The Islamic State may be tricking the U.S. and Iraqi Security Forces into calling in airstrikes on hidden civilians, the LA times reports.

The tactic involves putting ISIS snipers on the roof of a building, and then herding civilians into the basement. These snipers know their fate and lure the Iraqi Security Forces into requesting air support from the U.S. and its allies.“It’s like a trap,” a Mosul government official told the LA times. ISIS may even be booby trapping these basements to ensure their collapse.

The tactic fits with a long held ISIS practice of using civilians as human shields, and has come under intense scrutiny after a Mar 17 U.S. airstrike may have played a role in killing 200 civilians. “My initial assessment is that we probably had a role in these casualties,” Army Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend told reporters Tuesday. Townsend clarified that the types of U.S. munitions used should not have collapsed the structure, indicating ISIS booby traps may have played a role.

Iraq’s ministry of defense also blamed ISIS for the deaths saying they planned the incident to “impact the civilians, to inflame the public and to convey a wrong message to the world that the joint forces and the international coalition are behind the killing and bombings.”

Civilian casualty incidents may multiply as the U.S. supports the most brutal phase of the Iraqi Security Force advance on Mosul. The Iraqi’s are currently assaulting the most crowded and narrow part of Mosul in what has turned into a bitter urban slog.

Nearly 400,000 civilians remain inside ISIS controlled Mosul, and they may be used increasingly as human shields as ISIS hangs on to the last of its territory in Iraq. “We go out of our way to always do everything humanly possible to reduce the loss of life or injury among innocent people,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis told reporters after the May 17 incident.

He added, “the same cannot be said for our adversaries.”


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