Two civilians were killed and three injured in a United States air strike in Somalia early last year, the US said in a rare acknowledgement of civilian casualties from United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) military operations in the Horn of Africa country.
The deaths were mentioned on Monday in a debut quarterly assessment report by AFRICOM on allegations of civilian casualties raised in connection with its operations against armed fighters in Somalia, Libya and other African countries.
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“Regrettably two civilians were killed and three others injured in a February 2019 air strike. We are deeply sorry this occurred,” AFRICOM’s commander, US Army General Stephen Townsend, said in the report.
The air strike was carried out in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region and the report said the intended target – two members of the Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group – were killed.
The civilian deaths, it said, occurred as a result of US or al-Shabab munitions that exploded during the air strike.
It was the second known incident in which AFRICOM has acknowledged killing civilians in Somalia, where rights activists have accused it of long shrouding its operations in secrecy.
The first was an air strike in April 2018 in El Buur, in the Galgaduud region of central Somalia, in which AFRICOM reported it had unintentionally killed two civilians.
The US has been conducting air attack in Somalia for years to help defeat al-Shabab, which seeks to topple Somalia’s western-backed central government and set up its own rule based on strict interpretation of the Islamic sharia law.
For nearly two decades, al-Shabab has been attacking military and civilian targets, including hotels and traffic junctions in Somalia and neighbouring countries, including Kenya.
A regional peacekeeping force, the African Union Mission in Somalia, also helps defend the Somali government.
Amnesty International said AFRICOM’s move to publish quarterly assessment reports on civilian casualty allegations is a welcome step towards transparency.
Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Seif Magango, added that the US must follow up with “accountability and reparation for victims and their families”.
Indian army admits wrongdoing in killing three Kashmiris |NationalTribune.com
Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – The Indian army says its soldiers exceeded powers under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the killing of three local civilians in southern Indian-administered Kashmir earlier this year. On July 18, Indian armed forces said they killed three unidentified “rebels” in Amshipora village in Shopian. An Indian army…
Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – The Indian army says its soldiers exceeded powers under the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the killing of three local civilians in southern Indian-administered Kashmir earlier this year.
On July 18, Indian armed forces said they killed three unidentified “rebels” in Amshipora village in Shopian.
An Indian army spokesperson on Friday said the victims were now identified as residents of Rajouri district whose families had filed a complaint accusing soldiers of killing them in a staged gun battle.
“The inquiry ordered by the Army authorities into op Amshipora has been concluded. The inquiry has brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded,” Colonel Rajesh Kalia, the army spokesperson, said in a statement.
“The evidence collected by the inquiry has prima-facie indicated that the three unidentified terrorists killed in Op Amshipora were Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed and Mohd Ibrar, who hailed from Rajouri. Their DNA report is awaited. Their involvement with terrorism or related activities is under investigation by the police,” the statement said.
The statement by police claimed army personnel were shot at during a search operation.
Days after the incident, a photograph of the three people killed went viral on social media following which the three families identified them and filed the complaint.
After the army’s rare admission of guilt on Friday, Muhammad Naseeb Khatana, cousin of Muhammad Ibrar told Al Jazeera the three men, all of them cousins, left Rajouri for Shopian to work as labourers.
“They reached Shopian on July 17 and that evening was the last time we talked to them. It was during the coronavirus lockdown and we thought they might have been quarantined. We kept waiting but there was no news,” said Khatana.
“When we saw the photograph, we filed a report in which we identified our relatives who were dubbed militants by the army. What more injustice could they do to the innocent people.”
Another family member said they have been deliberately denied DNA reports “for too long”.
“On August 3, our samples were taken and there is no report until now,” the relative said.
“Today, they called one member of each family and admitted that the three were killed in a fake encounter. We want them to bring those people who killed them in front of us and punish them. We want the bodies of our family members.”
Ibrar, the youngest of the trio, worked as a labourer to save money for his education, his family told Al Jazeera.
Human rights activists in Kashmir see the encounter as a gun battle in which civilians were dubbed “rebels” and killed by the army to claim monetary benefits and medals.
In May 2010, large scale protests erupted in Kashmir after a police investigation revealed the army killed three civilians in a staged gun battle at Machil area near the Line of Control in the frontier Kupwara district.
The three labourers were lured to Machil and killed there before being labelled “militants” by the army to claim a reward.
Under AFSPA, a counterterrorism law with sweeping provisions, security forces enjoy “widespread impunity”.
It grants “powers” to members of the armed forces in “disturbed areas” like Kashmir to shoot-to-kill or arrest suspected people.
Section 7 of the AFSPA provides virtual impunity for human rights violations by security forces personnel, as any civilian prosecution can only proceed after obtaining prior sanction from the central government.
In the 30 years this law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir, that authorisation has never been granted.
Parvez Imroz, a noted human rights lawyer in the region, told Al Jazeera: “This incident cannot be taken in isolation.
“They were civilians, the statement doesn’t mention it. It mentions them as terrorists.
“This incident cannot be taken in isolation, the culture of the army in 30 years needs to be looked at. The history is that the army has complete impunity, they cannot be prosecuted and punished.
“They might try to silence families unofficially which they have done in many cases in Kashmir.”
Ethiopia admits shooting down Kenya aid aircraft in Somalia
Ethiopia on Saturday admitted it was behind the shooting down of a privately owned Kenyan plane in Somalia earlier this week, resulting in the deaths of all six people on board. The plane was shot down on Monday by Ethiopian troops protecting a camp in the town of Bardale in southwestern Somalia, the Ethiopian army…
Ethiopia on Saturday admitted it was behind the shooting down of a privately owned Kenyan plane in Somalia earlier this week, resulting in the deaths of all six people on board.
The plane was shot down on Monday by Ethiopian troops protecting a camp in the town of Bardale in southwestern Somalia, the Ethiopian army said in a statement to the African Union (AU).
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The aircraft had been carrying humanitarian and medical supplies to help the country fight the spread of coronavirus when it went down in Bardale, about 300km (180 miles) northwest of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.
The Ethiopian soldiers mistakenly believed the plane was on a “potential suicide mission” because they had not been informed about the “unusual flight” and the aircraft was flying low, the statement said.
“Because of lack of communication and awareness, the aircraft was shot down,” the military said. “The incident … will require mutual collaborative investigation team from Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya to further understand the truth.”
Kenya expressed shock over the incident earlier this week, saying the plane’s mission had been to aid Somalia in tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
Soldiers from Ethiopia and Kenya are among those deployed to Somalia as part of an AU peacekeeping mission to fight the armed group al-Shabab.
The shooting down of the plane comes amid strained ties between Kenya and Somalia.
Last month, Kenya accused Somali troops of an “unwarranted attack” across its border near Mandera, a northern outpost town, describing the incident as a provocation.
Somalia, meanwhile, has long accused its larger neighbour of meddling in its internal affairs, something Kenya has denied.
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