April 1 (UPI) — International watchdog Amnesty International said in a new report Wednesday the United States military carried out airstrikes in Somalia this year that killed at least two civilians, but didn’t acknowledge them.
The report, titled “Zero accountability as civilian deaths mount from U.S. airstrikes,” said one strike in Jilib on Feb. 2 hit a home where a family was eating, killed an 18-year-old woman and injured her two young sisters and 70-year-old grandmother.
Another strike on Feb. 24 a few miles away in Kumbareere killed a 53-year-old man.
The U.S. airstrikes intended to target al-Shabab terrorists, who have been active insurgent fighters in Somalia for years.
“The evidence is stacking up and it’s pretty damning. Not only does [U.S. Africa Command] 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,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa.
On Wednesday, U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, promised to be more forthcoming about reporting civilian casualties as part of its anti-terror campaign in Somalia. It said it will begin issuing quarterly reports to increase transparency.
Amnesty said the United States military has ramped up its air campaign in Somalia this year, with a total of 32 airstrikes so far — which is twice the rate they were conducted in 2019. The February strikes were retaliatory measures, the report says, for an al-Shabab assault on a U.S. airbase in Kenya in January that killed an American soldier and two contractors.
“Since I took command last year, we have been reviewing and revising our [civilian casualty] tracking, assessment and reporting procedures,” AFRICOM commander Gen. Stephen Townsend said in a statement. “To demonstrate our transparency and commitment to protecting civilians from unnecessary harm, we plan to publicize our initial report by the end of this month and we will provide quarterly updates thereafter.”
Amnesty International also accused AFRICOM last year of killing more than a dozen Somali civilians in airstrikes without reporting the deaths.