News & Investigations

News & Investigations

Belgian military personnel deployed for Operation Inherent Resolve at their military base in Jordan, November 2020 (image via Belgian Air Force).

Published

January 12, 2021

Written by

Laurie Treffers

Header Image

Belgian military personnel deployed for Operation Inherent Resolve at their military base in Jordan, November 2020 (image via Belgian Air Force).

Pressure is growing on countries to support an international political declaration to restrict the use of explosive weapons in urban areas.

The Belgian parliament is considering adopting a resolution to help protect civilians from the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. The resolution calls for Belgium’s active participation in ongoing diplomatic negotiations among nations on an international political declaration to avoid the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, to help reduce civilian suffering.

In a joint statement published on January 12th, Airwars, Humanity & Inclusion, PAX Christi Vlaanderen and PAX for Peace called upon Members of Parliament in Belgium to support the resolution. The statement reads: “Such resolution is a good step in the right direction as it clearly demands the Belgian Federal Government for an unequivocal commitment against the use of high-impact explosive weapons in populated areas, in line with the presumption of non-use; a recognition of the “domino effects” of wide-range explosive weapons; and a commitment to victim assistance and unconditional access to humanitarian aid. After dozens of parliamentary questions, motions and public hearings in France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and the UK, the adoption of this resolution would be pioneering as it is the first of its kind.”

Parliamentary hearing

On January 6th, the National Defence Commission of the Belgian Federal Parliament came together to discuss a draft of Resolution 1222/1 on the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. Prior to the hearing, Airwars, Humanity & Inclusion, Pax Christi Vlaanderen and PAX for Peace sent Members of Parliament a letter with key recommendations.

If the Resolution is adopted by the Belgian parliament, it could be a key event in the ongoing negotiations between nations on an international political declaration. Since October 2019, more than 70 countries, including Belgium, have participated in diplomatic negotiations led by Ireland to draft such a declaration.

During the parliamentary hearing on January 6th, experts from the Belgian Red Cross and Humanity & Inclusion (HI) gave short presentations on the importance of the proposed resolution. Anne Hery, director of advocacy and institutional relations at HI, stated: “How can one systematically claim to respect the principles of precaution and proportionality of attack when using artillery or mortar shells in places where children, women and men are concentrated, or when bombing near infrastructures vital for the survival of populations, such as hospitals, schools or even power stations? The devastation in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, more recently in Nagorno Karabakh or in the Tigray region, in Ethiopia, forces us to rethink the methods, tactics and choice of weapons of war used today.”

"Comment peut-on prétendre systématiquement respecter les principes de précaution & proportionnalité de l’attaque lorsqu’on utilise obus d’artillerie/mortier dans des lieux où se concentrent des civils ou quand on bombarde à proximité d’infrastructures vitales?" @Anneh2906 #EWIPA pic.twitter.com/40NFKrBiKj

— Baptiste Chapuis (@Baptiste_Cps) January 6, 2021

 

Resolution 1222/1

Samuel Cogolati, a Member of Parliament for ECOLO-Groen, is one of the initiators of the resolution. Mr Cogolati told Airwars: “Today’s armed conflicts in Yemen, Syria and Libya are not the same as those of 20, 30 or 50 years ago. Because although conflicts are increasingly urban, battles are most often fought with weapons or ammunition systems with indiscriminate effects, initially designed for use on open battlefields.”

According to Cogolati, the draft resolution is “simply an attempt to respond to the call of the UN Secretary-General, as well as the ICRC and Handicap International. The text itself was written in close cooperation with civil society.” The text calls upon the Belgian federal government to not only avoid the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas, but also requests that the government actively pushes for the recognition of reverberating effects of explosive weapons and victim assistance as key elements of the international political declaration.

Mr Cogolati also emphasised the reverberating effects for civilians of the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects, such as the destruction of vital infrastructure, contamination by explosive remnants of war and massive waves of forced displacement. In October 2020, Airwars and PAX for Peace presented their joint report Seeing through the Rubble on the long-term effects of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas to MPs in Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Camilla Roberti, advocacy officer for Humanity & Inclusion, is hopeful that the Resolution will be adapted, but also has reservations. “We remain concerned as Belgium reiterates its belief that IHL is strong enough and that strict compliance and implementation of IHL rules will suffice [to limit civilian harm during urban fighting]. On the contrary, we believe that IHL, which remains crucial, must be coupled with policies and standards that enhance its effectiveness during conflict and address the harm caused to civilians and civilian infrastructure during and after conflict.”

