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US military confirms civilian casualties from shadowy war in Somalia

The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has acknowledged the killing of two Somali civilians and the injury of three others in an air strike.

Amnesty International today said this acknowledgement was a “welcome glimmer of transparency” as it called for accountability and reparation for the victims and their families.

In its first quarterly Civilian Casualty Assessment Quarterly Report, AFRICOM reviewed 91 air strikes it carried out in Somalia between 1 February 2019 and 31 March 2020.

Out of 27 alleged civilian casualty incidents in that period the report “closes” 20 incidents and leaves seven open and under review, including two covered in an Amnesty investigation released earlier this month.

Seif Magango, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Eastern Africa, said:

“This first regular public report acknowledging AFRICOM’s role in civilian casualties is a welcome glimmer of transparency in more than a decade of deadly military operations that until now have been shrouded in secrecy.

“Now there must be accountability and reparation for the victims and their families – the US military has still neither contacted nor offered reparation to the families of any of the civilians it has admitted to killing.

“It’s a positive step for AFRICOM to give bereaved Somali families the opportunity to self-report civilian casualties via its website. However, this will not serve the vast majority of impacted civilians who live in remote areas where smartphones are banned and internet access is poor.

“Alternative means should be made available, including through establishing a mechanism in Mogadishu to allow clan elders or elected representatives to speak on behalf of civilians whose loved ones have been killed by US air strikes.”

Amnesty investigation into US strikes

Through gathering extensive testimonial evidence and expert analysis of images and video from strike sites, satellite imagery, and weapons identification, Amnesty has investigated nine separate cases since 2017 where US air strikes have killed a total of 21 civilians and injured 11 more. Some of these involved to apparent violations of international humanitarian law.

In contrast, AFRICOM has now admitted to a total of just four civilian deaths and three injuries in two incidents.

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