Over 105 Iraqi nationals were killed in an airstrike conducted by the United States in Mosul in March, the Pentagon confirmed on Thursday after a thorough investigation.

“This engagement was conducted using all available intelligence entirely according to stringent coalition rules of engagement and in accordance with the law of armed conflict,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. Matthew Isler, who led the investigation.

 

US-led coalition airstrikes kills more than 100 civilians in Iraq and Syria in March. Photo by Time Magazine

 

According to the investigation, the bomb dropped on the Mosul ignited a massive amount of explosives placed there by the Islamic State.

The US-led coalition and Iraqi forces were unaware that civilians were staying inside the building or that it was packed with explosives when the US dropped the small bomb to kill two snipers who were firing on Iraqi forces, the Pentagon added.

The incident sparked issues because of the large number of death toll that estimates to 200 or more as the explosion collapsed the building and killed 101 people inside the structure and another four in a neighboring building.

An additional 36 civilians may have been in the building at the time of the collapse, however, investigators still could not confirm it.

“This investigation determined that ISIS deliberately staged explosives and snipers to harm civilians,” Isler furthered. “ISIS knew of the large numbers of civilians sheltered in the structure.”

Moreover, the civilians entered the building initially to escape the fighting but the militants may have warned them they would be killed if they attempted to leave, Isler said.

The Pentagon said the militants regularly use human shields to protect themselves from airstrikes. Meanwhile, the US-led coalition has increased the intensity of the air campaign in Iraq and Syria as attacks on ISIS by ground forces heightened.