AFRICOM Commander Gen. Stephen Townsend, right, is seen with other officials during a joint media event in Mogadishu, Somalia, on a photo posted on Twitter by @USAfricaCommand, Nov. 5, 2019.
FILE - AFRICOM Commander Gen. Stephen Townsend, right, is seen with other officials during a joint media event in Mogadishu, Somalia, on a photo posted on Twitter by @USAfricaCommand, Nov. 5, 2019.

WASHINGTON - U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) says an airstrike that was intended to target al-Shabab fighters last February killed two civilians and wounded three others. 

The findings were part of AFRICOM’s first quarterly report on civilian casualties and marks only the second time in the command’s history that AFRICOM has said civilians were killed in Somalia as a result of U.S. airstrikes against Islamist militants there. 

“Since taking command, I have placed additional focus on increasing the transparency of our process,” AFRICOM commander Gen. Stephen Townsend said in a press release Monday. “Where we come up short, we will admit it openly.” 

The command said the two civilians were “regrettably and unintentionally killed” as a result of a strike on Feb. 23, 2019. The strike also killed two al-Shabab terrorists, who were the intended targets. 

“We have the highest respect for our Somali friends, and we are deeply sorry this occurred,” Townsend said. 

AFRICOM said it conducted a total of 91 airstrikes against terror groups in Somalia and Libya from February 2019 to March 31, 2020. 

The command’s quarterly report closed 20 allegations of civilian casualties that arose from those strikes through self-reporting, traditional and social media reporting, non-government organizations, and through internal oversight processes.  

Jilib Somalia

Seven incidents of potential civilian casualties are still under review, including one posed to the command by VOA about a strike in Jilib, Somalia, on Feb. 24, 2020. An official with Somali telecommunication company Hormuud Telecom told VOA Somali that one of the company’s employees was killed in that strike and claimed the employee was not involved with al-Shabab. 

Amnesty International called the report a “welcome glimmer of transparency in more than a decade of deadly military operations.” The rights group urged AFRICOM to offer reparations to the families of the civilian victims and asked the command to look at strikes earlier than the report’s start date of Feb. 1, 2019. 

AFRICOM made its first acknowledgment of civilian casualties from U.S. airstrikes in Somalia on April 5, 2019. New information revealed that a woman and child were killed, along with four al-Shabab militants, in a U.S. airstrike near the town of El Burr in central Somalia on April 1, 2018. 

Harun Maruf contributed to this report.