Panafrican News Agency

Rights group asks redeployed US troops in Somalia to make civilian protection priority

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA ) – The decision of the United States to redeploy several hundred troops in Somalia, as part of a joint operation with the Somali government and African Union forces, should make civilian protection a priority, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.

It said in a statement that previous US military operations in Somalia resulted in the loss of life and property to Somali civilians that the US neither recognised nor provided with redress.

“US officials should be very clear on how their forces will avoid harming Somali civilians during military operations,” said Laetitia Bader, Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “They will need to work closely with Somali and African Union authorities to avoid repeating past laws of war violations and promptly and appropriately respond to civilian loss.”

The US has been involved in military operations against the Islamist armed group Al-Shabab in Somalia since 2007. Beginning in 2017, US airstrikes in Somalia increased significantly. In late 2020, the Trump administration ordered the approximately 750 US troops out of Somalia.

Somalia’s new president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has welcomed the return of approximately 500 US troops to the country.

Al-Shabab has continued to conduct indiscriminate and targeted attacks on civilians and has forcibly recruited children.

In 2021, Al-Shabab fighters killed dozens of people it accused of working or spying for the government and foreign forces.

Somalia’s security forces have committed serious abuses against individuals accused of Al-Shabab membership, including unlawfully detaining and at times prosecuting children in military courts.

The statement said Human Rights Watch, other rights groups, and the media have previously documented considerable loss of civilian life in US airstrikes and during joint operations, including attacks that were apparent violations of the laws of war.

During the earlier US deployment, the US military denied many incidents of civilian harm.

Human Rights Watch said it is not aware of any families, of the civilians killed, that received amends or other redress for their losses, or that anyone was held accountable for wrongdoing.

-0- PANA MA 20May2022