Roberti also warns that Belgium “doesn’t seem to take into account the indiscriminate effects caused by these weapons even in those cases where attacks appear ‘legitimate’. This is something we call on all States, and Belgium in particular, to put at the very centre of the future political declaration, as it will be the only way to put the people at the centre and prevent harm to civilians.”

Denial of civilian harm

Whilst Belgian parliamentarians are focused on pushing Belgium to become a pioneer in the protection of civilians, the Belgian Ministry of Defence continues to refuse taking responsibility for any civilian harm its own actions may have caused.

During a recent public event ‘New Military Technologies: What About Drones?’, organised by PAX Christi Vlaanderen, Vrede Vzw and the European Forum on Armed Drones on December 2nd 2020, Chief of Staff of the Belgian Air Forces, Colonel Geert de Decker, stated that “Neither in Libya, nor in Iraq, we have any reports of civilian casualties as a result of Belgian interventions. That is one of the things that we pride ourselves on. You are never one hundred per cent sure, but we do everything possible to avoid making civilian casualties.”

Belgium has, in fact, been implicated in several civilian harm incidents that were officially acknowledged by the US-led Coalition, but has repeatedly refused to answer on its possible involvement in these incidents. It remains unknown whether it was Belgium or France which was responsible for five airstrikes which led to the confirmed deaths of at least 22 civilians. When the Belgian Ministry of Defence was asked about their possible involvement in these strikes, officials told Airwars: “For the year 2017, BAF [Belgian Armed Forces] was certainly not involved in all events”, indicating that the Belgians were in fact involved in some of those events. It remains unclear why Belgium then still continues to state that its actions in Syria and Iraq have caused zero civilian casualties. On September 30th, 11 international and Belgian NGOs sent an open letter to then Minister of Defence Phillipe Goffin, calling on the Belgian government to finally take concrete steps to improve its transparency and accountability for civilian harm.

The Belgian parliament will likely vote on whether to adopt Resolution 1222/1 by February 2021.

▲ Belgian military personnel deployed for Operation Inherent Resolve at their military base in Jordan, November 2020 (image via Belgian Air Force).

Published

March 23, 2020

Written by

Laurie Treffers

Airwars learns that another Coalition ally had refused to conduct deadly Hawijah strike

Newly declassified documents released by the Dutch Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs, and the Netherlands Public Prosecutor’s Office, have revealed a number of disturbing facts about Dutch airstrikes on Hawijah and Mosul in 2015 which killed dozens of civilians.

The previously secret documents show, for example, that the Dutch military official with a potential veto over its strikes – known as the Red Card Holder – was aware even before the airstrike on Hawijah in June 2015, which led to the deaths of approximately 70 civilians according to locals, that the expected damage from the strike could in fact be greater than the Collateral Damage Estimate (CDE) was indicating.

At least one other ally within the US-led Coalition had refused to conduct the Hawijah strike based on the available intelligence, Airwars has recently learned.

In December 2019, Airwars submitted a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request to the Dutch Ministry of Defence, requesting publication of the MoD’s own investigation into the bombing of an ISIS IED factory in Hawijah, Iraq, on the night of June 2nd- 3rd 2015. The airstrike caused significant secondary explosions, leading to the deaths of at least 70 civilians.

After withholding their role in this deadly event from the Dutch public for nearly five years, the government eventually took public responsibility in November 2019. In addition, the Dutch Ministry of Defence admitted conducting a controversial airstrike on a family home in Mosul in September 2015, in which four civilians were killed.

Collateral Damage Estimate

The Dutch MoD has now released its own additional investigation into the Hawijah case, which was finalised on June 30th 2016.

The document – mostly unredacted –  reveals that the Dutch Red Card Holder, the representative in the Combined Air Operations Center in Qatar with the option of vetoing actions which fell outside Dutch rules of engagement, was aware that the potential damage could be greater than the Collateral Damage Estimation, or CDE, was indicating.

The report states that the possibility of secondary explosions was taken into account during the planning phase by analysing previous attacks on similar targets. The report reads: “It was concluded that the expected collateral damage could be greater than the CDE indicated, but that this expected collateral damage would not extend beyond the industrial complex and that there would therefore only be material damage at night. This damage was then assessed by the Dutch Red Card Holder (RCH) as not excessive in relation to the expected military advantage.”

Airwars recently learned from a senior (non-Dutch) military official with knowledge of events that at least one other allied military within the Coalition had refused the Hawijah strike, implying that the potential risk to civilians was expected to be too high.

