United States Airstrikes in Somalia Killed Civilians
The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), which is responsible for U.S. military operations in all African countries except Egypt, has acknowledged the death of two civilians—a woman and a child— in a U.S. airstrike in Somalia last year, according to Voice of America. The admission, released on April 5, follows AFRICOM’s denial of claims made by an Amnesty Internationals report titled “The Hidden U.S. War in Somalia,” a nine-month investigation of five airstrikes attributed to US forces. The report found “credible evidence” that at least 14 civilians were killed and eight were injured.
In 2011, the U.S. began airstrikes against al-Shabaab, a militant group in Somalia which later pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012. Strikes surged in April 2017 after President Trump declared areas of “active hostilities” in Southern Somalia, allowing the military to carry out additional strikes, according to News24. The BBC reported that American forces carried out 110 airstrikes in Somalia over the past two years, killing 800 people, who the U.S. previously claimed to all be militants. However, after the release of Amnesty’s report, General Thomas Waldhauser, head of AFRICOM, ordered an internal review which identified a “break down in reporting” between AFRICOM and commanders.
The attack responsible for the death of the woman and child occurred on April 1, 2018 in central Somalia and was not listed in Amnesty’s report. Officials initially reported that the strike had killed five al-Shabaab militants. However, new information prompted an investigation which eventually revealed the two civilian deaths, according to Voice of America.
While AFRICOM has not affirmed the findings of Amnesty’s report, BBC reports General Gregg Olson, AFRICOM Director of Operations, as stating, “If an innocent loss of life occurs, we are committed to being transparent and learning from this regrettable incident to prevent future occurrences.