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Amnesty Demands Inquiry Into Civilian Deaths In US Drone Strikes In Somalia

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Amnesty International alleged that 14 civilians were killed in US drone strikes in Somalia, and demanded that US government carry out impartial, thorough investigations into "dramatically increased" air strikes in the impoverished northern African country.

In a report released on Wednesday, the London-based human rights watchdog said it estimates that there have been more than 100 strikes by US drones and manned aircraft in the past two years, more than the number of US air strikes in Yemen and Libya combined during the same period.

However, Amnesty International said when it approached with the findings, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) repeated its denial that any civilians have been killed in its operations in Somalia.

The Hidden US War in Somalia details how 14 civilians were killed and eight more injured in just five of the more than 100 strikes in the past two years. These five incidents were carried out with Reaper drones and manned aircraft in Lower Shabelle, a region largely under Al-Shabaab control outside the Somali capital Mogadishu. The attacks appear to have violated international humanitarian law, and some may amount to war crimes, according to Amnesty.

"The civilian death toll we've uncovered in just a handful of strikes suggests the shroud of secrecy surrounding the US role in Somalia's war is actually a smokescreen for impunity," said Brian Castner, Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Advisor on Arms and Military Operations.

Amnesty notes that the number of US strikes in Somalia surged after 2017 March 30, when President Trump signed an Executive Order declaring southern Somalia an "area of active hostilities".

"US forces carried out 34 strikes in Somalia in the last nine months of 2017 - more than in the entire five years from 2012 to 2016. This increased again in 2018, to 47 strikes; and there have already been 24 in the first two months of 2019 alone," says the report, titled "The Hidden US War in Somalia".

"The US government must ensure investigations into all credible allegations of civilian casualties are carried out, with accountability for those responsible for violations and reparation made to the victims and survivors," said Ella Knight, Military, Security and Police Researcher at Amnesty International.

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