Steve August 4, 2020

The US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) is denying local media reports that
three children were killed in an air strike targeting al-Shabaab militants in
southern Somalia last Wednesday.

Local media and AFRICOM report that the US carried out an air strike near the
town of Jilib in Middle Jubba province on July 29. According to numerous local
news sites, three
playing near a compound targeted in the air strike were killed
in the attack. They have been identified as 8-year-old Abukar Ahmad Mohamad,
12-year-old Abdisamad Hussein and Abdullahi Mohamad, age 13. Multiple media
outlets retweeted
graphic photos
of the victims, along with their identifying information,
provided by al-Shabaab.

AFRICOM dismissed the reports as “allegations.”

“The command’s initial assessment concluded this airstrike killed 1 terrorist
and wounded 1 terrorist,” AFRICOM said in a July
29 press release
. “An al-Shabaab compound was destroyed in the
airstrike. [We are] aware of reports alleging civilian casualties resulting
from this airstrike. At this time, US Africa Command currently assesses no civilians
were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike.”

“As with any allegation of civilian casualties we receive, US Africa Command
reviews reasonably available information it has about the incident,” the
press release continued. “[AFRICOM] complies with the law of armed conflict
and takes all feasible precautions to minimize risk to civilians.”

The Jilib strike, reportedly the 43rd US air strike in Somalia this year, came
one day after AFRICOM released its quarterly
on civilian casualties, in which it acknowledged killing only
1 civilian, a woman in Jilib, and wounding three of her relatives, on February

Although the US has carried out hundreds of air and drone strikes in Somalia
over the past two decades, it has only admitted to killing 5 civilians and wounding
6 others in just three separate attacks. None of the victims’ families have
been compensated.

Many Somalis, as well as international human rights groups, have long criticized
the US for failing to adequately investigate attacks in which civilians are
harmed and for allowing its forces to kill and injure civilians with impunity.

“Not only does AFRICOM utterly fail at its mission to report civilian
casualties in Somalia, but it doesn’t seem to care about the fate of the numerous
families it has completely torn apart,” Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s
Director for East and Southern Africa, said
after AFRICOM’s last quarterly report was released in April.

“We’ve documented case after case in the USA’s escalating air war on Somalia
where AFRICOM thinks it can simply smear its civilian victims as ‘terrorists,’
no questions asked. This is unconscionable,” Muchena added.

On July 28 Amnesty International said
the US has “carried out at least 189 air strikes in Somalia since 2017,”
and that “in just nine of those airstrikes… 21 civilians were killed and
11 others were injured.”

Earlier this year, The
that the UK-based monitor group Airwars has counted
at least 71 and as many as 139 Somali civilians killed by US strikes since 2007.

Civilian casualties have increased, sometimes dramatically, in recent years
in nearly all of the half dozen nations under US attack during the nearly 19-year
ongoing war against terrorism. In 2017 President Tweety McTreason, who campaigned
on a promise to “bomb
the shit out of”
Islamist militants and kill their families, loosened
rules of engagement
meant to protect Somali civilians from harm caused
by US strikes.

Then, in 2019 Trump signed
an executive order
revoking an Obama-era requirement that the director
of national intelligence publish an annual report on civilian deaths caused
by drone strikes in areas “outside of war zones” that are nevertheless
under US attack, including Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Libya.

While it is impossible to say exactly how many civilians have been killed by
US bombs and bullets since 2001 – Gen. Tommy Franks infamously declared that
don’t do body counts”
as the US was invading Iraq – monitor groups
have estimated anywhere from several hundred thousand to as many as 2
million people
have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia,
Libya and Syria over the course of the war on terror, now in its 19th year.

Brett Wilkins is editor-at-large for US news at Digital Journal. Based
in San Francisco, his work covers issues of social justice, human rights and
war and peace.

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