On May 17th, two al-Shabaab members were killed in a US drone strike in Somalia.
The operation was carried out jointly with Somali Forces and with the permission of the Somali Federal government.
— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) May 18, 2020
“The U.S. support to our Somali partners is and will remain strong,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations, U.S. Africa Command.
“U.S. Africa Command affords our partners over-watch and added precision capabilities,” said Col. Christopher Karns, director of public affairs, U.S. Africa Command. “This enemy has no regard for the lives of innocent Somalis and the group presents a threat to the Somali people, the U.S., and interests abroad.”
On the same day, a Somali governor and three bodyguards were killed in a suicide attack claimed by the al-Shabaab group in the regional capital Galkayo, Somaliland.
The attacker rammed a scooter taxi into a car carrying Ahmed Muse Nur, the governor of the north-central Mudug province, and his security detail before detonating an explosive device, official Muse Ahmed told AFP.
In late March, the governor of Puntland, a neighboring semi-autonomous province, was killed in similar circumstances.
Less than a month earlier, AFRICOM released a quarterly civilian casualty assessment report.
From February 1st, 2019, to March 31st, 2020, U.S. Africa Command conducted 91 airstrikes against Violent Extremist Organizations in Somalia and Libya.
During this period, U.S. Africa Command received 70 allegations about 27 separate possible civilian casualty incidents with approximately 90 alleged civilian casualties.
As of March 31st, 2020, 20 alleged incidents are closed, and seven incidents are still under review. One of the 20 closed allegations that stemmed from this period has been substantiated by the command.
The only admission of guilt is for one incident:
“Regarding the February 23, 2019 strike, we assess that it is likely that two civilians were regrettably and unintentionally killed and three were injured as a result of the airstrike that also killed two al-Shabaab terrorists who were the intended targets.”
U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command commented on it.
“While we follow very precise and rigorous standards, in instances where we fail to meet our expectations, we will admit the mistake. Regrettably two civilians were killed and three others injured in a February 2019 airstrike. We have the highest respect for our Somali friends and we are deeply sorry this occurred.”
It is assessed the deaths and injuries occurred due to the effects of U.S. munitions or secondary explosions caused by explosives stored by al-Shabaab at the location of the strike.
The February 23rd, 2019, airstrike was designed to degrade the al-Shabaab terrorist group and the command’s assessment is that two terrorists, the intended targets, were also killed as a result of this airstrike.
The first substantiated instance of civilian casualties by the command occurred on April 1, 2018, when two civilians were regrettably and unintentionally killed during a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of El Buur, Somalia, as previously released.
Meaning that out of all the allegations, US AFRICOM admits that it was responsible for the deaths of two civilians, and rejects most other allegations (since some are still in review).
The most recent allegation is from March 28th, 2020. An online media source claimed two (2) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Buulo Fulaay, Somalia, on March 27, 2020.
Amnesty International said AFRICOM’s move to publish quarterly assessment reports on civilian casualty allegations is a welcome step towards transparency.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Seif Magango, added that the US must follow up with “accountability and reparation for victims and their families”.
Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, was driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 and lost most of its strongholds, but still controls vast swathes of the countryside.
Its militants have vowed to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu and have carried out numerous attacks in the capital.
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