BAGHDAD (Reuters) – An Iraqi lawmaker has called on her government to investigate a suspected air strike at a Shi’ite mosque during fighting in nearby Kirkuk last week, saying U.S.-led forces could have been involved – a suggestion dismissed by the coalition.
Human Rights Watch echoed the call from Shi’ite Muslim MP Hanan al-Fatlawi for an enquiry, saying on Monday only Iraqi and U.S.-led coalition forces were known to carry out air attacks in the region. Iraq’s army said it was investigating.
The multiplication of forces involved in the conflicts in Iraq and neighbouring Syria has raised fears of accidental strikes and confrontations on an increasingly complex battlefield.
Fatlawi said the attack killed 15 women on Friday in Daquq, a town near the northern oil city Kirkuk which Islamic State militants were attacking at the time. HRW said 13 women and children were killed and at least 45 wounded.
A Reuters correspondent said there were aircraft, mostly helicopters, flying over the Kirkuk area on the day as mostly Kurdish militant forces fought off the Islamic State assault.
“I can definitely tell you that the coalition did not conduct this airstrike in Daquq,” a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Baghdad said.
There was also no evidence, he added, to link the Daquq incident to air strikes that the coalition was carrying out further north, supporting an Iraqi government and Peshmerga assault on the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul.
The Shi’ite lawmaker Fatlawi said she did not believe forces from Iraq’s government – which is led by Shi’ite groups – would have attacked the mosque and said neighbour Turkey might also be involved.
“We want the government to clarify the identity of the airplanes, if they are Turkish or belong to the international coalition,” she said in a statement on Saturday.
There was no immediate comment from authorities in Ankara. Turkey has launched airstrikes on what is says are Kurdish military positions over the border in Iraq, but not as far into the country as Kirkuk.
Turkey has deployed troops north of Mosul to train Sunni fighters for the battle to capture the city. Iraq’s government has demanded those Turkish troops withdraw.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Andrew Heavens)