The US conducted a joint raid with Somali forces last week, Thursday, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) told MEMO.
“On Jan. 18, US forces accompanied Somali National Security Forces on a mission in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia resulting in the recovery of 30 male children from an Al-Shabaab indoctrination centre,” Major Karl J Wiest told MEMO.
“During the mission, the Somali National Security Forces received hostile fire. The Somali forces returned fire in self-defence. In the ensuing firefight, five enemy combatants were killed and six were wounded. Some of those killed in the engagement appear to have been under the age of 18. US personnel were in an advisory capacity, and did not fire their weapons.”
US AFRICOM did not mention what precisely “advisory capacity” means on an operational level. The US government considers all military-age males in its targeted killing or capture operations to be classed as combatants, according to several administration representatives, though they have deliberately targeted young children in these operations without any transparency or accountability.
“We support the Federal Government of Somalia and UNICEF efforts to reunite these children with their families,” Wiest continued.
Ali Dhere, Al Shabaab’s spokesperson announced on Telegram that the target was a legitimate school rather than an indoctrination centre: “American forces attacked a legitimate school. Four children were killed and their teacher in the attack, kidnapping others after torturing them. They [US-Somali forces] took them to one of their military bases in the country”.
Last week, several open source networks affiliated with the Al-Shabaab group reported on the raid that took place in the village of Jalili, in the Juba administrative region in southern Somalia.
Former US President Barack Obama previously warned high risk counter-terrorism operations should be used sparingly and only after internal review. Trump has sidestepped that rule and provided the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the US military broader powers in Somalia, considering parts of the country “areas of activity hostilities” or temporary battlefields.
The US has some 500 personnel stationed in Somalia, including soldiers that fight alongside Somalia’s forces. US drones and manned aircrafts are stationed in Djibouti, north of Somalia, where AFRICOM coordinates its missions across the country.
On 25 August 10 civilians were reported killed in a US-Somali counter-terrorism raid in Bariire, southern Somalia. The villagers were running to hide under banana trees when they were shot dead by US-Somali forces. Al-Shabaab fighters, who were the target of the raid, were not at the village.
Al-Shabaab seeks to dislodge the Somali government and implement a strict version of Islamic law across Somalia. In 2012 the group pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda.
The US has killed some 712 Somalis and injured 54 since 2007, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an organisation which tracks US strikes across the world.