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US military acknowledges civilian death from Somalia strike

Jul 29th 2020 · 2 min read
US military acknowledges civilian death from Somalia strike

The U.S. military is acknowledging another civilian death from its operations in Africa, bringing the total number of civilians U.S. Africa Command (Africom) has acknowledged killing to five.

The acknowledgment came in Africom’s second in a new series of quarterly reports on civilian casualties caused by its operations.

“Our goal is to always minimize impact to civilians,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander of Africom, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we believe our operations caused the inadvertent death of one person and injury to three others who we did not intend to target. We work hard to prevent civilians from getting hurt or killed during these operations designed to bring increased security and stability to Somalia.”

The strike at issue happened Feb. 2 near Jilib, Somalia. At the time, Africom said in a news release that the military assessed it killed one member of the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab terrorist group and no civilians.

In Tuesday’s civilian casualty report, Africom said it has since received eight allegations of the strike causing civilian casualties and that after “a thorough assessment into the facts and circumstances,” it can substantiate one civilian death and three injuries.

The report also looked at six other strikes for which Africom received allegations of civilian casualties and said the military could not substantiate the allegations in those cases.

Outside organizations accuse the U.S. military of severely undercounting the number of civilians it kills. Africom in particular has come under fire as it did not acknowledge any civilians casualties until last year.

In April 2019, Africom acknowledged for the first time that two civilians were killed in an airstrike in Somalia the year before.

Then, this April, Africom released its first official quarterly report on civilian casualties, acknowledging another two civilian deaths from a 2019 airstrike in Somalia.

In Tuesday’s report, Africom touted that it has made submitting allegations of civilian casualties easier by making its online submission form more prominent on its website, more user friendly and able to take information in people’s native languages.

Amnesty International, which previously investigated the February airstrike for which Africom has now acknowledged civilian casualties, recognized the military’s “tentative progress,” but called on Africom to compensate victims’ families.

“Now that there has been an acknowledgment of their actions, there must be accountability and reparations for the victims and their families,” Brian Castner, Amnesty’s senior crisis adviser for arms and military operations, said in a statement Tuesday.

“While Africom has made tentative progress in acknowledging civilian casualties, they now need to prevent these civilian casualties in the first place, as well as ensuring their own transparency and accountability mechanisms,” Castner added. “It is not up to human rights and other organizations to investigate and request accountability for every strike by the U.S. military.”

last updated: 2020-07-29@08:07