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US military says killed 23 civilians around the world in 2020; NGOs dispute figure

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This photo shows a Yemeni by walking past a mural depicting a US drone and reading " Why did you kill my family" in the capital Sanaa. (By AFP)

The US military says its operations killed nearly two dozen civilians in foreign counties in 2020; an acknowledgement that observers describe as “woefully inadequate.”

The finding of a Pentagon report, parts of which released to the public, said the US operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq, Yemen and Nigeria, killed 23 civilians and wounded approximately 10 others, during 2020.

Most of the civilian casualties were reported in Afghanistan, where the Pentagon said it was responsible for 20 deaths.

One civilian was killed in Somalia in February 2020 and another in Iraq in March, it claimed.

The finding of a Pentagon report, parts of which released to the public, said the US operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq, Yemen and Nigeria, killed 23 civilians and wounded approximately 10 others, during 2020.

Most of the civilian casualties were reported in Afghanistan, where the Pentagon said it was responsible for 20 deaths.

One civilian was killed in Somalia in February 2020 and another in Iraq in March, it claimd.

Independent observers put the number of civilian fatalities in the US military operations at much higher than the pentagon is willing to admit.

The monitoring group Airwars, which lists civilian victims of airstrikes, has put the number at five times higher than the official Pentagon figures.

It estimates that at least 102 civilians were killed by US operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Citing the United Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Airwars said at least 89 were killed and 31 wounded in US military operations in Afghanistan.

In Somalia, the NGO estimated the death toll at 7, and in Syria and Iraq local sources report 6 dead.

Chris Woods, director of Airwars, expressed concern that the Pentagon’s “estimates of civilian harm once again fall well below credible public estimates.”

He called “on officials to review why such undercounts remain so common.”

"Civilians surely deserve better,” he added.

The report itself, which the Pentagon releases annually, acknowledged that there are many more claims of innocent people killed than the military itself deems credible.

"It is clear that the Defense Department's investigations and acknowledgment of civilian harm remain woefully inadequate," said Hina Shamsi with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

She also denounced the Pentagon for refusing to “offer or make any amends payments to impacted civilians and families despite the availability of funds from Congress.”

The document said that Congress allocated $3 million to the Pentagon in 2020 for financial compensation to the families of civilian victims, but no such compensation has been made.

Early this year, a Yemeni family filed a petition against Washington over the “unlawful” killing of 34 relatives, including 17 children, in its airstrikes in the Arab country.

The Yemeni families lost their relatives and property between 2013 and 2018 in six US drone airstrikes and a special operations raid conducted by American forces, said human rights group Reprieve, which submitted the petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the affected families.

The 2020 figure shows a steep decline from previous years. In 2017, the military acknowledges the killing of nearly 500 civilians, in foreign war zones.

The report said the decline in the death toll was due a significant reduction of the US military operations during the coronavirus pandemic.

The US military occasionally launches drone attacks and airstrikes against purported positions of militants affiliated with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terror group, in Yemen.

In Afghanistan, the drone attacks have killed scores of civilians, as well.

The US attacked Afghanistan in 2001, claiming that the Taliban were harboring al-Qaeda. The invasion removed a Taliban regime from power but prompted widespread militancy and insecurity across the Asian country.

The war has taken countless lives, including thousands of Afghan civilians. 


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