News & Investigations

News & Investigations

Published

August 30, 2012

Written by

Jack Serle
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This is what it could have looked like…

An app that uses the Bureau’s covert war data to alert people to the far reaches of the US government’s secret wars has been blocked from Apple’s app store.

Drones+, the creation of NYU student Josh Begley, was meant to be a simple way of notifying users whenever US drones struck somewhere in the world.

But Apple decided this was not acceptable for its customers. After rejecting the app on the grounds of its design and functionality, the US tech giant finally took exception to its content.

In correspondence seen by the Bureau, the US tech giant told Begley that apps that ‘present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected.’

The company added: ‘We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable.’

‘We found that your app contains content that many audiences would find objectionable.’ Apple correspondence

Apple’s decision did not come as a surprise to Begley. ‘I think their position is often just they don’t want to let anything through that could be seen by anyone at any particular table that could be seen as controversial,’ he said.

But how its content could have been objectionable or crude for a user is difficult to fathom.

A basic app, Drones+ was simply a news feed summarising each entry from the Bureau’s databases and a map of the drone strikes. Each time a drone hits a village in Waziristan, a message would ping straight to the user’s handset to let them know.

Inane nudges

The project began with a simple question about what smartphone users like to be notified about.

Begley wondered if US smartphone users would want to be told about something more challenging than ‘the sort of inane nudges you get when it’s your turn to play Words With Friends.’

He presumed not. But Apple, who could not be reached for comment on this story before publication, has made sure he will never know.

Following their latest rejection Begley is abandoning the Apple app idea. He is thinking about producing a version for the rival Android system instead.

But iphone users were of specific interest to Begley. Having schooled himself on the extent of the US drone programme, he says he wanted to push the drone debate ‘into corners where it hasn’t been discussed.’

Smartphone users more interested in the nuts and bolts of technology may go for an Android phone, he explains. Apple’s products appeal to a different crowd.

‘I think people who use iphones like them because “they just work,”’ he says. ‘Part of the reason they just work is because Apple is either very vigilant or diligent…to shape and control every aspect of the experience.’

Thanks to a handful of high profile leaks, US drones are getting some attention. But Begley believes there is a limit to how much people understand, himself included. Before starting to make the app, ‘I had a general sense of hidden drone wars but never actually had a granular understanding,’ he says.

From the start of the project one line of the drones debate grabbed his attention. ‘When I started thinking about the app I actually didn’t know about the Bureau’s data sets,’ he explains. ‘I was considering using New America Foundation’s data.’

But as the accuracy of New America Foundation’s data was challenged in the media, Begley turned to the Bureau. ‘In light of recent questions of their under reporting, and their potentially severe under reporting, it just made sense to use the best data set around.’

Unfortunately, it just isn’t coming soon to an Apple Store near you.

Published

August 1, 2012

Written by

Chris Woods and Jack Serle
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A US Predator drone flying at sunset – Charles McCain/Flickr

The Bureau’s covert war investigation tracks drone strikes and other US military and paramilitary actions in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Here we summarise our key work and findings for July 2012.

Pakistan: CIA drones kill more people in July than any month so far this year after Pakistan reopens its border to Nato supply convoys.

Yemen: The US restarts Yemen’s $112m [£72m] military aid programme as al Qaeda appears to return to more familiar terror tactics.

Somalia: Three al Shabaab militants are executed for ‘spying’ for western agencies, as the UN claims that more than 60 unknown air sorties took place over Somalia in the past year.

Pakistan

July 2012 actions

Total CIA strikes in July: 4

Total killed in strikes in July: 38-53, of whom 0-20 were reportedly civilians

All actions 2004 – 2012

Total Obama strikes: 285

Total US strikes since 2004: 337

Total reported killed: 2,524-3,247

Civilians reported killed: 482-852

Children reported killed: 175

Total reported injured: 1,204-1,330For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.

 

The CIA launched four drone strikes in July, two fewer than in June. An average of four strikes a month so far this year contrasts with over six a month in 2011 and nearly 11 a month in 2010.

After Hillary Clinton apologised to Pakistan for accidentally killing Pakistani soldiers in a US strike on November 2011, Islamabad lifted its border blockade of NATO supply trucks. Three days later US drones killed 17-24 people in Datta Khel, North Waziristan. Other strikes took place on July 1 and 23.

