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US Africa Command conducts first Somalia airstrike since admitting civilian casualties

U.S. Africa Command on Wednesday, April 10 said it carried out an airstrike targeting the al-Shabaab jihadist group in Somalia, the first since the command admitted it had inadvertently killed civilians in an aerial raid last year.

“In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia’s continued efforts to weaken al-Shabaab, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Middle Juba Region, Somalia, on April 9, 2019,” Africom said in a Wednesday press release.

“At this time, it is assessed this airstrike killed one (1) terrorist.”

The command said it assessed that no civilians were killed or injured, but added: “When warranted, processes and procedures exist that allow for additional information to inform post-strike analysis.”

On April 5, Africom said that an airstrike it carried out on April 1, 2018 near El Burr in central Somalia killed two civilians, and that it previously failed to properly disclose findings, leading to senior leaders making incorrect statements in front of the U.S. Congress.

It was the first admission of American airstrikes killing civilians in Somalia, where Africom works alongside the federal government and the African Union mission AMISOM to target Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia, but has also carried out attacks in neighboring Kenya, which has deployed troops as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia.

The group was routed from Mogadishu in 2011 by the 22,000-strong African Union mission AMISOM, and has had to abandon most of its strongholds, but it still controls vast rural areas and remain the key threat to peace in Somalia.

U.S. forces partner with Somali national security forces in counterterrorism operations, and have conducted frequent raids and drone strikes on al-Shabaab training camps throughout Somalia.

U.S. strikes in Somalia surged in April 2017, after President Donald Trump declared southern Somalia an “area of active hostilities,” the rights group Amnesty International said last month.

Africom has carried out 29 airstrikes in Somalia in 2019, compared to 47 in 2018 and 35 in 2017.

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