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AFRICOM refutes reports of civilian deaths in Somalia operation

KULANI LAKANARIA/U.S. ARMY

By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 29, 2017

STUTTGART, Germany — An August operation by U.S. forces in Somalia that sparked allegations of civilian deaths at the time resulted only in casualties of “armed enemy combatants,” U.S. Africa Command said Wednesday.

Special Operations Command Africa conducted the assessment into its operation on Aug. 25 near Barire, Somalia and concluded there were no civilian casualties, AFRICOM said.

“Before conducting operations with partner forces, SOCAF conducts detailed planning and coordination to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties and to ensure compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict,” AFRICOM said in a statement.

AFRICOM’s comments coincided with a report by The Daily Beast on Wednesday that said the operation resulted in 10 civilian deaths. The report, which included comments from unnamed local sources in Somalia, said U.S. troops using faulty intelligence fired on unarmed civilians.

AFRICOM’s statement did not address The Daily Beast story.

In August, AFRICOM confirmed U.S. forces were on an operation in a supporting role with the Somali National Army.

At the time, the circumstances were murky. Somalia government officials said only combatants were killed, but a local governor said civilians were among the casualties and the foreign troops were involved.

U.S. forces have stepped up operations in Somalia during the past year with more than 500 troops deployed to a country that has been in disarray for 30 years. AFRICOM is assisting Somalia’s army in a long-running battle against the militant group al-Shabab. U.S. special operations forces are a significant part of the American effort, with troops operating on the front lines with Somali soldiers.

In May, a Navy SEAL was killed in combat operations in Somalia, the first such casualty since the infamous 1993 Black Hawk Down incident.

Beyond Somalia, the past several months have been tumultuous for the military in Africa.

AFRICOM continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of four soldiers who were killed in an Oct. 4 ambush in Niger. The military also is investigating the death of a Green Beret who was found strangled to death in Mali earlier this year. Two Navy SEALs have been put on administrative leave and are under investigation in connection with the soldier’s death, according to the New York Times.

vandiver.john@stripes.com
Twitter: @john_vandiver

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