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U.S. Somalia air raids hit nomads, 70 dead - Oxfam

By Reuters

NAIROBI, Jan 12 (
Reuters) - Air attacks against fugitive Islamists in south Somalia in recent days have mistakenly targeted nomadic herdsmen gathering round fires, killing 70, British-based aid agency Oxfam said on Friday.

"Under international law, there is a duty to distinguish between military and civilian targets," Oxfam added, citing its local partner organisations in Somalia for the information.

Washington sent a warplane into Somalia on Monday to try and take out what U.S. officials say are top al Qaeda suspects hiding with the Islamists.

Ethiopia, which helped the interim government of Somalia oust rival Islamists from Mogadishu over the New Year, has also been carrying out air raids against the retreating fighters.

While some Somali sources have reported scores of deaths, there has been no independent confirmation on the ground.

"Oxfam is receiving reports from its partner organisations in Somalia that nomadic herdsmen have been mistakenly targeted in recent bombing raids," Oxfam said in a statement released in Nairobi.

"According to the reports from local organisations in Afmadow district, bombs have hit vital water sources as well as large groups of nomads and their animals who had gathered round large fires at night to ward off mosquitoes.

"Further reports have also confirmed that bombings have claimed the lives of 70 people in the district."

Since the open warfare started in late December, some 70,000 Somalis have fled their homes, exacerbating an already dire humanitarian situation, Oxfam said.

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