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US lauds reports on military killings targeting civilians

The US military has conducted at least 25 air strikes in Somalia this year [Isaac Brekken/Getty]

WASHINGTON - The United States has commended the media for assisting in reporting civilian deaths engineered by her military, mainly in countries where Washington is directly involved in military actions that are aimed at minimizing the conflicts.

For instance, on Tuesday, the New York Times won the Pulitzer Prize for exposing civilian deaths, particularly in Afghanistan where the US was directly involved for two decades. Many of these deaths were mostly covered by the top military brass.

Last December the newspaper exposed cover-ups of what it called thousands of civilian deaths caused by US forces during the 20-year war, deeply embarrassing the US government, Yahoo News reports.

In Somalia, the US has often been on notice for several civilian deaths which were also exposed by the media, forcing the US Africa Command to start issuing Quarterly civilian casualty reports, which is aimed at improving transparency in US military operations.

The US Africa Command left Somalia in 2021 but there are plans to reinstate the due to surging Al-Shabaab attacks within the Horn of Africa nation. So far, over eight civilian reports have been released and at least five deaths confirmed.

In Afghanistan, a detailed report by the New York Times exposed a case where a US missile hit a village killing many civilians in the process, but it took the intervention of other quarters and the investigative prowess of the media house to expose the deaths.

"That coverage was and still is not comfortable, not easy, and not simple to address," said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

"We knew that we weren't always as transparent about those mistakes as we should have been," he told reporters.

"It made us ask ourselves some new difficult questions of our own, even as it forced us to answer these difficult questions," he said.

"That's what a free press at its very best does. It holds us to account," Kirby said.

The Pulitzer committee that awarded the prize Monday cited the Times for "courageous and relentless reporting that exposed the vast civilian toll of US-led airstrikes" in Afghanistan.

The spokesperson further said that the US will investigate the crimes being committed by Russians in Ukraine. The war in Ukraine has left thousands of people dead and millions displaced, and the world has been accused of failing to act within time to avert the atrocities.

"We're not afraid to admit that we take it seriously and that we want to do better -- unlike Russia, unlike the unmitigated violence and destruction that they're causing on the people of Ukraine, without care, without acknowledgment," he said.

"No investigations, no transparency, no effort to even not cause civilian harm, much less the war crimes that their soldiers are committing on the ground," he said of the Russian forces.

"When you ask us tough questions, we answer them. You're not seeing any of that from the Russian Ministry of Defense," he said.


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