The United States has carried out a total of 46 air strikes to degrade al Shabaab in Somalia this year, Africa Command has revealed.
In a statement attributed to Colonel Chris Karns, Director of Public Affairs, US Africa Command, the US military said it continues to train Somali forces and support operations with precision airstrikes.
“Al Shabaab is a dangerous enemy that presents a threat to Somalia, its neighbours, and the United States. This Al Qaeda aligned terrorist organization increasingly employs lies, engages in criminal acts, and blends into communities to create fear and intimidate local populations. They have engaged in a series of violent acts with no regard for the Laws of Armed Conflict, to include previously attacking a hospital and deliberately seeking to place civilians in harm’s way using protected structures, such as mosques, for military and offensive fighting purposes,” Africom said.
“Al Shabaab routinely attacks Somali citizens, military forces, and partners. Somali forces, the US, and international partners work toward preserving life while increasing security, stability, and ultimately, the long-term possibility of increased prosperity,” Africom said. It accused al Shabaab of putting out false information to include last week’s erroneous claim about the death of US forces in an attack.
The US last month said one civilian was killed and three were injured in a US air strike in Somalia in February, the second such admission since it launched quarterly reports on civilian casualties in its Africa operations. The first admission was an air strike in April 2018 in El Buur in the Galgadud region of central Somalia in which Africom reported it had unintentionally killed two civilians.
In a report last month, Africa Command said a verification of the facts and circumstances about a 2 February 2020 air strike triggered by allegations of civilian deaths established one civilian had been killed while three were injured.
“Unfortunately, we believe our operations caused the inadvertent death of one person and injury to three others who we did not intend to target,” AFRICOM’s commander, Gen. Stephen Townsend was quoted as saying.
“We work hard to prevent civilians from getting hurt or killed during these operations designed to bring increased security and stability to Somalia.”
AFRICOM’s civilian casualty assessment reports cover its operations in Somalia, Libya and other African countries. The initial report published in April said two civilians were killed and three injured in an air strike in Somalia in early 2019.
The United States has been conducting air strikes in Somalia for years to help defeat al Shabaab. Rights activists have long accused the United States of shrouding its Somalia operations in secrecy, potentially undermining accountability for incidents involving civilian deaths.
Al Shabaab seeks to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government and set up its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia.
For nearly two decades al Shabaab has been waging a campaign of bombings and shooting attacks on military and civilian targets including hotels and traffic junctions both in Somalia and neighbouring countries like Kenya.
A regional peacekeeping force, AMISOM, mandated by the African Union, also helps defend the Somali government.