Daquq mosque strike: Only US coalition & Iraqi jets in area, HRW says while calling for probe

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on Baghdad to investigate the alleged airstrike on a mosque south of Kirkuk that killed 13 women and children on Friday, noting that only US-led coalition and Iraqi air force jets are known to operate in the vicinity.

Local residents and police told HRW they believe the attack on the mosque in Daquq 30 kilometers south of Kirkuk, was an airstrike because of the sound of aircraft and the scale of destruction.

“Of the troops fighting for the Iraqi city of Mosul, only United States-led coalition forces in Iraq and the Iraqi air force are known to conduct airstrikes in this region,” HRW said in a statement, calling for an investigation.

The strike on the mosque occurred “without apparent military targets in the vicinity,” residents told the rights group.

A coalition spokesperson has denied responsibility for the attack that wounded at least 45 people, according to HRW.

“The Coalition uses precision munitions and an exhaustive process to reduce the possibility of civilian casualties and collateral damage because the preservation of civilian life is (of) paramount importance to us,” Colonel John Dorrian, a US military spokesman, said.

Iraqi Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for the Joint Military Command, said the Iraqi government was investigating the incident, but declined to say whether Iraqi or coalition planes had been flying in the area at the time of the explosion, AP reported.

However, Russia’s Ministry of Defense says the US-led coalition is responsible for striking the mourners attending a funeral in Daquq on Friday.

“Too often weddings, funerals, hospitals, police stations, and humanitarian convoys are being hit by the coalition warplanes,” General Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry’s spokesperson, said, adding that coalition jets apparently mistook the mourning procession for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists.

“Judging by the eyewitness accounts, the mourning procession was mistaken for terrorists by the coalition aviation. Dozens of Iraqi civilians died, including women and children,” Konashenkov said, adding that Russian reconnaissance pinpointed two jets conducting airstrikes on Daquq, “where, according to our data, there are no ISIS fighters,” he noted.

The Security Council member for Baghdad province, Saad al Mutlabi, believes that the airstrike on Daquq “is definitely a war crime” and “a deliberate act because Daquq is far away from Kirkuk and has nothing to do with ISIS.”

“This is a huge criminal act. I am sure it will go unanswered,” he told RT. “There is no way you can mistake one city for another city and a funeral procession with a city that has no history of ISIS,” Mutlabi said, when asked if there might have been some kind of intelligence mistake.

On Friday, Islamic State ‘sleeper cells’ launched an attack on government buildings in Kirkuk, sparking clashes with security forces. After almost 24 hours of heavy fighting, the Iraqi army claimed they had managed to push back the jihadists. Many of the attackers were said to either have been killed or blown themselves up, according to Brigadier General Khattab Omer of the Kirkuk police, as cited by AP.

On Saturday, the agency reported that 80 people lost their lives and 170 were injured in the assault.