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Increase in US drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia under Trump

December 20, 2017 at 2:05 pm

US drone strikes in Somalia double and tripled in Yemen in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) reported.

“In Somalia, the Obama administration had officially designating the Al-Shabaab group as an Al-Qaeda affiliate at the end of November 2016, essentially widening who could be targeted. But there was no increase in strikes until July 2017, with all but 2 of this year’s 32 strikes carried out since then.”

“In Yemen, 30 strikes hit within a month of the declaration being reported – nearly as many as the whole of 2016. Most of the 125 strikes in 2017 hit in central Yemen, where the US military’s Central Command (Centcom) vigorously pursued fighters from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),” TBIJ stated.

A man walks past a graffiti, denouncing strikes in Yemen

Trump has inherited the policy of targeted killing by drone outside declared battlefields from his predecessor, Barack Obama. Since Trump’s presidency, strikes in Somalia have doubled with Yemen strikes tripling.

In March, Trump provided the US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) greater autonomy in striking targets in Yemen and Somalia without notifying the White House after it began considering part of Yemen and Somalia “temporary battlefields”. But the uptick in strikes was observed from “the end of June”.

Last month, a US air strike killed more than 100 Somalis, leading to condemnation by human rights groups because of the lack of transparency over who was targeted.

Read: US executes air strike in Somalia’s capital

United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) does not normally comment on its operations, but details of two were revealed. One included a US fatality, after American and Somali troops were ambushed on their way to attack their target. The second lead to the death of killed civilians as they ran to hide behind banana trees in a village in the lower Shabelle region.

On 29 January 2017, the US and the United Arab Emirates attacked a village in Bayda, a central province in Yemen. “The US initially claimed no civilians were killed in the raid, but the Bureau found nine children under the age of 13 had died,” TBIJ reported.

A second raid in May targeted Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Marib province. “The operation left seven AQAP fighters dead, Centcom said, but five civilian tribesman were also killed,” TBIJ said.

Despite the uptick in strike, the African Union Mission in Somalia is rescinding its footprint. By the end of the year, 1,000 troops will be withdrawn from Somalia. In Yemen, US strikes have pounded Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sites and support the Saudi-led coalition target the Iranian-backed Houthi group which still controls the capital, Sana’a.

The US has executed 127 drone strikes from January to December 2017, which have reportedly killed 233 people. In Somalia, there have been 34 drone strikes with 228 killed during the same period.

Read more: 1,000 days of Saudi war on Yemen, backed by the UK