US airstrikes target al-Shabab fighters in Somalia

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  • As airstrike in Afghanistan kills several civilians: Officials

The U.S. military conducted offensive drone strikes in Somalia on Thursday against fighters with al-Shabab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.

No details were provided by U.S. Africa Command as to specific targets of the airstrikes, which were the fourth and fifth offensive airstrikes carried out against al-Shabab in Somalia since President Trump authorized such actions in March. Previously, only self-defense airstrikes could be carried out in Somalia in support of American advisers and Somali troops.

“On August 10, the Department of Defense conducted two kinetic strikes against al-Shabaab militants,” said a statement from U.S. Africa Command. “The operation occurred near the Banadir region in southern Somalia.” Banadir is the administrative region surrounding the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

“This strike was conducted within the parameters of the proposal approved by the President in March 2017, which allows the U.S. Department of Defense to conduct lethal action against al-Shabaab within a geographically-defined area of active hostilities in support of partner forces in Somalia,” the statement said. “We will continue to assess the results of the operation and will provide additional information as appropriate.”

A U.S. Africa Command spokesperson later said that unmanned drones were used for the strikes, both of which were conducted near the Banadir region.

The president gave the U.S. military authority to target al-Shabab in a designated area of Somalia south of Mogadishu with prior notification to the Somali government.

This authorization for offensive actions has been used sparingly. The first airstrike occurred in June, with two others following in July, including one on July 31 that killed Ali Jabal, a senior al-Shabab leader who was alleged to have planned terror attacks in Mogadishu.

In the meantime, several civilians have been killed in an US airstrike in eastern Afghanistan, local officials said Friday, the latest setback in efforts to bring peace to the war-torn country.

Saaz Wali Shinwari, the district governor of Haska Mina in Nangarhar province, said the raid was carried out by US troops although there was no official confirmation from NATO.

“On Thursday afternoon, the American forces bombarded a civilian private vehicle… when they were travelling inside the district,” he told AFP.

“Unfortunately, in the airstrike we have casualties. Eleven people were killed and one wounded. All the victims, which included women and children, were civilians and they were from one family.

“The victims were beyond recognition, and they were placed inside the sacks and were buried late last night,” he added.

Of the roughly 13,000 foreign forces in Afghanistan only the United States carries out airstrikes.

They have been regularly targeting Islamic State insurgents who control several districts in restive Nangarhar.

Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for Afghanistan`s defence ministry, said the strike was carried out by foreign forces in coordination with Afghan officials.
“In the strike, five insurgents were killed and two others were wounded.

“We do not have any news about civilian casualties. But, we have appointed a delegation to investigate if civilians are killed,” he told AFP.

NATO said they were unable to provide any information when contacted by AFP.

Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor, said an unknown number of civilians had died but was unable to say who carried out the strike.

“I can confirm an airstrike in Haska Mina district of Nangarhar province and it led to civilian casualties. For the time being, we do not have a precise figure about the casualties,” he told AFP.

Last month a US airstrike killed 16 policemen in Helmand province. It came after a US airstrike in Sangin killed at least 18 civilians, mostly women and children, in February.

Civilian deaths are at an all-time high in Afghanistan. In the first half of the year, 1,662 civilians were killed and more than 3,500 injured, according to the United Nations.

Abc with additional report from Zee

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