Iraqi rescue workers take part in a search operation for bodies under the rubble of houses destroyed during the fighting between the Iraqi forces and Islamic State in western Mosul on March 22. On March 25, the United States Central Command said it was investigating an airstrike on a home on March 17 that killed civilians. Russia's Ministry of Defense issued a statement Sunday, calling the U.S. comments about the casualties "absurd" because it suggested the Islamic State possibly was smuggling civilians into buildings. Photo by Omar Alhayali/EPA
April 2 (UPI) -- Russia criticized the United States on Sunday for what it said were "absurd statements" justifying the American-led coalition's possible role in more than 100 civilian deaths in Mosul last month.
"Absurd statements of the Pentagon representatives justifying civil casualties caused by American bombing in Iraq give more information on the operation planning level and the alleged supremacy of the American 'smart' bombs," Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said in a statement from Russia's Ministry of Defense.
Civilian fatalities were after a U.S. airstrike in the the city's al-Jadidah neighborhood on March 17.
Last week, Col. Joseph Scrocca acknowledged "a coalition strike contributed in at least some way to the civilian casualties" in Mosul. The United States has expanded its investigation into a formal review of all airstrikes over several days in the area, the U.S. military said Thursday.
A U.S. team visited the site of the airstrike, a house where civilians were located was hit, a defense official told CNN.
The official said other factors might have played into the deaths, including the Islamic State attempting to deceive targets.
Iraq's military said last week in a statement that experts checked a house "reportedly targeted by an airstrike and they found out that the house was completely destroyed and there was no sign that it was destroyed by a strike." The military quoted eyewitnesses as saying the Islamic State used rigged explosives at homes occupied by families to fire at security forces.
"What motives is the U.S. command driven by when they hide the war crimes of terrorists from the international community behind the veil of secrecy? Why does the U.S.-led international coalition, with this information, using their 'smart bombs' still carry out airstrikes on buildings with civilians, knowingly condemning them to a terrible death?" Konashenkov said in the statement.
Konashenkov noted differences between the Russian operation in Syria's Aleppo and the U.S.-led coalition's operation in Mosul.
"The Russian Aerospace Forces were not used in Aleppo at all," he said. "The attention focused on the work of humanitarian corridors as well as delivering and providing humanitarian aid for local residents. In Mosul, according to the coalition's spokesman Joseph Scrocca, despite civilian casualties, the coalition is not going to retreat even when fighting becomes heavy."
Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesperson last week criticized U.S. foreign policy after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that NATO needed to discuss "Russia's aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere."