WASHINGTON – U.S. special operations forces working with African partners called in an airstrike against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab group in Somalia on Thursday, killing five, the Pentagon said. Jeff Davis said U.S. troops were advising and assisting Ugandan troops from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) in southern Somalia, west of Mogadishu. The AMISOM troops were raiding an illegal Shabaab roadblock where the jihadis were extorting payments from drivers. "They came under fire from the al-Shabaab militants, and we called in an airstrike in their defense," Davis said. A U.S. defense official said the strike was conducted by drone.
The U.S. military carried out another round of drone strikes in Somalia Wednesday. A trio of drone strikes hit the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab terror group killed six militants, U.S. Africa Command announced. The strikes took place 160 miles south of the capital, Mogadishu. They came after two separate drones strikes last week. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers have returned to Somalia for the first time since the "Black Hawk Down" incident in the early 1990s.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a conference at Buenos Aires' Town Hall, March 23, 2016. WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama acknowledged Friday that "civilians were killed that shouldn't have been" in past U.S. drone strikes, but said the administration is now "very cautious" about striking where women or children are present. Obama was asked at a news conference about an increase in the number of people targeted in drone strikes against extremists in Libya, Syria, Somalia and elsewhere. "In the past, there was legitimate criticism that the legal architecture around the use of drone strikes wasn't as precise as it should have been," Obama said. "There's no doubt that civilians were killed that shouldn't have been."
Between 64 and 116 civilians were killed by drone strikes outside conventional warzones during the Obama administration by the end of 2015, according to figures released by the Friday. A report from the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) said Friday that somewhere between 2372 and 2581 combatants were killed, and that 473 airstrikes were carried out outside "areas of active hostilities." Those strikes took place between Jan. 20, 2009 (the day of the President's first inauguration) to Dec. 31, 2015 in countries including Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. Attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria have not been taken into account. SEE ALSO: Two American al-Qaeda leaders also killed in U.S. drone strikes "The assessed range of non-combatant deaths provided to the DNI reflects consideration of credible reports of non-combatant deaths drawn from all-source information, including reports from the media and non-governmental organizations," the DNI's briefing says.
The White House has said that up to 116 civilians have been killed by drone and other US strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya since Barack Obama took office in 2009, a figure that has been slammed by watchdog groups as an undercount, which suggests that the real figure could be as high as 1,100. Published by the Director of National Intelligence on Friday, the report said that between January 20, 2009, and December 31, 2015, the US carried out 473 strikes, which killed up to 2,581 "combatants" and anywhere from 64 to 116 civilians. The civilian casualties disclosed in the report were from nations not recognised as "battlefields," and did not reflect US air attacks in "areas of active hostilities" such as Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria. Watchdog and rights groups have long claimed that the US administration does not know how many civilians it has killed and does not do enough to prevent civilian casualties when carrying out counterterrorism operations. Reprieve, an international human rights organisation, said the US government's previous statements about the drone programme have proven to be false by its own internal documents.