While there were fewer strikes than in June, more people died. CIA drones killed 38-53 people in July, up from 22-46 in June and the highest in any month so far this year.

Although there were no confirmed civilian casualties in July, some reports indicated up to 20 may have been killed in the month’s strikes.

The last strike of the month on July 29 was initially reported to have killed up to seven ‘Uzbek militants’. However Pakistani media later named three locals buried after the strike. Their status remains unclear.

Two days earlier, Pakistan’s ambassador to the US Sherry Rehman declared: ‘We will seek an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that.’ She added: ‘I am not saying drones have not assisted in the war against terror, but they have [a] diminishing rate of returns.’

Yemen

July 2012 actions

Confirmed US drone strikes: 0

Further reported/possible US strike events: 4

Alleged militants reported killed in US operations: 0-23Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 0

All actions 2002 – 2012*

Total confirmed US operations: 46-56

Total confirmed US drone strikes: 35-45

Possible additional US operations: 113-128

Of which possible additional US drone strikes: 57-66

Total reported killed: 329-962

Total civilians killed: 58-149

Children killed: 24-31Click here for the full Yemen data.

 

Of the four air strikes reported in July, none were confirmed to be the work of the US, despite some evidence to suggest involvement by US drones or aircraft. This continues the decline in US military operations in the Gulf nation from a peak in May, when US forces aided Yemen’s defeat of al Qaeda and its allies.

The Pentagon is restarting its military aid programme to Yemen. The programme stalled briefly in 2011 during the Arab Spring, but in 2010 Yemen was the largest recipient of US counterterrorism-specific military aid ahead of Pakistan.

Of the $112m aid, $75m is earmarked for kit including small, unarmed surveillance Raven drones, radios and vehicles. A further $23.4m is for ‘fixed-wing aircraft.’ The Yemenis will also receive rifles, pistols and more than a million rounds of ammunition.

Total confirmed and possible US strike events in Yemen, January to July 2012

Reports of strikes are abating, but security remains a significant concern. There is strong evidence that al Qaeda and its allies have returned to the guerrilla tactics more commonly associated with the group. July has been marked by suicide bombings, kidnappings and assassination attempts.

The political situation remains brittle with Houthi secessionists still active in the north, and the Southern Movement clashing with security forces in the key port city of Aden. The old regime continues to cause problems in the capital. One hundred armed men loyal to former President Saleh stormed the Interior Ministry, demanding jobs in the police force.

* All but one of these actions have taken place during Obama’s presidency. Reports of incidents in Yemen often conflate individual strikes. The range in the total strikes and total drone strikes we have recorded reflects this.

Somalia

June 2012 actions

Total reported US operations: 0

 

All actions 2007 – 2012

Total US operations: 10-21

Total US drone strikes: 3-9Total reported killed: 58-169Civilians reported killed: 11-57

Children reported killed: 1-3

Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia.

 

July is the third consecutive month without a reported US strike in 2012.

However the UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group submitted a detailed report to the Security Council claiming more than 60 unauthorised drone, helicopter and aircraft flights over Somalia in the past year – far more than had previously been reported. UN officials also reported that US drones operating over the country may be violating the Security Council’s arms embargo imposed on the country in 1992.

On July 22 al Shabaab announced it had executed three of its members charged with spying for the US and Britain. Ishaq Omar Hassan and Yasin Osman Ahmed, both 22, and Mukhtar Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed, 33, were allegedly responsible for the death of a Lebanese-British militant. They were claimed to have attached a tracking device to Bilal al Berjawi’s car, enabling US drones to kill him on January 21. If true, this would indicate direct British involvement in a US drone strike.

Other conflicts: the Philippines

An article in the New York Times appeared to offer the first confirmation of US drone strikes in the Philippines. Three US officials reportedly told Mark Mazzetti that in 2006 a US Predator drone had fired ‘a barrage of Hellfire missiles’ in a failed attempt to kill militant leader Umar Patek.

However this was fiercely denied by the former head of US Special Forces in the country.

Earlier this year there were reports that US drones carried out a lethal strike in the Philippines. The leaders of militant groups Jemaah Islamiyah and Abu Sayyaf were killed in a February airstrike that was officially carried out by a Philippines Air Force jet carrying US precision guided weapons. The issue remains contentious as direct military action by the US would contravene a bilateral agreement between the two nations.

