France wrongly accused of bombing school in Iraq’s Mosul 'killing 28 children'
Rumours of a French air strike on a school in Islamic State controlled Mosul that killed over two dozen children quickly spread on Wednesday, but journalists and locals have denied the attack took place.
A report by the Arabic-language outlet Al Quds was shared widely on Twitter. It said that France had bombed on Tuesday night a school in Mosul, IS's de facto capital in Iraq, killing 28 children.
The report led to Egypt's grand mufti, Shawki Allam, putting out a statement condemning the alleged strike.
“This French military operation that targeted innocent civilians, children, is a mark of shame on France. It is no less abhorrent than the way terrorist organisations target innocents,” he said.
The religious leader also called it a violation of the Geneva Convention and expressed condolences to the relatives of those killed.
The Al Quds report cited German Press Agency DPA as their source on the alleged strike. However, when Middle East Eye contacted DPA, the outlet said it had not published a story on the reported bombing.
Middle East Eye later established that the source was in fact a tweet put out by German news channel Deustche Welle on their Arabic feed.
Deustche Welle told MEE that they were informed on Wednesday France had bombed the school in Mosul. They said their source was an Iraqi military source who they did not name.
However, a local in Mosul told MEE on condition of anonymity that France had not bombed a school in Mosul.
Numerous journalists have since said the rumour was false, including Al Jazeera Arabic's Amer al-Kubaisi, who wrote on Facebook: “Reports of the killing of children in Mosul as a result of French bombing are incorrect. This did not happen – no school was bombed. Such reports must be treated with utmost caution. People’s lives are not a game. People should not make them into a political game.”
This has not stopped some prominent anti-war figures from claiming the attack did happen, including former British MP George Galloway.
A spokesperson for the French Defence Ministry confirmed to MEE that their fighter jets had bombed the Mosul area on Tuesday night, but they said their target was IS.
“At 19:30 French time [21:30 local time] four Rafale fighter jets from an aircraft carrier stationed in the eastern Mediterranean, along with some US aircraft, dropped 20 bombs on an IS command centre [in Mosul],” the spokesperson said.
IS released footage on Wednesday showing the aftermath of coalition strikes. The militant group did not refer to an attack on a school, but they did show a mosque that was allegedly bombed by the coalition in their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.
A member of the group shown in the video said: “Our Muslim brothers in Europe – look what they are doing to us here. You must kill them and force them to flee, wherever they are… Take revenge against them.”
France has recently stepped up its bombing of IS territory in Syria and Iraq after the group claimed a deadly series of attacks in Paris that killed 130 people.