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Somalian Army Confirms Civilian Casualties in Friday Raid

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The Somalian army says its forces, supported by U.S. troops, mistakenly shot dead 10 Somalis, including three children, during an operation near the town of Bariire early Friday morning.

General Ahmed Jimale Irfid, the Somalia army chief who spoke to VOA exclusively from Mogadishu confirmed that 10 civilians including children and elderly people were killed during a joint raid at a farm in Bariire town, about 55 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.

“It was not a deliberate action. It was an accident and misunderstanding between the forces and local farmers in the area,” the general said.

Irfid said “It was early Friday morning while it was dark, our forces mistook the local farmers as al-Shabab members; some farmers were armed; there was a shoot-out, we don’t know who started the shooting and that is how the incident started.”

“I can confirm to you those killed in this incident were all civilians and farmers; It is not true that they were al-Shabab members as initially stated by government officials. Their dead bodies were brought to a Mogadishu hospital and anyone can see them if needed” the general said.

Irfid said some U.S. troops were present during the incident, but he said he can’t say if they were among the troops who shot the civilians.

U.S. Africa command said in a statement it was “aware of the civilian casualty allegations near Bariire, Somalia. We take any allegations of civilian casualties seriously, and per standard, we are conducting an assessment into the situation to determine the facts on the ground.”

The general said they are set to meet with U.S. military officials Saturday to discuss on the matter.

General Irfid said he met with the president and the prime minister later on Friday and he said they were both shocked and saddened by civilian deaths and sent their condolences.

“The government has immediately set up a fact-finding committee to look into the incident and why it happened,“ the general said.

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Somaliland

Protests in Somaliland As Opposition Claim Election Fraud

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Wadani Party supporters took to the streets of various opposition strongholds to protest what they claim to be election irregularities.

In Burco police used live bullets to disperse protestors.

Riots erupted hours after senior Wadani officials held a press conference on Thursday morning, accusing the ruling party of purchasing and using ballot papers forged with NEC’s official stamp.

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Somali News

Pentagon says more than 500 US troops now in Somalia, but denies ‘build up’

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The Pentagon announced in a statement Thursday there are now “more than” 500 US troops on the ground in Somalia.

A significant increase from early 2014 when roughly two dozen troops arrived for the first time since 1993 and the Black Hawk Down incident.

US Africa Command says there have been 28 airstrikes this year, mostly from drones against al-Shabaab, long considered the greatest terror threat in Africa.

At a press conference Thursday at the Pentagon, a top defense official denied any “ramp-up.”

“I do not believe necessarily there’s a ramp-up,” said Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., director of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff when asked about the spike in airstrikes in Somalia. “It’s the density of targets is such that now there’s some of opportunities to do those strikes.”

The US military recently conducted six straight days of airstrikes in Somalia from last Thursday to Tuesday.

Last month, al-Shabaab was blamed for a truck bombing in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu which killed over 300 people.

The head of the Pentagon’s joint staff said there’s no link between the fall of the ISIS capital Raqqa last month, and the first airstrikes against ISIS in Yemen and Somalia.

US DRONE STRIKE IN SOMALIA KILLS ‘SEVERAL AL-SHABAAB MILITANTS, MILITARY SAYS

Earlier this month, the US conducted the first airstrikes against ISIS in Somalia.

McKenzie also denied the increase of hundreds of additional troops in Somalia as a “build up,” but just a “flow of forces in and out” of the country.

In May, a Navy SEAL was killed fighting al-Shabaab, the first combat death in Somalia since 1993.

In addition to Somalia, the US military has conducted over 100 airstrikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen, including the first strikes against ISIS in Yemen last month.

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Briefing Room

UNSC votes to extend sanctions on Eritrea and Somalia

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The United Nations Security Council has voted to extend an arms embargo imposed on Eritrea and Somalia for allegedly supporting al-Shabaab. The decision comes barely a week after a panel of experts called for the lifting of sanctions particularly on Somalia. CGTN’s Liling Tan filed this report from New York

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