Follow Chris Woods and Jack Serle on Twitter.

To sign up for monthly updates from the Bureau’s Covert War project click here.

Published

July 2, 2012

Written by

Chris Woods and Jack Serle
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

An armed US military Reaper drone over Afghanistan (US Air Force/ Lt Col Lesley Pratt/ Flickr)

The Bureau’s covert war investigation tracks drone strikes and other US military and paramilitary actions in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Here we summarise our key work and findings for June 2012. We also compare the first six months of this year with 2011.

An analysis of our data over this period reveals: 

    As relations between Washington and Islamabad continue to falter, Bureau data shows fewer civilians are being killed in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan than at any time in the Obama presidency. US military action in Yemen is at its bloodiest ever, with the strike rate and reported casualties the highest yet recorded. The true extent of US action in Somalia remain unclear, despite many claims of attacks.

Chris Woods discusses TBIJ’s findings with ABC Australia’s Connect Asia

Pakistan

June 2012 actions

Total CIA strikes in June: 6 Total killed in US strikes in June: 26 – 46, of whom 0 – 2 were reportedly civilians

 

All Actions 2004 – 2012

Total Obama strikes: 282 Total US strikes since 2004: 334 Total reported killed: 2,496 – 3,202Civilians reported killed: 482 – 832 Children reported killed: 175 Total reported injured: 1,196 – 1,318For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.

 

The CIA initially maintained the intensity of its drone programme from May into June with three attacks in four days. This culminated in a strike on June 4 that killed al Qaeda’s number two, Abu Yahya al Libi.

A nine day pause followed al Libi’s death as Washington continued negotiating with Islamabad to reopen Nato supply routes. Closing Pakistan’s roads to Nato convoys reportedly costs the US $110m a month. Four people died when CIA drones returned on June 13. Two days earlier the US had announced it was withdrawing its negotiators after six weeks of failed talks.

On June 21 the UN special rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, Christof Heyns, told the UN’s Human Rights Council that using drones to deliberately target rescuers was ‘a war crime‘. This CIA tactic was first exposed by the Bureau and the Sunday Times in February. Rescuers may also have been targeted in a strike seven days before Heyns made his remarks in Geneva.

Six monthly trendsFrom January to June some 3-24 civilians were reported killed by CIA drones in Pakistan. Reported civilian casualty rates have not been so low since the first half of 2008, when 12-21 civilians reportedly died during George W Bush’s presidency.

In comparison, from January to June 2011, between 62 and 103 civilians were killed by the CIA, according to the Bureau’s data. That period included a notorious strike on a tribal gathering on March 17  in Waziristan which killed at least 42 people.

CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, six month comparison: January 1 to June 30 2011 and 2012

The rate of Pakistan strikes has again fallen in the past six months, continuing a downward trend from 2010. This may be because the CIA drone programme is facing unprecedented opposition in Pakistan. Islamabad has condemned recent strikes in strong terms, describing them as ‘illegal’ and ‘totally counter productive.’

The decreased strike rate in 2012 may also partly reflect Washington’s ongoing efforts to patch up relations with its ally. For example drones were almost silent in April, with only one strike killing up to six people in North Waziristan.

The spate of strikes that followed in May and early June was described by some as ‘a rampage’ and ‘a bid to punish Pakistan’. But a US official said that any pause was simply down to bad weather.

Yemen

June 2012 actions

Confirmed US drone strikes: 2 Further reported/ possible US strike events: 13 Alleged militants reported killed in US operations: 12 – 117Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 0 – 8

 

All Actions 2002 – 2012*

Total confirmed US operations: 46 – 56 Total confirmed US drone strikes: 35 – 45 Possible additional US operations: 104 – 116 Of which possible additional US drone strikes: 55 – 64 Total reported killed: 329 – 931 Total civilians killed: 58 – 146 Children killed: 24 – 30Click here for the full Yemen data.

 

The US-backed government offensive against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and its ally Ansar al Sharia continued, with intense fighting in the south. By June 18 Sanaa’s forces had pushed militants out of their self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate in Abyan province. But on the same day the chief of Yemen’s army in the south, Major General Salem Ali Qoton, was killed by a suicide bomber.

The Washington Post confirmed in June what had long been rumoured: that US strike aircraft are flying sorties over Yemen, alongside CIA and Pentagon drones. This casts further doubt on Sanaa’s claims that its air force is responsible for most aerial bombardments.

