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The United States said on Tuesday one civilian was killed and three were injured in a U.S. air strike in Somalia in February, the second such admission since it launched quarterly reports on civilian casualties in its Africa operations.

In a report, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said a verification of the facts and circumstances about a Feb. 2 air strike triggered by allegations of civilian deaths established one civilian had been killed while three were injured.

“Unfortunately, we believe our operations caused the inadvertent death of one person and injury to three others who we did not intend to target,” AFRICOM commander General Stephen Townsend was quoted as saying.

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“We work hard to prevent civilians from getting hurt or killed during these operations designed to bring increased security and stability to Somalia.”

The air strike, AFRICOM said, took place in the vicinity of Jilib, an area about 380 kilometres south of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

AFRICOM’s civilian casualty assessment reports cover its operations in Somalia, Libya and other African countries. The initial report published in April said two civilians were killed and three injured in an air strike in Somalia in early 2019.

The U.S. has been conducting air strikes in Somalia for years to help defeat the Islamist group al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab seeks to topple Somalia’s Western-backed central government and set up its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia.

Rights activists have long accused the U.S. of shrouding its Somalia operations in secrecy, potentially undermining accountability for incidents involving civilian deaths.

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