, 17 tweets, 7 min read Read on Twitter
Today we are releasing a new investigation into an American airstrike that caused civilian casualties in Somalia.

With so much Trump impeachment news to keep up on, why should you spare a moment on 3 dead farmers in Somalia?

Give me a shot in this #thread to answer that.
First, the facts: on 18 March 2019, the US launched an airstrike against 3 men driving in a Toyota SUV on their way back to Mogadishu. Everyone agrees on that.

@USAfricaCommand says they killed 3 "terrorists."

We say they don't know who they killed. amnesty.org/en/latest/news…
This word "terrorist" is important. After 18 years of war, it no longer means what you think it means.

The US isn't talking about operatives planning international attacks. AFRICOM told us they hit "lower level al-Shabaab" or "affiliates" ahead of a ground operation.
That word "affiliates" is important too. As we showed in our report from March, the US has a habit of calling any young man in al-Shabab areas who fits a certain profile an "affiliate" or part of the "network." One former US officer called them "the could-be's and wanna-be's."
My colleague @EllaKnight86 rightly points out, that's not how the laws of war work. Being a young man in al-Shabab territory doesn't presumptively make you al-Shabab.
So we did what AFRICOM doesn't seem to do - after the strike, we did an on-the-ground investigation to figure out who these 3 men were. We interviewed witnesses & family, and confirmed details with sales receipts of the Toyota and hospital records (more on that in a sec).
My colleagues @samdubberley & @AI_Micah did a stellar geo-location, shown here. Smart phones are banned in al-Shabab controlled areas, so we get very little video to confirm strike locations. But this time we did, and Micah found the burned truck on sat. #osint #geolocation
We learned that the three men in the truck were farmers who went back and forth, from Mogadishu to their fields, many times a week.

If these were known "terrorist" operatives, US or Somali forces could have arrested them at a checkpoint in Mog. But they didn't, cuz they're not.
More reason to doubt AFRICOM's analysis of their target:

The day after the strike, AFRICOM says they assessed they killed 3 terrorists.

But the number isn't right either. At that time, only 2 men were dead.
Our research found that only two died immediately in the strike, the third was terribly burned, and died of his injuries in the (civilian) Digfeer Hospital weeks later.

If he was a "terrorist" operative, the US could have arrested him then. But they didn't, cuz he's not.
This is important: the intel stream--drone video, etc--that identified the 3 men as an al-Shabab target is the same that said 1) all three died and 2) didn't know one lived and went to the hospital.

Do you trust initial AFRICOM's remote assessment, or our 6 month investigation?
So what do we want? Mistakes happen in war, and when they do the US should say so, apologize, and compensate families for the wrongful death.

It's worth noting, this isn't a crazy out-of-bounds request. 10 years ago, the US did this exact thing in Iraq & Afghanistan all the time
This is where things get infuriating. AFRICOM has had the contact info for at least one of the families for months. And they have refused to budge on what used to be standard.
Journalist @hysperbole did a story on this strike for @ForeignPolicy in May. She told AFRICOM the family of one victim wanted to talk. Nothing has happened since. foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/07/doe…
Some people say the US's War on Terror is on auto-pilot. But that presumes a programmed destination. I say it is more like a hiker lost in the woods - you keep walking in the same direction because that's the path you've always walked, even if you don't know where you are going.
The US needs to admit when it is wrong, and needs to set up a system for average farmers in Somalia to tell them they are wrong. Right now, there is no mechanism for Somalis to report their loss.
The US is up to 52 air strikes in Somalia this year, a new record. It's gone up every year since 2014 -- now over 130 strikes since the summer of 2017. In just 6 of those strikes, Amnesty has found 25 civilian casualties.

This only stops if the world pays attention. /END
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