Ahmed Pesher cries next to the destroyed houses where he says 23 members of his family were killed during fights between Iraq security forces and Islamic State on the western side of Mosul, Iraq, Friday, March 24, 2017. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
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The risk of civilian casualties in western Mosul was always high as Iraqi government forces and their allies stage the assault. Tens of thousands of residents are trapped in homes around the Old City, where local people say militant fighters are using them as human shields or herding them into buildings as cover.Coalition officials said there were airstrikes in the vicinity of the Al-Jadida blast that day.Local residents and eyewitnesses say Daesh fighters were in and around the Al-Jadida area the day of the explosion as they battled with Iraqi forces.Several blasts hit the area behind the local hospital.Residents describe the explosion that flattened or damaged at least one large building and other homes around six tight alleyways.One local official and an eyewitness said families and relatives from other districts appeared to have packed into one building because it had a large basement that would safely hold many people.Iraq's military command has also blamed the militants for rigging a building with explosives to cause civilian casualties, but some local residents and witnesses have little doubt it collapsed due to an airstrike.
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