Accessibility links

Breaking News

AFRICOM denies US airstrike killed Cuban doctors

Jilib Somalia
Jilib Somalia

The U.S. military says it was not involved in the reported killing of two Cuban doctors whom the al-Shabab militant group allege died as a result of a U.S. airstrike in Somalia in February.

The latest quarterly civilian harm assessment published by U.S. Africa Command, also known as AFRICOM, confirms that U.S. forces conducted an airstrike near the town of Jilib on February 15, but denies the strike resulted in the doctors' deaths.

"On Feb. 17, 2024, the command received one (1) report of an online media source stating two (2) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. military operation in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, on Feb. 15, 2024," the assessment read.

"The command completed a review of available information and assessed that the U.S. airstrike conducted on Feb. 15, 2024, did not result in civilian harm."

Without providing proof, al-Shabab at the time said "the aerial bombardment" killed Assel Herrera and Landy Rodriguez. The two had been in the militants' custody since April 2019, when they were abducted from Mandera County in northeastern Kenya.

The doctors were part of a medical team sent to Kenya by Cuba. Al-Shabab published an image purporting to show the body of one of the hostages. VOA Somali has not independently confirmed whether the Cuban doctors have died.

In addition, AFRICOM says it has completed an assessment of two other incidents this year — one January 25 in the vicinity of Galhareeri in Galmudug state and February 22 in Kurtunwaarey in Southwest state. U.S. airstrikes were blamed for causing multiple civilian injuries and fatalities. AFRICOM said the assessments determined that there were no U.S. military operations at the times and places reported.

AFRICOM said it had one open case in this quarter and information on it will be disclosed later this year.

"U.S. Africa Command takes all reports of possible civilian harm seriously and has a process to conduct thorough reviews and assessments using all available information," the assessment said. "The command remains committed to reviewing and assessing any reports of civilian harm."

The United States has supported the Somali government with airstrikes against al-Shabab and has been providing military training for government troops for more than a decade.

In February, the U.S. and Somalia signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the construction of up to five military bases for the U.S.-trained elite Somali National Army forces known as the Danab (lightning) Brigade.