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Amnesty Accuses US of Killing Civilians in Somalia

Amnesty Accuses US of Killing Civilians in Somalia

Thursday, 21 March, 2019 - 06:45
FILE PHOTO: Members of al-Shabaab militia hold their weapons in Mogadishu, Somalia January 1, 2010. REUTERS/Feisal Omar/File Photo
Washington - Asharq Al-Awsat
Amnesty International has accused US forces of killing several  civilians in Somalia as they "dramatically increased" the number of air strikes against Al-Qaeda linked insurgents, al-Shabaab, but the US military denied the deaths.

Amnesty researchers who investigated five air strikes in detail reported at least 14 civilians had been killed -- raising fears the total dead in the scores of attacks may be far higher.

"The attacks appear to have violated international humanitarian law, and some may amount to war crimes," Amnesty said on Wednesday in the report, titled "The Hidden US War in Somalia".

The study is based on 150 interviews including witnesses, family members of those killed and security experts.

Their reports were corroborated by satellite imagery, photographs of the deep craters of the explosions, as well as munition fragments collected from the sites.

The US military said it had carried out 110 strikes by drones and manned aircraft in the past two years in Somalia, killing over 800 people, but insisted every death was that of a "terrorist." 

Since June 2017, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) “conducted 110 airstrikes in Somalia, eliminating more than 800 terrorists," it said in a statement, adding that "our assessments found that no AFRICOM airstrike resulted in any civilian casualty or injury."

AFRICOM added that it was "in the interest of the terrorist group al-Shabaab to untruthfully claim civilian casualties."

But Amnesty said that since April 2017, the US "has dramatically increased the number of air strikes – from manned aircraft and unmanned drones – it has launched in Somalia, tripling the annual rate of attacks."

It said the number of US air strikes is more than the number of those it carried out in Yemen and Libya combined during the same period.

Amnesty's military expert Brian Castner said that "the civilian death toll we've uncovered in just a handful of strikes suggests the shroud of secrecy surrounding the US role in Somalia's war is actually a smokescreen for impunity.

"Our findings directly contradict the US military's mantra of zero civilian casualties in Somalia."

US strikes in Somalia surged in April 2017, after President Donald Trump declared southern Somalia an "area of active hostilities", Amnesty said.

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