U.S. military role questioned in Somali civilian deaths

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – In a recent operation against al-Shabab leaders in Somalia, the U.S. military has confirmed its indirect involvement, which led to tragic civilian casualties.

While the nature of U.S. involvement remains under investigation, the incident has ignited a tense back-and-forth between the Somali government, the U.S. military, and the militant group al-Shabab.

On September 6, 2023, the Somali government launched an operation in the vicinity of El Lahelay, targeting high-level al-Shabab combatants.

According to Major Jessica Tait, spokesperson for the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM), while the U.S. did not conduct airstrikes or have personnel on the ground, they provided advisory and assistance remotely.

The operation resulted in the death of three al-Shabab operatives, identified as key figures within the organization.

However, the aftermath was marred by reports of civilian casualties, specifically the tragic death of a woman and three children.

Al-Shabab’s accusations

A day after the operation, al-Shabab released a statement blaming the U.S. military for the civilian deaths.

They alleged that U.S. forces removed the bodies to “conceal” the truth. In a swift response on September 8, AFRICOM denied these accusations, stating, “The claim being spread by al-Shabab that U.S. forces caused the unfortunate harm to civilians is false.”

Ahmed Mohamud Shuuke, the grandfather of the children killed, recounted his heart-wrenching tale.

In a telephone interview with VOA Somali, Shuuke expressed shock and grief over the unexpected tragedy that befell his family.

Initially suspecting an airstrike, Shuuke observed vehicle tracks at the incident site the following morning. Distressingly, the bodies of his loved ones remained unaccounted for.

Shuuke didn’t directly blame any group for the killings. He stated, “The people who killed [the children] know themselves, and the world sees it.” However, in a previous statement to al-Shabab media, he seemed to have implicated “U.S. planes.”

Official stances and investigations

Daud Aweis, Somalia’s Minister of Information, acknowledged reports of civilian injuries and confirmed an ongoing investigation. He said, “We can’t confirm until the investigation is done.”

The U.S. has consistently maintained its position, with Major Tait emphasizing that U.S. forces “did not fire at any time while conducting the medical evacuation.”

Yet, questions linger regarding the role and responsibilities of both the U.S. and Somali forces in this operation.

As the incident sparks debate over foreign intervention and the unintended consequences of counterterrorism operations, the plea of Ahmed Mohamud Shuuke serves as a poignant reminder of the human costs.

He earnestly appealed for the return of any surviving relatives and compensation for the heartrending loss.

With tensions high, a thorough and transparent investigation remains paramount to ascertain the truth and ensure justice for the victims and their grieving families.