Cuban and American officials are investigating the unverified claim that the doctors, who were kidnapped by al-Shabaab militants in 2019, died during a recent U.S. drone strike.
The United States military said Tuesday that it is investigating whether a drone strike on Somalia targeting al-Shabaab fighters killed two Cuban doctors being held hostage by the militant group.
According to al-Shabaab, surgeon Landy Rodríguez Hernández and general medicine specialist Assel Herrera Correa were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Somalia's southern state of Jubaland last Thursday—although there has been no confirmation of the deaths.
"The aerial bombardment, which began at around 12:10 am, targeted a house in Jilib, instantly killing Assel Herrera and Landy Rodríguez," the al-Qaeda-affiliated group said on social media.
The Cuban Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that National Assembly President Esteban Lazo Hernández traveled to Kenya "to make urgent efforts with the highest authorities of that country in the search for cooperation and clarification, in the light of the recent published news on the possible unconfirmed death" of the two doctors.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) acknowledged carrying out the February 15 bombing but said that "we do not have further information at this time about these reports, but we do take all claims of civilian casualties seriously. The command will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as available."
According to Airwars, a U.K.-based monitoring group, hundreds of Somalis—including some civilians—were killed by U.S. airstrikes last year alone as the Biden administration quietly continues the so-called War on Terror launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The U.S. has been conducting airstrikes and ground raids in Somalia since the George W. Bush administration.
Al-Shabaab kidnapped the Cuban doctors in Mandera County, Kenya in April 2019. The doctors were working there under an agreement between the Kenyan and Cuban governments for the provision of medical professionals for services including the implemention of universal healthcare.
Cuba's socialist government provides universal healthcare to the Caribbean country's citizens and also deploys doctors to dozens of nations on humanitarian missions. While Cuban doctors are hailed around the world for their lifesaving service, they also allegedly face serious restrictions on their freedoms while working abroad.
Responding to news of the doctors' possible deaths, Cuban President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel y Bermúdez said: "I express all my solidarity and affection to the families of our doctors Assel and Landy, in these moments of uncertainty and increased pain, and in the face of the tragic news not yet confirmed, in whose clarification we are working hard with international authorities."
"I admire the strength of both families and I remember with great affection our previous meetings," he continued. "Assel and Landy represent the noble and generous spirit of a people who share even what they do not have, with the humble of the Earth."
"Cuba does not lose hope of finding them alive," Díaz Canel added. "We will do so as long as there is no official confirmation that they have died."