Stars and Stripes on Thursday called attention to what is now AFRICOM’s five-week break from airstrikes in Somalia - the longest hiatus in air-based attacks from the force in over a year.
Despite a pause in reported airstrikes since the April 10 strike against an al-Shabaab terrorist in Jamaame, Somalia, the military force has not ceased additional operations in and around the region, AFRICOM spokesperson Col. Chris Karns insisted.
“With the rainy season there can be shifts in al-Shabaab and broader activity,” the AFRICOM spokesperson claimed. “There is always effort, not always opportunity to conduct airstrikes. There is certainly no pause.”
According to recent numbers from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Somalia, 24 people have been killed and an estimated 283,000 have been displaced following heavy rains in the country triggered by the warming Indian Ocean.
AFRICOM managed to conduct a total of 40 airstrikes in Somalia within the first four months of 2020 - a significant increase after only 63 airstrikes were conducted in 2019.
The frequency of airstrikes against militants in Somalia began to increase following al-Shabaab’s January 5 attack on Kenyan and American troops at the Kenyan Defense Force Military Base in Manda Bay.
During its five-week halt on airstrikes, the US released its first quarterly casualties report and confessed to killing two Somali civilians and injuring at least three more in a single airstrike.
“While we follow very precise and rigorous standards, in instances where we fail to meet our expectations, we will admit the mistake,” AFRICOM Commander US Army Gen. Stephen Townsend said in the report.
“Regrettably two civilians were killed and three others injured in a February 2019 airstrike. We have the highest respect for our Somali friends, and we are deeply sorry this occurred.”
The authenticity of AFRICOM’s reporting on civilian casualties in Somalia has previously been brought into question by human rights organization Amnesty International.
More recently, AFRICOM has been providing COVID-19 novel coronavirus-related humanitarian assistance to countries in Africa grappling with the highly contagious disease.
The command, in conjunction with the US Embassy in Mauritius and Seychelles, provided the Seychelles Department of Health with 2,900 KN95 masks and 200 face shields on April 28. Likewise, on April 20, the Mauritius Ministry of Health and Wellness received 2,000 N95 masks, 21,000 pairs of gloves and additional personal protective equipment.
In addition to the flooding, COVID-19 pandemic and airstrikes, Somalians are also experiencing food insecurity brought about by waves of voracious desert locusts that have found the recent moist conditions extremely favorable.