By Idrees Ali
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S.-led coalition air strikes hit a “cash collection point” in the Islamic State’s northern Iraqi stronghold of Mosul on Monday, bringing the total strikes on these targets to nine in Iraq and Syria, a U.S. military spokesman said.
“This was the second strike in Mosul in as many weeks against ISIL financial targets,” Army Colonel Steve Warren told a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, using another name for Islamic State.
Warren said the coalition had been prepared to accept “some” civilian casualties with the strike.
“Yes, we were prepared to accept civilian casualties in conjunction with this cash strike, it's tragic and it's not something that we want to do," Warren said.
He added that initial estimates showed civilian casualties were low and in the “single digits.”
Targeting Islamic State's finances is a key part of the coalition's strategy to defeat the group. Iraq's finance minister last year said the militants had looted nearly half a billion dollars from banks in Mosul and the other northern cities of Tikrit and Baiji after its lightning dash across the Syrian border in 2014.
Warren said that along with strikes on Islamic State oil facilities, strikes on the collection points were having an impact.
"As we strike the Daesh cash, as we call it here in Iraq, we are going to see them react to our strikes, whether it's storing their cash in smaller amounts, in multiple locations, or whether it's moving it more often, we don't want to tip them off to what we see," Warren said. Daesh is an Arab acronym for Islamic State.
He added that it was unclear whether currency was in dollars or dinars, and while the exact amount destroyed in the strikes was not known, it was roughly “tens of millions of dollars.”
According to Pentagon data, between July 1 and Jan. 13, the coalition reported that it had hit three cash distribution points - one in Mosul and two in Dayr Az Zawr.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali. Additional reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Chris Reese)