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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Amnesty calls for U.S. to compensate civilian victims of airstrikes in Somalia

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Human rights group Amnesty International called on the United States to compensate civilian victims and families affected by military airstrikes in Somalia.

Amnesty made the call following the release of a report by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) that one civilian was killed while three others were injured in an airstrike earlier this year.

The incident occurred on February 2 in the vicinity of the town of Jilib in southern Somalia. AFRICOM reported at the time that one terrorist had been killed. AFRICOM said it received eight allegations of civilian casualties after the incident.

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According to Amnesty, the four casualties were all members of one family while the one fatality was a woman.

Amnesty said that the report, the second such one, was the first time AFRICOM had substantiated a report of civilian casualties in Somalia it had investigated.

“This admission is the third case they have substantiated in 13 years of air strikes in the country. Now that there has been an acknowledgment of their actions, there must be accountability and reparations for the victims and their families,” Amnesty said in a statement.

Amnesty noted that while AFRICOM had made “tentative progress in acknowledging civilian casualties” it needed to do more to avoid such casualties and guarantee its own transparency and accountability mechanisms.

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“It is not up to human rights and other organizations to investigate and request accountability for every strike by the U.S. military.”

AFRICOM commander U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said that the military works hard to avoid civilian casualties during such operations which are aimed at bringing increased security and stability to Somalia.

AFRICOM also said its civilian casualty assessment varies with that of other organisations, including the NGO community, due to various factors. Some of them include AFRICOM’s reliable layered intelligence sources which are not available to the public and limited access to areas where AFRICOM conducts military operations or airstrikes.

In AFRICOM’s first report published in April, it acknowledged that an airstrike on February 23 in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow killed two civilians were killed and injured three others. Two Al-Shabaab militants were also killed in the airstrike.

Last year in March, human rights group Amnesty International called for the United States to do an independent investigation into allegations that its increased air strikes in Somalia had killed several civilians.

AFRICOM pledged to review its operations with regard to the occurrence and reporting of civilian casualties with the quarterly civilian casualty assessment report being one of the outcomes of that review.

Amnesty says the U.S. military has conducted 42 airstrikes in Somalia in 2020 with nine of them resulting in the killings of 21 civilians with another 11 being injured.

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