Somalia seeks explanation after US 'friendly fire' strike

Officials in Somalia's semi-autonomous, northern region of Galmudug said a US air strike killed members of its forces this week and accused a rival region, Puntland, of duping the Americans into believing those targeted were rebel militants.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters that the United States had carried out a "self-defense air strike" killing nine militants.

Somalia's government on Thursday requested an explanation from the United States after Somali officials said a US "friendly fire" air strike killed at least 22 soldiers and civilians in the Horn of Africa nation.

Security Minister of Somalia's semi-autonomous, northern region of Galmudug, Osman Issa, said 22 of his region's soldiers had been killed in the strike.

He added that Galmudug's rival neighbouring region of Puntland had requested the strike on the pretext that the men were al Shabaab militants.

"Puntland misinformed the United States and thus our forces were bombed," he said.

A Puntland police officer said the attack had killed "more than a dozen" members of Al Shabaab, which is waging an insurgency against Somalia's Western-backed government and regional authorities.

"The cabinet requests the US government give a clear explanation about the attack its planes carried out on the Galmudug forces," the Somali government statement, signed by Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Omar Arte, said.

It also urged both Galmudug and Puntland, which have often clashed over territory in the past, to mend fences. 

Protests erupted in Somalia's Galkayo district after the US strikes, with demonstrators burning US flags and images of US President Obama. 

The protestors chanted anti-American slogans, according to witnesses. Shops also remained closed in the district because of the demonstrations.

In a separate statement, Somali General Ali Bashi said the Somali military had confirmed that members of the Galmudug forces and civilians were killed in the strike, describing it as a case of "friendly fire".

The general also said Al Shabaab was not in the area, confirming the Al Qaeda-affiliated militants' earlier claim that they had no forces there at the time of the attack, which occurred overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.

In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said that the United States had carried out a "self-defense air strike" after Somali troops faced fire from militants as they tried to stop an improvised explosive device (IED) making network.

Davis said that nine Al Shabaab militants had been killed in the strike, but the Pentagon was looking into reports that the strike could have killed others.

"We will look at the reports to see if they are credible and if they are credible we'll investigate them," Davis said.

The United States, a major donor to Somalia's government in Mogadishu, has often bombed al Shabaab positions and commanders in its bid to support the government and help the nation rebuild after two decades of war.

Conflict in Somlia began in 1991 that left the Horn of Africa nation riven by clan rivalries and struggling with a militant insurgency. Rival regions still sometimes take up arms against each other.


TRTWorld and agencies