Somalia government on Thursday requested an explanation from the United States after Somali officials said a U.S. “friendly fire” air strike killed at least 22 soldiers and civilians in the Horn of Africa nation.
Officials in the semi-autonomous, northern region of Galmudug said a U.S. air strike killed members of its forces this week and accused a rival region, Puntland, of duping the Americans into believing those targeted were Islamist rebels.
Washington said the United States carried out a “self-defense air strike” after Somali troops faced fire from militants. It said nine al Shabaab militants had been killed but that it was looking into reports others may also have died.
“The cabinet requests the U.S. government give a clear explanation about the attack its planes carried out on the Galmudug forces,” the government statement, signed by Mohamed Omar Arte, said.
It also urged both Galmudug and Puntland, which have often clashed over territory in the past, to mend fences. Protests erupted in Galkayo after the U.S. strikes, with demonstrators burning U.S. flags and chanting anti-American slogans.
The United States, a major donor to Somalia’s government in Mogadishu, has often bombed al Shabaab militant positions and commanders in its bid to support the government and help the nation rebuild after two decades of war.
In a separate statement, Somali General Ali Bashi said the Somali military had confirmed that members of the Galmudug forces and civilians were killed in the strike, describing it as a case of “friendly fire”.The general also said al Shabaab was not in the area, confirming the al Qaeda-affiliated militants’ earlier claim that they had no forces there at the time of the attack, which occurred overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; writing by Edmund Blair; editing by Mark Heinrich)
US duped into airstrike that killed 22 Somali soldiers, local officials claim
“The attack occurred at our army base, 30km east of this town and killed 22 soldiers, wounded 16 others and destroyed armored vehicles. US drones carried out the attack, but we believe that the Puntland security forces gave [the United States] wrong information,” said Galmudug region’s state security minister, Osman Issa Nor, as cited by Xinhua.
The alleged American attack, according to Nor, followed a call for help from forces in the northern Somali region of Puntland, arguing shots had been fired at them by Al-Shabaab Islamist guerrillas from the neighboring Galmudug area.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis confirmed the US carried out a “self-defense airstrike” after Somali troops were attacked during the take-down of an improvised explosive device production network.
Captain Davis said nine Al-Shabaab fighters had been killed in the mission but that Washington would now investigate other possible victims.
“We will look at the reports to see if they are credible, and if they are credible we’ll investigate them,” he added.
This would be the second US airstrike performed on Al-Shabaab guerrillas in Somalia this week.
Puntland police suggested the airstrike had killed “more than a dozen” Islamic militants, which have recently orchestrated a series of attacks on Somalia’s Western-backed government and local authorities.
But Al-Shabaab itself denied having any groups based in the area surrounding the city of Galkayo, which is currently divided between the Galmudug and Puntland administrations.
The attack resulted in demonstrations against the locally stationed US forces, including 50 troops and peacekeepers with the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), currently fighting Al-Shabaab militia in the region.
Somalia’s Galmudug and Puntland regions have recently clashed over territory.