Wednesday 21 March 2018

US military says civilians not killed in Somali raid

US military says civilians not killed in Somali raid
(AFP (eng) 11/30/17)
U.S. Marines in Mogadishu

US military investigators said Wednesday that only enemy fighters were shot dead in a joint US-Somali raid in August, amid allegations that multiple civilians were killed.

At issue is an August 25 operation at a farm near Bariire in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, when Somali troops and US special forces attacked a suspected hideout for fighters from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab group.

Soon after the overnight operation, community leaders accused troops of having killed civilians.

Local elders called a news conference in the capital Mogadishu and displayed nine bodies, two of them children, saying they were civilians killed in cold blood by Somali troops.

The same day, the US military's Africa Command released a statement saying it was conducting a credibility assessment into the allegations.

On Wednesday, it said it was confident those killed were jihadists. Officials did not make public the investigation itself.

"After a thorough assessment of the Somali National Army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia, on August 25, 2017 and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, US Special Operations Command Africa has concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants," AFRICOM said in a statement.

US news site the Daily Beast published a lengthy story shortly before AFRICOM released its statement, saying it had uncovered strong evidence that US special forces troops had killed civilians in the incident.

The Beast interviewed several Somali intelligence officials and other people familiar with the case, and found bullet casings from US weapons -- apparently undermining the US claim that its troops were only in a supporting role.

Pentagon spokeswoman Major Audricia Harris said investigators would have looked at information "from all available sources," including other agencies, partner governments and nongovernmental organizations.

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