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US airstrike kills 13 people in Somalia

At least 13 people have been killed as the result of a US airstrike in southern Somalia, the Pentagon says.

The December 24 airstrike was carried out in coordination with the government of Somalia, US Africa Command said Wednesday, claiming that those killed in the attack belonged to the al-Shabaab terror group.

A Somali military commander in the area told VOA that aircraft from a “friendly nation” were scrambled to defend a military base from an offensive by the militant group.

“US forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect the United States, its partners and interests, and deny safe haven to terrorist groups,” Africa Command said in a statement on the strike.

The US military has carried out around 30 airstrikes across Somalia this year, including a drone attack that reportedly killed 100 militants at a training camp last month.

The Pentagon has presented the White House with a plan for Somalia that requires at least two more years of combat operation against suspected terrorists there.

There have been many ambiguities surrounding US drone strikes and bombardments in the rural regions of the war-torn African country, which is still reeling from more than two decades of militancy.

Local sources say the US airstrikes have led to casualties among civilians, a concern that Washington has refused to address.

US President Donald Trump’s reported new policy for the targeted killing of terrorism suspects is said to exempt high-level vetting by US counterterrorism agencies, a sign that civilian casualties is not high on the current administration’s list of priorities.

Trump has approved new rules that dismantle much of the Presidential Policy Guidance on targeted killings issued in 2013 by then-President Barack Obama.

The new rules would scrap the key requirement that anyone targeted for attack outside of conventional battlefields must pose a “continuing, imminent threat” to American lives.

Human Rights Watch has warned that Trump’s new policy increases the risk of civilian deaths.

“Trump’s reported changes for targeting terrorism suspects will result in more civilian deaths with less oversight and greater secrecy,” Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counter-terrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in November.

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