- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) - A U.S. military investigation of a deadly August raid in Somalia is contradicting Somali officials’ statements that several civilians, including children, were killed.

The U.S.-supported raid by Somali forces on Aug. 25 in Bariire village caused an uproar, with bloodied bodies laid out in the capital, Mogadishu, for display. Somalia’s army chief said civilians were killed, and the deputy governor of Lower Shabelle said three children were among the 10 dead.

The U.S. Africa Command statement released Wednesday evening said a “thorough assessment” of the raid by U.S. Special Operations Command Africa showed that “the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants.”

There was no immediate response from Somali officials, who had said they would investigate the raid themselves, noting that it appeared more than one security operation had taken place.

The August raid targeted a local farm, and the deputy governor, Ali Nur Mohamed, told reporters that the dead, including the children aged 8 to 10 and a woman, were killed “one by one mercilessly.” Bodies of civilians, especially those killed in misdirected attacks, often are taken from remote areas to Mogadishu to draw media attention.

The Trump administration early this year approved expanded military operations against the Somalia-based, al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab as it places counter-terrorism work at the top of its agenda for Africa. The U.S. has carried out close to 30 drone strikes this year and this month began targeting the small but growing presence of Islamic State group fighters as well.

The U.S. also trains Somalia forces and supports them in some raids. A separate statement Wednesday by the U.S. Africa Command says there are currently more than 500 U.S. military personnel in the Horn of Africa nation.

“Before conducting operations with partner forces, SOCAF conducts detailed planning and coordination to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties and to ensure compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict,” the U.S. said. “U.S. Africa Command and the Department of Defense take allegations of civilian casualties very seriously.”

Al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, holds vast areas of rural Somalia after being chased out of major cities in recent years by a multinational African Union force and Somali troops. The group continues to threaten the fragile central government and carry out deadly attacks in neighboring countries, and it was blamed for the massive truck bombing in Mogadishu last month that killed more than 350 people.

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