Just weeks after insisting that American airstrikes in Somalia had killed no civilians, U.S. Africa Command has said that new information reveals that a woman and a child died last April when a U.S. strike targeted al-Shabab militants.
The revelation comes on the heels of a report by Amnesty International that charged last month that as many as two dozen civilians had been killed or wounded in U.S. airstrikes in Somalia.
Military officials at the time rejected Amnesty International’s conclusions. But the report, combined with questions from Congress and a recent spike in U.S. strikes in Somalia, prompted Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of Africa Command, to order an in-depth review of the matter.
Earlier this week, that ongoing audit uncovered the April 2018 drone strike near El Burr that killed four al-Shabab militants along with the woman and the child in a vehicle.
Air Force Col. Chris Karns said information about their deaths was never sent to Africa Command headquarters so commanders were unaware of them until this week. He said that the reporting error is being addressed and that commanders believe the two civilian deaths were an “isolated situation” but the audit is continuing.
“Credibility, transparency, and accountability are fundamental to military operations,” Waldhauser said in a statement.
“It is critically important that people understand we adhere to exacting standards and when we fall short, we acknowledge shortcomings and take appropriate action.”
In its report last month, Amnesty International said it analyzed satellite imagery and other data and interviewed 65 witnesses and survivors of five airstrikes, which were detailed in the report. The report concluded there was “credible evidence” that the U.S. was responsible for four of the airstrikes and that it’s plausible the U.S. conducted the fifth strike. It said 14 civilians were killed and eight were injured.
U.S. Africa Command at the time said it looked at the five strikes and concluded there were no civilian casualties in four of them. In the fifth case the command said there were no U.S. strikes in that area on that day.
The April 2018 strike that officials said they learned about this week was not one of those detailed by Amnesty International.