Coalition airstrikes on Saturday leveled portions of the ISIS-conquered university in Mosul, as part of ongoing assaults against the Islamic State-held Iraqi city, multiple sources confirm.
“The enemy target was pulverized,” says a U.S. government source with unimpeachable knowledge of the incident.
Additional sources, including a U.S. government Iraq specialist, affirm that the attack took place.
Coalition aircraft hit Mosul University with “at least a dozen if not more” heavy bombs, each capable of forming a crater 50 feet wide and 36 feet deep, the government source says. Each bomb can penetrate thick metal or concrete, and has a 400-yard fragmentation radius.
The university was targeted because it is believed to have been the site of ISIS chemical or bomb factories, the government sources say.
A formerly thriving city in northern Iraq, Mosul fell to ISIS fighters in June 2014. Since then, an estimated half-million residents have fled Mosul, while those who remained have been sub-jected to brutal Islamic State rule.
The Islamic State’s occupying forces took over Mosul University, burning books and manu-scripts, shuttering the campus, and then reportedly reopening with ISIS-approved courses.
This past fall, ISIS blew up the university’s agriculture buildings, reported a Kurdish media site, Rudaw, in October.
“Chemistry classrooms or equipment are believed to have survived the purges,” the U.S. government source says. “We believe they were being used to manufacture chemical and other weapons to use against anti-ISIS forces.”
Hence, Saturday’s bomb strike.
The Pentagon did not issue a specific statement about the strike on Mosul University. In press release No. 20160320-01, though, dated March 20, 2016, the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve noted that coalition military forces hit, among other targets, head-quarters and tactical elements in Mosul.
The strikes were launched via “rocket artillery and attack, fighter, and remotely piloted air-craft,” the statement reads.
A video purporting to show the incident was posted on a private YouTube channel, and was picked up by a small number of Arabic-language Twitter accounts. The video depicts thick plumes of smoke billowing up from apparently freshly bombed buildings. The video also shows what appears to be spliced-in footage of carnage from other, indeterminate events.
“There is no doubt the attack took place,” the government source says. “It was a resounding success.”
Due to the time difference between the Eastern United States and Iraq, officials with U.S. Central Command were not immediately able to obtain confirmation or details.