Excerpt of the additional investigation into the Hawijah bombing by the Dutch MoD, stating that the risk of destruction at Hawijah might be greater than the Collateral Damage Assessment was indicating.

The time of the attack had been moved “to the night hours (midnight local time) to minimise the chance of civil traffic and the presence of citizens”. However, the same report also states that the execution of the mission caused collateral damage to more than 400 buildings in the area – and that the secondary explosions that the Dutch airstrike triggered were not expected in either the targeting process, or the actual implementation of the strike. An internal Ministry of Foreign Affairs email reports that on June 4th 2015, a Coalition calculation “shows that there was probably more than 18,060 kilos of explosives stored, making this the largest ISIS IED factory ever.”

The only time the released investigation mentions civilian casualties is in its final sentence, which states that “there is a likely chance that the airstrike led to civilian casualties, but this cannot be additionally proven”. This was despite the fact that just days after the incident, respected media including Reuters were already reporting 70 civilian deaths.

The newly released emails also reveal that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in confidential contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross about civilian casualties in the weeks following the airstrike. At the time, ICRC is said to have estimated the number of civilian fatalities in Hawijah to be as high as 170.

While the Dutch Ministry of Defence has continuously insisted that victims of Dutch airstrikes should turn to the Iraqi authorities for compensation, a 2014 internal document describing the procedure for minimising and reporting civilian casualties states that the Netherlands itself should assess incidents of civilian casualties individually for possible compensation, as there were no standard procedure. The document notes that “in the case of CIVCAS [civilian casualties] by NLD, compensation schemes will be established. There is no treaty with Iraq that includes possible claims for damages, nor is there any expectation that a treaty will come.”

Despite this, until now there has been no known effort by the Dutch Ministry of Defence to contact civilian survivors of Dutch airstrikes. On March 6th, a survivor of the Mosul strike which killed four close family members and destroyed two homes, Mr. Basim Razzo, filed a lawsuit against the Dutch government for two million US dollars.

“A perfect target and a perfect hit”

In response to additional FOIA requests by Dutch news organisations NOS and NRC, the Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs have released additional internal documents and emails related to the Hawijah incident. These clearly indicate a lack of urgency or apparent concern among officials, despite the known high civilian death toll.

On June 4th for example, two days after the Hawijah incident, a Dutch official on secondment to CENTCOM emailed the MoD that “initial analysis of footage of the strike itself has shown that nothing unusual has taken place, apart from the secondary explosions.” That “nothing unusual had taken place” claim is far removed from the accounts eyewitnesses gave of the incident, some of whom compared the event to the city being “hit by a nuclear bomb”. In another email, a Dutch official based at CENTCOM writes: “A perfect target and a perfect hit, that’s what people are talking about here.”

On June 6th 2015, an internal email within the Ministry of Defence reads: “Yes, no particularities. All went well on our side. Do not expect any attention from the Public Prosecutor’s Office.” While the Ministry was clearly aware of media reports of more than 70 civilian deaths – they shared, for example a Daily Star article, now offline, mentioning 74 civilian deaths – internally on June 5th, none of the released emails express urgent concern about civilian harm.

Public Prosecutor’s investigation: slow and incomplete

The Hawijah case did eventually receive attention from the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM), in order to assess whether international humanitarian law had been complied with. The OM has also now released emails and internal documents related to its investigations into the Hawijah and Mosul airstrikes, following FOIA requests by both NRC and NOS.

However, the actual investigations remain classified. Even so, Minister of Defence Ank Bijleveld has continuously referred to the OM Hawijah investigation during parliamentary debates. Bijleveld answered critical questions by MPs on her Ministry’s lack of transparency during a parliamentary debate on November 5th, 2019, for example, by stating that “the OM has concluded that [the bombing of Hawijah] was done lawfully” and that she trusted the OM to be a legitimate and independent institution.

The released though heavily redacted documentation indicates, however, that the OM was not investigating the lawfulness of the Hawijah action, as there was no suspicion of punishable criminal behaviour, but was instead conducting a fact-finding mission – intended to gather information about possible civilian casualties. Based on written responses from OM, NOS has reported that the fact-finding mission also started more than nine months after the incident itself, since it was only in March 2016 that the OM was informed by the Ministry of Defence about possible civilian casualties.

NRC and NOS also reported that the two pilots involved in the airstrike were only interviewed fifteen months after the incident. This is striking, because the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office was previously rebuked by the European Court of Human Rights in 2014 due to serious deficit in the Jaloud case, in which a civilian was shot dead by a Dutch soldier in Iraq in 2004. The ECHR criticised the OM for waiting six hours to interview the involved soldier, giving the soldier the time to “construct his own version of the truth”. In the case of Hawijah, it took fifteen months before involved military personnel were interviewed.

