US fails to compensate victims of drone strikes in Somalia

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NAIROBI, Kenya - The Department of Defence has failed to compensate victims of drone strikes in Somalia since 2022, The Intercept reports, despite evidence of several casualties throughout the said period in a total of 288 attacks within the country.

For 17 years, the US has carried out 288 attacks in the Horn of Africa nation, with the US Africa Command only admitting 5 deaths, including Luul and Mariam, who tragically succumbed to their injuries following an airstrike in southern regions.

But despite the smaller number quoted by US Africa Command, the Airwars, a UK-based group monitoring airstrikes, at least 3,000 people have been killed in Somalia over the last two decades, with their families failing to get justice even with overwhelming evidence.

Not long ago, the Pentagon started giving quarterly reports on casualties, but in the last two years, the US Africa Command has failed to acknowledge several deaths attributed to defence airstrikes within Somalia. US Africa Command offers aerial surveillance during ground operations.

Pentagon directed the armed forces to address people and communities on the receiving end of military operations, including by “expressing condolences” and providing ex gratia payments to next of kin.

Since 2020, Congress appropriate $15 million meant for compensation of victims of airstrikes. The money is sent to families of the victims of the airstrikes; both those killed or injured. The military rarely makes compensation payments, even in cases as clear-cut as the 2018 strike in Somalia.

Last year, various lobby groups in Somalia and their international partners protested to the Pentagon, asking Defence Defence Lloyd Austin to expedite compensation of Luul and Mariam families. This year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Reps. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif.; Ilhan Omar, D-Minn; Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; and Jim McGovern, D-Mass., joined the effort.

The Defense Department missed the May 1, 2024, deadline for releasing its 2023 civilian casualty report.

“The 2022 report was almost a full year late, and the 2023 report is already overdue,” said Shiel. “That means we have no public visibility into whether DoD finally began making payments last year as it worked to implement the action plan, which commits the Department to improve how it responds to civilian harm.”

The United States withdrew its forces from Somalia in 2021 following a presidential decree, repositioning them to neighbouring Kenya and Djibouti, but the decision would be reversed later after Somalia complained to the Department of Defence.

Since then, at least 500 soldiers have been redeployed to Somalia where they are assisting the Somali National Army (SNA) and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), who are actively involved in the fight against Al-Shabaab.

The US Africa Command is also responsible for training and equipping the elite Danab forces, who are integral units in the fight against Al-Shabaab. The US Africa Command carries out air raids based on the request from the Somalia government particularly in self-defence situations.

GAROWE ONLINE

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