A U.S airstrike in March this year killed three farmers and not Al-Shabaab militants, the campaign group Amnesty International has said.
Countering the assertion by AFRICOM that the airstrike in Abdow Bile in Lower Shabelle region decimated three Al-Shabaab members, Amnesty said Monday it has authoritatively established those killed it the strike were farmers.
“An investigation by Amnesty International has revealed that three men killed in a US military air strike in March after being targeted as “Al-Shabaab terrorists” were in fact civilian farmers with no evidence of links to the armed group,” Amnesty said.
According to the investigations, Amnesty said, the three occupants in a Toyota SUV were returning from their farms in Muuri area when a drone from a U.S aircraft hit their vehicle between 3 and 4 pm in Abdow Dibile, around 5km from Afgoye in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region.
But AFRICOM said its review it had established with no doubt the three were members of the militant group Al-Shabaab.
“To date, U.S. Africa Command has only received an allegation of a civilian casualty with respect to the driver of the vehicle – there have been no other allegations that the additional two passengers were civilian,” AFRICOM said.
“Based on detailed methods and a body of multi-intelligence reporting, to include the actions observed from the vehicle, U.S. Africa Command arrived at reasonable certainty the vehicle and its occupants were al-Shabaab and actively supporting al-Shabaab operational activity.”
But Amnesty took issue with what it termed as ‘flawed assessment’ by AFRICOM noting it never bothered to contact relatives of the men killed for further investigation. The three men left three children behind Amnesty said.
“It’s reprehensible that AFRICOM offers no way for those affected to contact it and has failed to reach out to the families of victims after its version of events was called into question in this case,” said Abdullahi Hassan, Amnesty International’s Somalia Researcher.