The US military has launched a formal investigation into what role the US played in the deaths of dozens of civilians in Mosul, Iraq, earlier this month, amid warnings from a top American general that the dense urban fight is making it harder to avoid killing innocent civilians. Gen. Joseph Votel, head of US Central Command, told Congress that Islamic State militants are exploiting American sensitivities to civilian casualties, using people as human shields to avoid being targeted by strikes. “As we move into the urban environment it is going to become more and more difficult to apply extraordinarily high standards for things we are doing, although we will try,” Votel said during a House Armed Services meeting. More than 200 civilians were reported killed in an airstrike earlier this month, and some have blamed US forces for the airstrike. Votel said the investigation will look at what Islamic State gunmen may have contributed to the civilian deaths. He and others have said the ordinance used by the US that day should not have taken the entire building down. Senior military officials have said that Islamic State may have deliberately gathered civilians in the building and then planted additional explosives in both this and other cases. Votel also told the committee that nearly 800 Iraqi security forces have been killed and 4,600 wounded in the increasingly brutal battle to retake Mosul from IS extremists that began last fall. Amnesty International on Tuesday said the rising death toll in Mosul suggested the US-led coalition wasn’t taking adequate precautions as it helps Iraqi forces try to retake the city.
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