Despite multiple reported airstrikes, few are confirmed as the work of the US, which refuses officially to comment on individual attacks. One named militant was killed in June, Salah al-Jawhari. But up to eight civilians also died in possible US strikes, among them Hussein Saleh a Yemeni staffer for the International Committee of the Red Cross. The ICRC could not initially say whether the attack was the work of a drone or a regular aircraft.

Six children and a woman were also killed when a suspected drone struck a house in Shuqra in Abyan. The operation was one of 10 possible US attacks across nine days that killed 41 to 68 people. In total as many as 117 people were reported killed in confirmed and possible US strikes in June.

Six monthly trendsThe first six months of 2012 were the bloodiest the Bureau has yet recorded in Yemen. From January to June between 140 and 176 people were killed in 18 confirmed US operations. A further 252-395 died in an additional 45 strikes which may have been the work of the United States. In all of 2011, 13 confirmed US operations killed between 82 and 138 people.

US operations in Yemen, six month comparison: January to June 2011 and 2012

As many as 42 civilians were reported killed in the first six months of this year. But only 4-6 were killed in confirmed US strikes. This compares with four killed in confirmed American operations in the same period last year.

As Yemen’s government reasserts control over southern towns, the true extent of civilian casualties in recent airstrikes may become clearer.

Despite President Obama recently admitting to US military action in Yemen, the Pentagon confirmed to the Bureau that it will still not comment on individual strikes, making clarification difficult.

* All but one of these actions have taken place during the Obama presidency. Reports of incidents in Yemen often conflate individual strikes. The range in the total strikes and total drone strikes we have recorded reflects this.

Somalia

June 2012 actions

Total US operations: 0 Total casualties from US operations: 0

 

All Actions 2007 – 2012

Total US operations: 10 – 21 Total US drone strikes: 3 – 9Total reported killed: 58 – 169Civilians reported killed: 11 – 57 Children reported killed: 1 – 3

Click here for the Bureua’s full data on Somalia.

 

In June as in May the Bureau recorded no US operations in Somalia. The names of seven al Shabaab leaders were added to the State Department’s list of wanted terrorists, each with million dollar bounties on their heads. The move came after it was revealed that the Pentagon had pressured President Obama’s advisers to expand the scope of the drone targets to include al Shabaab leaders.

On June 15 President Obama’s six-monthly letter to Congress – an obligation under the 1973 War Powers Resolution – acknowledged military combat operations in Somalia and Yemen for the first time. The move was unexpected, and came three days after 26 members of Congress urged the President to be more transparent about drone strikes.

Six monthly trends US operations in Somalia have a much lower profile than those in Yemen and Pakistan. So far this year at least five people have died in two confirmed US operations, including a British suspect. Between January and June 2011 two alleged militants were killed in a single confirmed US action.

US operations in Yemen, six month comparison: January to June 2011 and 2012

US airstrikes may be taking place in Somalia but are not being reported. Iranian broadcaster Press TV often claims attacks. However these have been found on many occasions to be false. Poor reporting may be explained by the significant challenges facing journalists in Somalia, which has been at the top of Foreign Policy’s Failed State Index for the last five years. Despite improvements in security in central Mogadishu, the country remains extremely dangerous.

Other foreign forces are also currently engaging militants in Somalia, and may be responsible for claimed attacks. The African Union’s Amison force and operations by the Kenyan military have both  impacted significantly on al Shabaab’s ranks.

Follow Chris Woods and Jack Serle on Twitter.

To sign up for monthly updates from the Bureau’s Covert War project click here.

Published

June 21, 2012

Written by

Jack Serle
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva (UNHRC/ Flickr)

The UN’s expert on extrajudicial killings has described a tactic used by the CIA and first exposed by a Bureau investigation as ‘a war crime’.

Earlier this year the Bureau and the Sunday Times revealed the CIA was deliberately targeting rescuers and funeral-goers in its Pakistan drone strikes. Those controversial tactics have reportedly been revived.

Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur, told a meeting in Geneva on June 21: ‘Reference should be made to a study earlier this year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism… If civilian ‘rescuers’ are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: those strikes are a war crime.’

Related article: Obama terror drones – CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals

Heyns’ forthright comments were made at an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) event, linked to a UN debate into the US covert war on terror.

