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Somalia and U.S. probe into death of civilians in airstrikes       

MOGADISHU (Xinhua) -- The Somali and U.S. governments have launched investigations into the death of civilians during a joint security operation on a farm in southern Somalia early on Friday.

In separate statements, the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) and the Somali government admitted there were civilian casualties in the operation conducted near Bariire in Lower Shabelle.

“We are aware of the civilian casualty allegations near Bariire, Somalia. We take any allegations of civilian casualties seriously, and per standard, we are conducting an assessment into the situation to determine the facts on the ground,” Africom said in a statement issued on Friday night.

Africom, which has in the past conducted counter-terrorism airstrikes against the terror group in Somalia, confirmed that the Somali National Army was conducting an operation in the area with U.S. forces in a supporting role.

“U.S. forces are in Somalia at the request of the government of Somalia and are committed to helping Somali forces neutralize Al-Shabaab and bring stability to the region,” it said.

The statement comes after the Somalia military said eight Al-Shabaab militants were killed during the joint security operation.

The military said the SNA carried out an operation against a farm in Bariire with known Al-Shabaab presence.

“Al-Shabaab started shooting at SNA forces after our soldiers entered the farm,” SNA General Sheegow (20th Brigade Commander) said.

“The individuals shooting at the SNA soldiers were Al-Shabaab fighters; they were not farmers. We talked to the farmers in the area and instructed them to put their weapons in their homes to avoid confusion.”

However, the government later clarified that it appeared there were different security operations that took place in the area that resulted in the death of civilians.

“We also understand that there are civilian casualties in which the government is investigating to find out the truth about this. We urge Somali people to cooperate fully with the government on this matter,” said ministry of information said.

Local reports said at least 10 civilians, including a woman and a child, were killed during the raid by foreign and Somali forces on a farm in southern Somalia.

The deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region, Ali Nur Mohamed, said the farmers were killed “one by one” after soldiers stormed the farm in Bariire village early Friday.

The militants have recently increased their attacks against Africa Union and Somali forces especially in Mogadishu and southern Somalia, which have seen a surge of attacks that resulted in the loss of several strategic towns although the militants mainly held those towns briefly.

The AMISOM and Somali forces backed by U.S. military have also increased airstrikes in southern Somalia in the recent past, resulting in the killing of several militants and some defections. 



Eight Al-Shabaab militants killed in Somalia: military

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The Somali military said Friday that eight Al-Shabaab terrorists were killed in a joint security operation in southern Somalia.

Somalia National Army (SNA) General Sheegow, who is the 20th Brigade Commander, said the militants were killed by SNA and foreign forces in Lower Shabelle.

“The SNA carried out an operation this morning against a farm in Bariire with known Al-Shabaab presence. Al-Shabaab started shooting at SNA forces after our soldiers entered the farm,” Sheegow said.

“The individuals shooting at the SNA soldiers were Al-Shabaab fighters; they were not farmers. We talked to the farmers in the area and instructed them to put their weapons in their homes to avoid confusion,” the commander said.

The Somali security forces have in the past two weeks successfully disrupted multiple Al-Shabaab tax stations and removed key militant leaders in various strategic locations in the Horn of Africa nation.

In the latest operations in Bariire, Sheegow confirmed that no civilians were harmed or killed.

Although the insurgents have largely been expelled from Somali cities, they have continued suicide attacks, killing five people and ambushing Africa Union peacekeeping mission’s convoy in southern Somalia both on Sunday.


UN pledges to support progress in Somalia

MOGADISHU Somalia (Xinhua) -- The UN has promised to support progress in Somalia in addressing the country’s challenges including severe drought and security.

The UN Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, who visited Somalia on Thursday and held a series of meetings with senior government officials, also said the world body will support Somalia in realizing free and fair elections in 2020 as well as in ensuring the successful completion of the Constitutional Review Process.

“I am here to reinforce and to demonstrate the support that the UN has for the people and the government of Somalia as the country addresses a number of challenges ranging from the drought to security, to the political agenda going forward,” Feltman said.

In a statement from UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) issued on Friday after the visit, Feltman noted that despite the challenges facing the country and the recent drought that affected more than 6.2 million of its population, things were looking up for the Horn of Africa nation.

“I sense a real forward momentum in terms of political developments, in terms of reforms and transparency and of things moving forward to one-person one-vote electoral system for the 2021 parliamentary elections,” he said.

The UN official said Somalia had registered significant progress in the recovery process and that the UN would continue its support especially towards the 2020 elections.

He lauded the work undertaken by the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) in putting structures in place for the next parliamentary and presidential elections in 2021 and urged the leadership to move forward on the country’s constitutional review process.

Feltman said the world body is working with Somalia on the issue of ensuring free and fair elections in the year 2020.

“We are also supporting in the review of the constitution, federalization and facilitating full support from the international community,” said Feltman.

He said the aim of his visit was to shore up support for the political progress the country is making as well as to explore how best to assist Somalia in overcoming some of its challenges.


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