By Mohamed Adam
Claim and counter-claim emerged on Wednesday after at least 22 soldiers were killed and 15 other people wounded in an alleged U.S. airstrike which hit a Somali army base.
Reports from the region said the incident took place early Wednesday, 14 kilometers (9 miles) east of Galkayo in the Mudug region of north-central Somalia, hitting the Galmudug administration army facility in Jehdin village.
Galkayo’s main hospital confirmed it received 17 dead and 15 wounded. All those fatalities were reportedly soldiers. A Somali National Army officer who refused to give his name also confirmed the raid killed at least 17 soldiers and said a missile struck the base.
Galmudug security minister Abdi Osman Nor later put the death toll at 22.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Abdi Osman Nor said: “American airstrikes targeted our forces based in the region and killed 17 and injured 15 after Puntland Administration authorities gave wrong information about our base.”
Puntland is a self-declared autonomous region in northern Somalia.
The commander of security forces in the Mudug region, Colonel Hassan Farah, speaking at the scene of the attack said the U.S. military had acted incorrectly.
"[Our] forces were attacked when they tried to come out from the base by Puntland forces with nine vehicles … and the United States’ warplanes,” he said.
U.S. authorities in Mogadishu refused to comment on the airstrikes when contacted by Anadolu Agency, but Puntland state said their secret service unit -- the PIS – was involved in the attack.
A Pentagon source told Anadolu Agency “a Somali-led counter-terrorism operation to interdict an al-Shabaab IED-making network” had been taking place.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said a group of al-Shabaab rebels had threatened the “safety and security of the Somali force and their U.S. advisors”.
“Somali forces returned fire in self-defense and the U.S. conducted a self-defense strike to neutralize the threat and in doing so killed nine enemy fighters,” he added.
Hundreds of people took to the streets in Galkayo town on Wednesday, angry at the U.S. action. Irate residents chanted anti-U.S. slogans and burned American flags, calling on Galmudug regional state and the Somali federal government to respond to what they called “aggression”.
Davis confirmed the U.S. would “look at the reports to see if they are credible and if they are will investigate them.”
*Anadolu Agency correspondent Kasim Ileri contributed to this report from Washington.