Ambassador Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva told the Bureau ‘we fully agree with what has been said by Mr Heyns.’ Ambassador Akram called on the US ‘to respect the growing international opinion’ that the use of drones ‘not only violates our sovereignty but also violates the UN charter in our view and also international law.’

Reference should be made to a study earlier this year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism… If civilian ‘rescuers’ are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: those strikes are a war crime.Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur 

Unsatisfactory response

In a separate presentation to the Council, Heyns, said that he was hopeful that the US would reveal the procedures, rules and legal opinions underlying its controversial use of drones. He also noted that the US government did not give his predecessor a satisfactory response when asked to clarify which aspects of international law it believes covers targeted killings.

But after a two-day Council debate, Heyns said the US had not been forthcoming: ‘I don’t think we have the full answer to the legal framework,’ he said. ‘We certainly don’t have the answer to the accountability issues.’

A number of other Geneva delegates also expressed concern about targeted killings. Swiss UNHRC representative Dante Martinelli addressed the Council and called for transparent reporting of casualties from targeted killing operations which ’cause many victims among the civilian population.’ Because of the cost to civilians, Switzerland called for ‘respect for the rules of international law.’

Outside the Council’s purviewThe United States responded to Heyns’ report by saying the question of targeted killings of al Qaeda members and their allies was ‘broader than the issues in the purview of this Council,’ and that ‘questions about the US legal and policy framework for use of force against al Qaeda and associated forces have been addressed by senior US officials in a number of recent public statements.’

In those public statements senior White House officials, including presidential adviser John Brennan, argued that because the US is in a worldwide, armed conflict with al Qaeda and its allies, strikes are governed by the laws of armed conflict. Targeted killings are therefore legal and can be carried out in self defense.

Heyns later told the Bureau that his key concern, however, is whether the US is now setting a dangerous precedent. ‘The spectre that haunts the whole thing is that eventually everyone thinks they can use force in this way.’

Hina Shamsi, national security director of the ACLU and at the UN debate, shares Heyns’ concern: ‘The authority the government asserts today could be used tomorrow by nations with far less respect for the right for life.’

The ACLU insists that the US is not applying the laws of war or human rights law to its targeted killing policy. Instead ‘the United States has cobbled together its own legal framework for targeted killing, with standards that are far less stringent than the law allows,’ says Shamsi.

The authority the government asserts today could be used tomorrow by nations with far less respect for the right for life.’Hina Shamsi, ACLU 

Jonathan Eyal of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) says the US’s ‘rather shop worn’ legal and ethical justification for its covert drone strikes are symptomatic of a hardening of Washington’s position on the issue of targeted killings.

Eyal believe that this stems both from not wanting to appear weak in the fight against al Qaeda in an election year, and because of the complexities of arresting and trying suspects. ‘I don’t think there is any temptation within the United States for anyone to admit that these practices are illegal or at least to say that they will cease in the future,’ he added.

Professor Philip Alston, the former special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings told the Bureau: ‘there has been a huge reluctance to criticise policies of the Obama administration’ by America’s allies.

‘Instead, most states are remaining relatively silent in the face of the evolution of US policies that are entirely inconsistent with international law and deeply problematic from a human rights and international law perspective.’

 

Published

June 1, 2012

Written by

Chris Woods and Jack Serle
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

A summary of US actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in the secret war on terror.

The Bureau’s Covert War project tracks drone strikes and other US military and paramilitary actions in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Here we summarise our key work and findings for May.

Yemen

May 2012 actions

Confirmed US drone strikes: 5

Further reported/ possible US strike events: 18

Alleged militants reported killed in US operations: 23 – 171

Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 1 – 31

 

All Actions 2002 – 2012*

Total confirmed US operations: 44 – 54

Total confirmed US drone strikes: 31 – 41

Possible additional US operations: 86 – 95

Of which possible additional US drone strikes: 48 – 54

Total reported killed: 317 – 814

Total civilians killed: 58 – 138

Children killed: 24Click here for the full Yemen data

 

As in April, intense fighting meant that Yemen again dominated the Bureau’s reporting. Five US drone strikes were confirmed by US or Yemeni officials.

However, an additional 18 possible US strikes were also reported, allegedly involving not only drones but US naval vessels and aircraft. Among these were up to four attacks by warships on militant positions. It was also confirmed that American F-15 Strike Eagles are now based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, adding weight to claims of US air sorties over Yemen.

