In a rare acknowledgement, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced two civilians death and three injured in a United States air strike in Somalia early last year.
The deaths were mentioned on Monday in a debut quarterly assessment report by AFRICOM on allegations of civilian casualties.
“Regrettably two civilians were killed and three others injured in a February 2019 air strike. We are deeply sorry this occurred,” AFRICOM’s commander, US Army General Stephen Townsend, said in the report.
The air strike took place out in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. In the report, the intended target – two members of the Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group died. The civilian deaths, it said, occurred as a result of US or al-Shabab munitions that exploded during the air strike.
Previous civilian casualties caused by air strikes
It was the second known incident in which AFRICOM has acknowledged killing civilians in Somalia, where rights activists have accused it of operating in secrecy.
The first, an air strike in April 2018 in El Buur, in the Galgaduud region of central Somali. AFRICOM had reported that they had unintentionally killed two civilians.
The US has been conducting air strike in Somalia for years to help defeat al-Shabab which seeks to topple Somalia’s western-backed central government and set up its own rule based on strict interpretation of the Islamic sharia law.
For nearly two decades, al-Shabab has been attacking military and civilian targets. These targets include hotels and traffic junctions in Somalia and neighbouring countries, including Kenya. A regional peacekeeping force, the African Union Mission in Somalia, also helps defend the Somali government.
Amnesty International said AFRICOM’s move to publish quarterly assessment reports on civilian casualty allegations is a welcome step towards transparency.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Seif Magango, added that the US must follow up with “accountability and reparation for victims and their families”.