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The US government is cutting aid to some Somali military units amid allegations of misuse of funds and corruption by the Somali military, a State Department official told CNN on Thursday.
Aid will continue to Somali military units that are mentored directly by US military advisers or are actively engaged in fighting the al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab and other extremist groups, the State Department official said.
The decision comes as the US has become increasingly involved in the fight against al Shabaab and ISIS with airstrikes and some 500 US troops in the country advising local forces.
The US is also becoming increasingly dependent on the Somali military as thousands of troops from the multinational Africa Union mission in Somalia plan to withdraw by the end of 2020.
The story was first reported by Reuters.
The State Department official stressed that aid would resume pending revisions by the Somali government, which the official said was cognizant of the need to change how it handled the assistance.
“Both the United States and the federal government of Somalia fully agree that improvements in the delivery of US assistance to the Somali National Army are required, and both sides are committed to building greater transparency and accountability in the security sector,”
The official said.
The news of the adjustment to US aid comes as US Africa Command, which oversees military operations in the region, announced that it is reopening its investigation into the alleged killing of civilians in August during a joint US-Somali military operation in Somalia.
The initial investigation by US Special Operations Command Africa concluded that the only casualties during the operation were al Shabaab fighters.
But Robyn Mack, a spokeswoman for Africa Command, told CNN that the commander of Africa Command, Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, had referred the matter to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service following media reports that alleged “misconduct by US personnel who participated in the operation.”
Mack added that the decision to refer the case to NCIS was made “to ensure a full exploration of the facts given the gravity of the allegations.”
US Special Operations Forces advisers, to include Navy SEALs, regularly accompany Somali units on operations against al Shabaab.
Undocumented immigrants who were being deported to Somalia on Thursday made it to Senegal before they all returned on a flight back to the U.S., according to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Somali citizens, some of whom had lived in the U.S. for decades, were transported to Louisiana from across the country ahead of their flight to eastern Africa, the New York Times reported.
When the plane landed in Dakar, Senegal, on the west coast of Africa, ICE “was notified that the relief crew was unable to get sufficient crew rest due to issues with their hotel in Dakar,” according to a statement issued by the agency.
The plane remained parked at the airport to allow the relief crew to rest while the detainees remained on board with air conditioning, along with food and water, ICE said.
Still 5,800 miles away from their final destination, officials decided to reschedule the deportation and flew back to the U.S. with all 92 Somalis.
Attorneys in Minnesota representing two of the undocumented immigrants said they were booked into detention centers after the plane landed in Miami on Friday.
Kim Hunter told the Pioneer Press,
“Any additional time these men get in the United States is beneficial as it gives the agency more time to decide on motions to reopen [their cases].”
One of her clients, Abdoulmalik Ibrahim, never returned home after he checked in with the ICE, as he had done for the last 15 years.
Ibraham, who is married to a permanent U.S. resident, had an old misdemeanor for criminal property damage, Hunter said.
Abdihakim Mohamed, who has no criminal record, was working as a personal care attendant when he was detained during a check-in with ICE, Hunter said.
The United Nations says more than 4,500 civilians have been killed or wounded in the conflict in Somalia since the start of 2016.
The U.N. Human Rights Office and the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) have issued a new report that implicates parties to the conflict in the death and injuries sustained by the civilians.
In the report, covering a period from January 1, 2016 until October 14 2017, UNSOM documented 2,078 civilian deaths and 2,507 injuries. The worst perpetrators of the killings against civilians are the al-Shabab militant group that is responsible for more 60 percent of the casualties according to the report. About a quarter of the death toll comes from the October 14 truck in Mogadishu where a special committee tasked to investigate the incident reported that 512 people were killed and more than 300 others were injured. Al-Shabab has been blamed for the attack.
“They are by far the worst when it comes to activities that kill civilians in conflict,”
Said U.N. Special Envoy to Somalia Michael Keating.
“Of the incidents attributable to al-Shabab, 79 percent are as a result of the use of IEDs [improvised explosive devices] whether they are vehicle borne or otherwise.”.
The report says clan militias are responsible for 13 percent of the casualties, while state actors, including the army and the police, are responsible for 11 percent. The report says the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) is responsible for four percent. A further 12 percent of the casualties was caused by unidentified or undetermined attackers, the report said.
The U.N.’s Keating said civilians are paying the price for the failure to resolve Somalia’s conflicts through political means.
“Parties to the conflict are simply not doing enough to shield civilians from the violence. This is shameful,”
The U.N. report coincides with the International Human Rights Day. The United Nations expressed concern over the death of some civilians in the hands of Somali security forces and AMISOM because they “undermine the Somali population’s trust in the Government and the international community”.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch welcomed the report. Senior researcher Laetitia Bader told VOA Somali this report is “very important” given the difficulties in getting data about human rights violations in Somalia.
“Too often the extent and the magnitude of the toll on civilian from the ongoing conflict in Somalia has been been undermined in many ways because of the lack of data, so this report which seeks to offer a baseline to quantify casualties is a very important insight into just how many civilians have been lost,”
The report says the conflict disproportionately affected children, exposing them to “grave violations” during military operations.
In the first 10 months of 2017, 3,335 cases of child recruitment were reported with 71.5 per cent attributed to al-Shabab, 14.6 per cent to clan militia, and 7.4 percent to the Somali National Army, the report says.
Bader said some of the report’s findings corroborate their own research in Somalia.
“A lot of the grave abuses which are documented in this report and quantified to a certain extent are ones which we ourselves have continued to document, whether it is cases of sexual violence against internally displaced people, whether it’s ongoing recruitment of children by al-Shabab in Baidoa,”
“I was recently in Baidoa looking into the recruitment trend in Bay region, so a lot of the things they document in this report are ones which confirm our own research.”