With few confirmed operations it was difficult to pin down precise casualty figures. The Bureau’s data shows that between 23 and 171 people died in US operations in May, including a number of named senior militants such as Fahd al-Quso. However, among the dead were up to 31 civilians. Between 8 and 26 civilians died in just one incident in Jaar on May 15, though this may have been the work of the Yemen Air Force.

US troops were also reported to be just 40 miles from the front lines, helping to direct a Yemeni military offensive aimed at driving Islamist insurgents from cities in the south. Saying that its actions were in retaliation, Ansar al Sharia killed more than 100 soldiers in a suicide bomb attack on Sanaa.

* All but one of these actions have taken place during the Obama presidency. Reports of incidents in Yemen often conflate individual strikes. The range in the total strikes and total drone strikes we have recorded reflects this.

Pakistan

May 2012 actions

Total CIA strikes in May: 6

Total killed in US strikes in May: 32 – 45, of whom 3 – 18 were reportedly civilians

 

All Actions 2004 – 2012

Total Obama strikes: 275

Total US strikes since 2004: 327

Total reported killed: 2,464 – 3,148

Civilians reported killed: 482 – 830

Children reported killed: 175

Total reported injured: 1,181 – 1,294For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here

 

Six CIA strikes hit North Waziristan in May, up from just one the previous month, even as Pakistan bluntly and publicly protested the attacks. Washington and Islamabad also continued to seek a resolution to their ongoing dispute over NATO supply routes, the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers last November, and the drone strikes themselves.

On May 5 the CIA killed up to ten people, including possibly civilians, in a strike the Pakistan government called ‘illegal’ and ‘totally counter-productive.’

CIA drone strikes in Pakistan

After a further 18-day pause there was a barrage of five strikes in six days. Between 24 and 32 people died – three to eight reportedly civilians. Nine others were reported injured. Among the locations hit by the CIA were a mosque and a bakery. On one occasion, drones returned after a pause of some 20 minutes to strike again, a tactic last seen in summer 2011.

Details also emerged that Barack Obama had not only been aware of civilian deaths in Pakistan drone strikes since the start of his presidency, but that he had also authorised the widening of the definition of ‘combatant’ to incorporate all adult military-aged males killed.

Somalia

May 2012 actions

Total US operations: 0

Total EU operations: 1

Total casualties from US operations: 0

 

All Actions 2007 – 2012

Total US operations: 10 – 21

Total US drone strikes: 3 – 9

Total reported killed: 58 – 169

Civilians reported killed: 11 – 57

Children reported killed: 1 – 3Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia

 

There were no reported US military actions in May.

Separately, on May 22 the European Union launched its first known strike against a land-based pirate operation, destroying nine speedboats, an arms dump and fuel supplies.

Previously restricted to intercepting pirates at sea, on March 23 the EU had expanded Navfor’s mandate to allow for strikes on pirate supplies and infrastructure. The EU agreement stipulated that individuals cannot be targeted and soldiers cannot land on Somali soil.

Significant elements of the operation remain unclear. Navfor said its strike was carried out using helicopters ‘organic’ to the flotilla’s ships, though would not identify which nations had carried out the strike.

Following the Bureau report that the French amphibious assault ship Dixmude and its contingent of Tigre attack helicopters had not taken part in the attack, an anonymous intelligence officer told Defence Report that the destruction of the pirates’ boats could only have been achieved with the aid of a ground assault. If so, it was unclear which nation’s troops would have carried out such an attack.

A boy was reportedly left in a critical condition on May 29 after two Kenyan warships shelled Kismayo, an al Shabaab controlled port in the south of Somalia. The Kenyan navy claimed al Shabaab fired on the vessels first. The residents of the town and the militant group contradicted this, saying the shelling was unprovoked.

Related articles:

Yemen: US ground forces help direct an escalating clandestine war against al Qaeda and its allies, despite official denials. Read more here.

Pakistan: Ignoring Islamabad’s repeated high-level protests CIA strikes rise to six in May. Civilians are reportedly among 32-45 killed. Read more here.

Somalia: Although no US activity is recorded the EU attacks pirates onshore for the first time in a possible ground-based military action. Read more here.

To sign up for monthly updates from the Bureau’s Covert War project click here.