The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) says it has resumed air raids against the al-Shabab group in Somalia after a brief pause that followed a critical report condemning the “shroud of secrecy around civilian deaths” caused by the US military.
The latest operation was carried out on Tuesday near Jilib, a town in Somalia’s Middle Juba region, southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, and killed one fighter, Africom said in a press release on Wednesday.
“Currently, we assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this air strike,” it added.
The aerial bombardment is believed to be the first since Amnesty International said in March 18 report that 14 civilians had been killed and seven wounded in the course of five air raids between April 2017 and December 2018, all attributed to the US military.
“The civilian death toll we’ve uncovered in just a handful of strikes suggests the shroud of secrecy surrounding the US role in Somalia’s war is actually a smokescreen for impunity,” said Brian Castner, Amnesty’s senior crisis adviser on arms and military operations.
Initially, AFRICOM denied that its operations had resulted in any civilian deaths, but on Friday the command acknowledged that a woman and child had been killed in an April 2018 raid.
AFRICOM made the admission after receiving information that it said had not been passed on previously.
The Amnesty report came as the US military was stepping up its operations in Somalia, carrying out 28 air raids since the beginning of 2019, compared with 47 in the whole of 2018 and 35 in 2017.
The al-Qaeda affiliate was forced out of Mogadishu in 2011 and then progressively from other major cities by AU troops, but it still controls large swaths of rural territory, from which they launch frequent attacks against government and security targets, including in the capital.
— US AFRICOM (@USAfricaCommand) April 10, 2019