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On the Eve of Congressional Hearings, New Evidence About Alleged U.S. Massacre in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia—New evidence in the Daily Beast investigation of a U.S.-led ground operation in Somalia last August further implicates U.S. Special Operations Forces directly in the death of 10 civilians. Among the new elements  is an interview with a Somali National Army soldier who says he saw the Americans firing on unarmed victims. The Pentagon has said all those killed were “armed enemy combatants.”

The operation was one of three major incidents involving U.S. forces in Africa this year that have raised questions surrounding U.S. military engagement across the continent and prompted the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to hold a hearing, scheduled for Thursday morning, to discuss U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa.

According to the Somali National Army (SNA) soldier who was with the American special operators during the incident, the team approached the farm where the incident occurred with eight U.S. soldiers in front of the 20 Somali National Army soldiers and four U.S. operators behind them.

The Americans in the lead then fired on two unarmed people who were preparing tea, after which Somali National Army soldiers rushed forward and fired on three farmers in a nearby shed. The U.S. soldiers began firing at others in the farming village who came out of their homes.

The account by the SNA soldier, who spoke on condition that his name not be used, corroborated earlier Daily Beast reporting and contradicts a U.S. Africa Command press release issued 30 minutes after The Daily Beast published its months-long investigation into the incident.

The Daily Beast had chronicled in considerable detail the way in which a team of U.S. Special Operations fighters carried out a ground operation acting on human intelligence that came from local rivals of those killed on the farm, and against the advice of the commander of the African Union Peacekeeping contingent in this region in Somalia.

The AFRICOM press release stated that, “After a thorough assessment of the Somali National Army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia, on Aug. 25, 2017 and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF) has concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants.” (The full text of the brief AFRICOM statement was appended to our story after its release.)
AFRICOM’s response denying the allegations of civilian casualties caused outrage among Somalis, few of whom doubt the farmers killed were civilians, and has put increased pressure on the Somali Federal Government to release the findings of its own investigation. According to multiple sources familiar with the Somali government inquiry, it determined the farmers were civilians who were wrongly killed,  but it was buried as the result of U.S. pressure.
None of the over two dozen Somali National Army members, clan elders, surviving farmers, or security and government officials interviewed in the course of The Daily Beast investigation were contacted by U.S. investigators, raising questions in Somalia as to whether any of the investigation’s sources included those outside the U.S. military.
On Monday, citing the Daily Beast investigation and other concerns, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) announced he had successfully called for a hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Committee to be held Thursday morning to look at U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Africa.  “From combating Al Shabaab in Somalia to Boko Haram in Nigeria,” Lieu said in a statement, “U.S. military personnel are deployed across the African continent with little public scrutiny or awareness. It is critical that we bring more transparency to the years-long work of U.S Special Operations Forces in sub-Saharan Africa, their rules of engagement and the broader regional strategy.”
Source: Daily Beast

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