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US ‘donates’ drone war capability to Somalia

February 28, 2018 at 1:28 pm

Photo of a US fighter jet carrying out air strikes over Somalia [World Defence Forum/Facebook]

The US government has stepped-up its support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) by supplying unmanned aerial drones to Somalia’s military force, Garowe Online reported yesterday.

A new surveillance drone unveiled in Somalia’s Baledogle Military Airfield, in Lower Shabelle region, will be used by Somali forces to monitor armed groups on the ground. It is unclear if the drone has hell-fire missile capability, which may lead onto a ramped up rate of targeted killings in the country.

The drones will provide Somalia’s forces a much needed “real time” intelligence feed, Francisco Madeira, the special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for the Somalia Ambassador noted while thanking the US for its continued support for AMISOM.

The US has assisted with striking targets in Somalia since 2006, going after Al-Shabaab armed group which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2012. AMISOM, which was formed by a UN Security Council resolution, has been helping the Somali military in its fight against Al-Shabaab since 2007.

The US has previously conducted botched counter-terrorism raids alongside local Somali forces and the Somali National Army, resulting in the killing of ten civilians, including women and children. The intelligence which led to the raid was based on local Somali intelligence gathering.

Yesterday, the US conducted an air strike killing two Al-Shabaab fighters, wounding a third, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) confirmed. “We assess no civilians were killed in this strike,” the statement read.

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Drone strikes in Somalia doubled in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. In one such strike in November last year, the US killed more than 100 Al-Shabaab fighters in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia.

Lawyers and human rights groups have continually voiced concerns over the lack of transparency and accountability for the strikes. Although the US Pentagon insists that these strikes do not claim the lives of innocent civilians, the claims should be treated with scepticism.

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 killed some 713 Somalis and injured 60 since 2007, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, an organisation which tracks US strikes across the world.