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Civilian deaths a ‘fact of life’ in war on IS, Pentagon head says

WASHINGTON — Civilian casualties are inevitable in the war against the Islamic State group but the United states is doing “everything humanly possible” to avoid them, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says in an interview that airs Sunday.

A US-led international coalition has been carrying out air strikes against the IS group in Iraq and Syria since 2014, and nongovernmental organizations say the attacks are claiming ever more civilian lives.

Interviewed on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program, Mattis says that “civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation.”

But he quickly adds that “we do everything humanly possible, consistent with military necessity, taking many chances to avoid civilian casualties — at all costs.”

Some NGOs have blamed the rising civilian death toll on a push by US President Donald Trump’s administration to accelerate the pace of combat in an effort to “annihilate” the jihadists. But the Pentagon contests both the NGOs’ death counts and the charge that a new sense of urgency under Trump is to blame.

“We have not changed the rules of engagement,” Mattis says. “There is no relaxation of our intention to protect the innocent.”

— AFP

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