The US-led coalition forces may have possibly played a role in the air strike that occurred in the al-Jadida district of west Mosul on 17 March, a senior US commander in Iraq said on Tuesday, (28 March).

Lieutenant General Peter Townsend said that the United States had conducted an air raid in the part of Mosul on that day.

Townsend said there was "at least a fair chance" that US had a role in "an unintentional accident of war". He also strongly defended the US while pushing back against allegations that the US had loosened its rules of engagement that were put in place to minimise civilian casualties.

"It is the toughest and most brutal close-quarters combat that I have experienced in my 34 years of service. What has not changed is our care, our caution ... our tolerance from civilian casualties - none of that has changed."

"Although our partners and the coalition have made mistakes that harmed civilians, we have never targeted them - not once," he said, according to AlArabiya.

Townsend further said that it was possible that the Islamic State militants had rigged the building hit by the air strike.

Witnesses on Sunday explained horrific details of body parts strewn on the rubble, with residents trying to pull out survivors from under the rubble. A municipal official on Saturday said that at least 240 bodies had been pulled from the rubble.

According to two residents and a lawmaker, the air strike may have hit a truck bomb leading to a blast that collapsed buildings in the area. The air strike reportedly targeted a house in al-Jadida with Isis snipers and other equipment.

The Iraqi military rejected claims that the civilian deaths were caused by the coalition air strike. It said it found no sign of an air raid but found a huge booby trapped vehicle nearby.

If the role of the US-led coalition is confirmed, it would be one of the worst strikes since the invasion of Iraq by US in 2003.

Mosul air strike
Iraqi firefighters look for bodies buried under the rubble, of civilians who were killed after an air strike against Islamic State triggered a massive explosion in Mosul on 17 March REUTERS/Stringer