General requests second investigation into Somalia raid
The general in charge of U.S. Africa Command (Africom) has requested a second investigation into an August raid in Somalia after reports that U.S. soldiers killed 10 civilians, a spokeswoman confirmed Thursday.
“Subsequent media reports alleged misconduct by U.S. personnel who participated in the operation,” Africom spokewoman Robyn Mack said in a statement. “As a result, Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command, referred the matter to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to ensure a full exploration of the facts given the gravity of the allegations.”
In November, the Daily Beast reported that U.S. special forces soldiers shot and killed 10 unarmed civilians, including at least one child, during an Aug. 25 operation in the southern Somali town of Bariire. The outlet cited interviews with survivors and a Somali army general.
Hours after the publication of the Daily Beast report, Africom released a statement saying its own investigation had concluded that the only people killed were armed enemy combatants.
“After a thorough assessment of the Somali National Army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia, on Aug. 25, 2017, and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF) concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants,” Mack reiterated Thursday.
But Somalis continued to insist there were civilian causalities. Earlier this month, the Daily Beast published a second story in which a Somali National Army soldier said he saw U.S. soldiers firing on unarmed people.
On Thursday, Mack pledged all allegations will be “fully and impartially” investigated.
“Africom takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and will leverage the expertise of appropriate organizations to ensure such allegations are fully and impartially investigated,” she said.
The U.S. military has roughly 500 troops in Somalia, double the number of forces from a year ago, with two new military headquarters in Mogadishu.
President Trump this year granted a request from Africom to give commanders more authority to conduct airstrikes and raids against al-Shabaab without high-level, interagency reviews.
U.S. forces have been working with the Somali government to fight al-Shabaab for years, but American troop presence and airstrikes have increased since Trump took office. In addition, U.S. forces this year launched their first airstrikes against the country’s Islamic State in Iraq and Syria affiliates.