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Dozens of civilians killed in air strike near Iraqi border with Syria – reports

Dozens of civilians were killed in an airstrike on the Islamic State-held town of Qaim in Iraq on Wednesday, local MPs and medics told Reuters, adding that many women and children were among the dead.

The airstrike reportedly hit a busy market in the small town, which is located in Anbar province, near the Syrian border.

Anbar lawmaker, Ahmed Salmani, and medical sources both independently told Reuters that 55 civilians were killed. The medical sources said that there were three airstrikes, in which 12 women and 19 children died.

Another MP, Mohammed Karbouli, told the agency that, according to his information, 60 people had been killed, including some of his relatives.

Meanwhile, Anbar Provincial Council spokesman Eid Ammash told local Alsumaria TV that there were more than 100 civilian casualties as well as “hundreds” of injured.

While it is not yet clear whose planes carried out the reported strike, the US has already said that it play no part in them.

Salmani addressed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in the wake of the airstrike, saying that the head of the Iraqi government must “stop the bombing and hold accountable the perpetrators of this massacre.”

Karbouli said that the incident throws the accuracy of intelligence used to target Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) into question.

The incident is being investigated. However, it cannot be justified, Reuters quoted an unnamed official in Anbar as saying. "Killing dozens of civilians only to target a handful of terrorists is clearly a massacre against innocent civilians," the official said.

The US-led coalition denied conducting any strikes in Qaim when questioned by RT.

"We have seen these reports and can confirm the coalition did not conduct those strikes near Al-Qaim," Jose Colon, Combined Joint Task Force Public Affairs Officer, said.

Qaim is located 280 kilometers away from the IS stronghold of Mosul where Iraqi forces launched a large-scale operation against the radical group in November.

It is highly unlikely that the US-led coalition will ever acknowledge responsibility for the alleged airstrike, believes political analyst Daniel Patrick Welch.

“They are not going admit it, because only ‘bad people’ like the Russians carry out airstrikes that hit civilians. But no one else is bombing ISIL in that area, as far as I’m aware, or has the capacity to do so from the air,” Welch told RT. “The trouble is the discrepancy in accountability and the recording that the US [is doing of] targeting and hitting civilians, or Syrian soldiers, or any of these other things, hospitals, which has been going on for years and years, is swept under the rug, whereas everything else done by the Syrian Army or by the Russian air force is highlighted and called a war crime.”

Airstrikes have previously been carried out by the US-led coalition, which is helping local security forces in their fight against the terrorists.

Last week, the coalition acknowledged that 54 civilians were “inadvertently killed” in seven of its strikes in Iraq and Syria between March and October this year.

The coalition said it makes “extraordinary” efforts to strike only military targets, but added that “in some cases casualties are unavoidable.”

The deadliest strike happened on July 18 near Manbij in Syria when “up to 24 civilians who had been interspersed with combatants were inadvertently killed.”

The figures brought the official US-led coalition's civilian death toll to 173 since the start of the campaign two years ago.

Earlier, Amnesty International said the US understated the civilian death toll, saying that at least 300 people were killed in 11 airstrikes probed by the group.