilians dead and 14 others wounded. https://airwars.org/coalitioncivcas2017jan-mar/
To emphasise, these are the strikes reported in a period of just twelve days. Yet, sources in Iraq suggest this may be a severe underestimate of the true numbers of civilian fatalities which could be around 10,000.
Yet, with very few exceptions, none of this has been repeated in western media, a failure of historic proportions, which helps conceal this humanitarian tragedy. At the end of 2016, Parliament voted that UK forces should take part in these bombardments - how many civilian casualties have our troops been responsible for? Why is there no outrage at this killing from the skies that western powers are inflicting on the same country they invaded 14 years ago, before Isis - the creation of their own interference - existed? Activists should lobby their MPs and demand some answers from the Government about its involvement in this carnage, which can only increase the likelihood of more terrorist attacks on British soil.