LONDON (Somaliguardian) – AFRICOM tracked reports of US attacks in Somalia that allegedly killed or wounded at least 18 civilians in the last six months of 2019, according internal AFRICOM documents obtained by The Intercept. However, the US government denied killing or wounding a single civilian in Somalia last year.
AFRICOM spokesperson John Manley repeatedly denied allegations of US airstrikes that killed civilians in southern Somalia.
While obtained documents show that AFRICOM knew it targeted civilians in many of its operations and caused civilian losses it kept denying reports of unintended casualties. It says only two civilians have been wounded in more than a decade long airstrikes conducted by unmanned drones.
UK based airstrike monitoring group known as Airwars, released new data Tuesday, offering a stark rebuke to AFRICOM’s claims. The group asserts that the number of civilian deaths may be as much as 6,800 percent greater than AFRICOM asserts.
“Our focus on casualties in Iraq, Syria, and Libya shows the critical importance of listening to local communities affected by conflicts,” said Chris Woods, the director of Airwars. “We’ve also widened our focus to include all U.S. actions — not just the controversial drone strikes, but also a growing number of U.S.-Somali ground operations which can lead to civilian harm.”
New Airwars data identified 61 individual events in which civilians were allegedly harmed by US military action since 2007 out of 300 operations in the war-torn country. Of these, 31 were either confirmed by AFRICOM or rated “fair” by Airwars, meaning the group has found two or more credible sources for the claim of civilian harm.
The monitoring group found that in these 31 cases, between 71 and 139 civilians have been killed, a figure that far exceeds AFRICOM’s official count of two dead.
On February 2, AFRICOM carried out an airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia in which it claimed killing one terrorist. “Initial assessment concluded the airstrike killed one terrorist,” the command reported in a press release. Adding “We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike.”
Airwars tells a very different story contradicting US AFRICOM’s claims. The group found tweet by Somali journalist Mohamed Osman Abdi that read: “Very sad to learn that an airstrike Sunday evening killed my brother-in-law’s daughter and injured two of his daughters and his mother who is my aunt and mother-in-law in Jilib… surprised to those saying no civilian casualties.”
Morad, a Somali media outlet, identified the casualties as Nurto Kusow, a 17 year old killed in the strike, and Fatima Kusow, 15, who was wounded along with an unnamed girl and 70 year old Khadija Mohamed. Airwars also cites multiple local sources that claim civilians were killed and injured in the attack.
Last week, two more civilians, including a child, were reportedly injured in another US airstrike in Jilib, the latest entry in the Airwars database. AFRICOM has acknowledged the strike but not the civilian casualties.
The US government now considers civilians living in Al-Shabaab controlled areas in Somalia as terrorists and have already designated them as combatants, showing appalling disregard to civilian losses in its sightless strikes, experts believe.
A day ago, another US drone strike killed Hormuud Telecom director for the Middle Juba, Mohamoud Haji Salad. Reports say missiles fired by a drone had hit his farm where he was present to oversee the farm’s production.
Only within the last two months, US drone strikes killed or wounded more than 12 civilians in southern Somalia, a number that staggeringly grows with every drone operation AFRICOM claims to have conducted.
Earlier, Amnesty International accused the US government of showing appalling disregard for civilians killed in Somalia airstrikes; however, Trump administration did never give indulgence to these statements and on the contrary, asserted its air bombardment campaign in several regions of the country where it designated as “areas of active hostilities” to legitimize targeting civilian people.
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