Airstrike targeting al-Shabab extremists results in civilian casualties in Somalia
On Sunday, September 10, 2023, an airstrike took place in a town in Somalia, resulting in casualties, including children, as reported by residents and authorities. Meanwhile, three members of an extremist group associated with al-Qaida were killed.
The U.S. military issued a statement on Friday acknowledging the unfortunate injuries and deaths of civilians near El-Lahelay village during a military operation by Somali forces. However, they clarified that American forces were not involved in the airstrike or present at the scene.
In response to inquiries about the number of civilian casualties, the U.S. Africa Command remained silent. It is worth mentioning that the United States has been conducting airstrikes to support Somali forces in their fight against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group for several years.
Denying allegations made by al-Shabab, the U.S. stated that the claim that American forces were responsible for harm to civilians is false. Nevertheless, the U.S. has previously admitted to inadvertently causing civilian deaths through airstrikes.
Witness accounts and reports from local authorities regarding the events on Wednesday vary. According to Amal Ali, a relative, an airstrike hit a vehicle affiliated with al-Shabab while passing near their family home in El-Garas town, Galmudug state. As a result, a grandmother and five grandchildren were tragically killed. The children’s father, Dahir Ahmed, confirmed the incident but was unable to provide immediate details.
Abdifatah Ali Halane, secretary-general of the El-Garas administration, asserted that it was an American airstrike, emphasizing the vital aerial support they have provided throughout their operations against extremists in Galmudug state. According to Halane, the airstrike led to the deaths of three individuals, including two suspected al-Shabab members, and left five people injured, including four children.
Halane further added that Somali forces promptly arrived to attend to the wounded, who were then evacuated to the capital city of Mogadishu for medical treatment.
Somalia’s deputy information minister, Abdirahman Adala, informed journalists that three al-Shabab members were killed in the Somali forces’ operation. However, he also mentioned that the extremists had planted explosive devices in a nearby house, resulting in civilian casualties.
Last year, Somalia’s government initiated what the president labeled a “total war” against al-Shabab. The extremist group controls portions of rural central and southern Somalia, acquiring significant funds through taxation of residents and extortion of businesses.