Amnesty International: US air strike killed Somali farmers

Rights body Amnesty International says its investigation has found that a US air strike in Somalia in March killed civilians and not militants as the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) alleged at the time.

It says the US failed to investigate claims that the three victims were farmers and had no ties with Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

The three men were returning from their farms to their homes in Mogadishu and Leego and Yaaq Bariwayne in the Lower Shabelle region when their car was targeted, Amnesty says.

Eleven people interviewed, including co-workers and family of the men killed, were “adamant that none of the men was a member of al-Shabab”, it added.

“It’s bad enough that the US Africa Command appears not to know who its air strikes are actually killing and maiming in its secretive war in Somalia,” Abdullahi Hassan, a Somalia researcher for Amnesty, said in a statement.

AFRICOM said in March that its assessment had determined that the air strike had “killed three terrorists” and it was aware of reports of civilian casualties.

AFRICOM spokesman John Manley told news agency AFP that the “US Africa Command arrived at reasonable certainty the vehicle and its occupants were al-Shabab and actively supporting al-Shabab operational activity”.

“US Africa Command minimises the risk to civilians by following a thorough, reasonable methodology that accounts for weapons effects and mitigates risk to civilians, ” he added.

US air strikes in Somalia surged in April 2017 after President Donald Trump declared the south of the country an “area of active hostilities”.

On Monday al-Shabab militants attacked a military base where US soldiers train commandos in Somalia.

Military officials said the jihadists were repulsed without breaching the perimeter fence. -BBC

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