Telecoms worker killed in air strike


A US air strike on a town held by Somali Islamist insurgents killed a telecommunications worker, his employer said with the US military’s Africa Command investigating the report.

The strike follows allegations from Amnesty International a year ago of US strikes killing civilians.

Amnesty then said it documented 14 civilian deaths in five air strikes in 2017 and 2018. At the time, Africa Command (Africom) rejected the report but later said a review found two civilians were killed in a 2018 strike.

Africom executed 63 air strikes in Somalia last year and 18 so far this year.

Monday’s strike in the al Shabaab stronghold Jilib killed Mohamud Haji Salad, a site manager for Hormuud, Somalia’s biggest telecoms company, Hormuud said.

“He was respected among his colleagues and a valued member of the Hormuud team. He had a strong work ethic and was known to be a good father to his children,” Hormuud Chief Operating Officer Abdirashid Ali said in a statement.

Africom confirmed its air strike in Jilib and said it was investigating.

“Our initial and current assessment of today’s airstrike reflects one al-Shabaab militant killed with no civilian casualties,” their statement said.

Hormuud provide more than phone and data lines – they offer financial services that allow customers to send and receive money, a lifeline in a nation like Somalia where few formal banking services exist.

Hormuud was hit in military operations previously. An employee and a civilian were killed in a raid in 2018 the company said appeared to be conducted by Kenyan troops.

Kenya sent soldiers to Somalia in 2011 after al Shabaab raids and kidnappings in northern Kenya. Kenyan troops now operate there as part of an African Union peacekeeping force.

At least 11 Hormuud masts have been destroyed, mostly by ground forces using explosives, said an internal company document.

“Witness statements suggest perpetrators travel from Kenya to Somalia using vehicles, equipment and clothing that could be attributed to the Kenya Defence Forces,” the document said.

Kenyan defence forces did not respond to requests for comment.

Al Shabaab has hit mobile phone masts in Kenya. Four school children were killed last month when insurgents attacked a mast for Safaricom, Kenya’s biggest telecoms operator, in eastern Garissa county.