Iraqi govt urged to probe killing of 22 soldiers, US-led airstrikes blamed

Reuters/U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Perry Aston
Iraqi authorities are being urged to investigate the killing of 22 Iraqi soldiers in the western province of Anbar in what they claim was a US-led airstrike. The government coalition party, which urges the probe, says the findings should be made public.

The soldiers were killed on Wednesday when an airplane bombed the HQ of an army company near Ramadi, a city in central Iraq, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, an Iraqi military officer and a police source said, as cited by Reuters.

“The aviation of international coalition repeatedly carried out air strikes on the positions of the national militia forces and the armed forces, who are leading a fierce war against terrorists of ISIL [also formerly known ISIS, currently the Islamic State (IS)],” said a statement from Al-Moaten bloc, a member party in the government coalition.

No one has yet admitted responsibility for the deaths. Iraqi forces have blamed the killing of 22 soldiers on the US-led coalition. A military source told Reuters that a missile was launched from a foreign aircraft. However, coalition spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gilleran said that the alliance fired the only strike in the province and it didn’t result in any “friendly casualties."

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US military officials also told Reuters on condition of anonymity that Iraqi security force planes were operating in targeted area and that US are discussing with Iraqi the reports of a friendly fire incident among Iraqi forces.

The head of the Anbar provincial council, Sabah Karhout, has suggested that the blast was caused by explosives planted in an underground tunnel beneath the military headquarters.

According to one of US officials, the strike was 33 kilometers from the site where Iraqi soldiers were killed.

In the meantime, Iraqi officials deny that their country forces were responsible for that friendly fire. "We don't have any Iraqi war planes carrying out combat duties in Anbar," an Iraqi military source said.

Kevork Almassian, an academic and political analyst focusing on the Middle East, told RT that he“ doesn’t buy the reports” that the attack in Anbar province was not carried out by the coalition or was carried out by mistake against the Iraqi forces.

“The equation for me is very clear in Iraq: the strong ISIS and other strong terrorist organizations have a price.”

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American forces are working covertly to slow down the advances of the Iraqi forces in Tikrit and elsewhere against ISIS, Almassian said.

“If the Iraqi forces succeeded in crushing and eliminate these terrorist elements from that area, the Iraqi government will empower its position and the Iranians will empower their position in the Middle East,” he told RT.

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Since the US-led offensive against the Islamic State began several months ago, Secretary of State John Kerry said that nearly 2,000 airstrikes have helped ground forces retake 700 square kilometers (270 square miles) of territory, kill 50 percent of IS commanders and choking off some of the group’s oil revenue.

According to US officials, approximately 6,000 Islamic State members in Iraq and Syria have died since the strikes began.