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A Wave of Civilian Deaths Hangs Over Deepening U.S. Role in ISIS Fight

Another man, Ziad Suleyman, 27, said he could see an Iraqi special forces sniper on a nearby building, who was wearing a baseball cap and ear muffs and communicated with him using hand signals. “He was waving to me,” said Mr. Suleyman, also at the Erbil hospital, where he was visiting a wounded relative. “I was seeing him, he was seeing us.”

Residents and Iraqi officers said that Islamic State fighters, some speaking Russian, according to residents, had taken sniper positions on the rooftops of homes, pinning down some advancing Iraqi forces. Hundreds of residents, trying to escape indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire and fearful of airstrikes, took refuge in basements, which are unusual in many Iraqi houses but are common in the older homes of Mosul.

It was there that they died, from airstrikes targeting the snipers that caused entire buildings to collapse, survivors recounted.

“Not all of the houses had Daesh on the roof,” said Ali Adbulghani, a resident of the neighborhood, referring to another name for Islamic State fighters. “Why, just because of one Daesh, kill everyone?”

American military officials have said that their investigation so far has found that one building collapsed days after the strikes in the neighborhood, raising the possibility that the Islamic State blew up the building after the bombing runs, killing many civilians.

In interviews, survivors and local residents dismissed that, saying airstrikes brought the buildings down. Survivors and Iraqi officers say that fighting raged in the neighborhood for days after the strikes, delaying the arrival of rescuers.

A few among the lucky are now lying, injured but alive, in hospital beds in Erbil, about 50 miles east of Mosul.

Mr. Thannon’s brother, Ali, was one of them. He survived days under the wreckage, emerging with a broken arm and many cuts and bruises. He recalled lying under the rubble never thinking he would die there, and speaking to another man nearby, who died there.

“It was a conversation between two dying men,” he said.

He said he had hid in a basement not because Islamic State fighters forced him to, but because of the “terror and fear” of artillery and airstrikes.

“For me and my family, we thought this was the safest place,” he said.

When asked what happened to his family, Ali’s brother quickly changed the subject.

A few moments later, in the hallway outside the room, Mr. Thannon confided that he had not yet told his brother, who he said was delirious from his ordeal and from painkillers, that his family — his two wives, four daughters, two sons and two grandchildren — had all been killed.

Source: NYT > World

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