In addition to the OM investigation into Hawijah being very late, its scope was also limited. NRC reports that the OM was dependent solely upon information from Dutch military personnel. The US military also declined to cooperate, because this was a fact-finding assessment, and not an investigation into criminal acts, the declassified emails show.

The OM additionally published a previously secret MoD document providing guidance for  Dutch participation in the fight against ISIS, which indicates that guidelines were likely breached in the case of Hawijah. One states that “attacks on targets in the vicinity of densely populated areas should be avoided as much as possible,” while another notes that “all reasonable precautions should be taken to avoid wounding or killing civilians or causing damage to civilian objects.” It is unclear why this documentation was missing in the MoD’s own released records.

Excerpt of the previously classified “NLP Targeting Directives ATFME”

Victim of Mosul airstrike sues Dutch government

The newly declassified documents also reveal new information about a Dutch airstrike on Mosul in 2015, in which Mr. Basim Razzo lost his wife, daughter, brother and nephew. The pilot responsible for executing that attack recently revealed to Dutch journalists that months after the airstrike, it became clear that what they thought was an ISIS headquarters, was, in fact, a family home. The MoD’s own investigation, finalised on June 30th, 2016, nevertheless concluded that “given all the available information, there is a chance that the two villas were not a military target and that, while carrying out the mission aimed at ISIS headquarters on 20 September 2015, possible civilian casualties have fallen, but this cannot be substantiated.”

The report added that “the two villas may have been incorrectly identified by the CAOC as a legitimate military objective. This is the subject of research by the CAOC, in which the Netherlands is not involved.” The CENTCOM CIVCAS allegation closure report – dated February 13th 2017 and obtained by Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal for their New York Times investigation The Uncounted, states that the intelligence for the mission was based on “only 1h 35 mins of FMV [full motion video]… collected over three different days”.

The erroneous conclusion that the house was an ISIS headquarters was based on the fact that there were no women and children seen around the property in the 95 minutes of footage, and that a person was observed opening the drive gate for cars. Mr. Razzo has stated in several interviews that his wife and daughter did not come outside because ISIS forced them to cover themselves and because it was over 40 degrees Celsius during the day at the time, and that both he or his brother would open the gates for visiting cars.

Instead of being informed by their own MoD of civilian casualties in the airstrike, the OM only started their own investigation into the Mosul case after Mr. Razzo’s relative, Professor Zareena Grewal, published an opinion piece about the case in the New York Times in October 2015.

The newly released documents additionally reveal that twice, requests from the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office for interviews with key witnesses in the Mosul case (presumably military officials) were denied by other nations. One response simply stated that “such interview cannot be arranged”. Another email insisted that the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between their respective two countries only allowed for assistance when a criminal investigation was being prepared or was expected, and not in the case of a fact-finding mission.

One of the witness examination requests that was denied by another involved country

On March 6th 2020, Mr. Razzo filed a lawsuit against the Dutch government for two million US dollar. In an accompanying letter, his lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld – who is also preparing a legal case in name of Hawijah victims – writes to the Ministry of Defence that “given the very limited and conflicting intelligence, the Netherlands should have declined to execute the strike.” The MoD was given three weeks to respond to the claim.

▲ Library image: A Dutch F-16 pilot checking missiles before take-off from an airbase in Jordan (Netherlands defence ministry)

Incident Code

SOM170b

Incident date

October 20–21, 2019

Location

Jamaame, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.06978, 42.748066 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

Local media reported a pair of alleged international airstrikes targeting the al Shabaab held towns of Jilib and Jamaame. Unusually the culprit was alleged to be France according to vague ‘sources’. However reporting remains poor.

According to Mareeg News, “A suspected French military fighter jet has carried out airstrikes against al Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliated group in the southern regions of Somalia. The strikes were conducted in Jamame and Jilib towns under control of al Shabab where over one hundred militants were killed and injured, reliable sources said.

The sources said the fighter jets fired 3 missiles at the major militant base in Jamame town where 700 armed militants stationed, killing dozens.

They [sources] says the 2nd strike was executed in Jilib town, targeting nearly 300 foreign jihadists fighting alongside al Shabaab. It is unclear how many foreign fighters were killed in the 2nd air attack.

They added there is also another raid that targeted al Shabaab militants, while the militants were regrouping to carry out an ambush attack on Somali army forces.

Neither Somali authorities nor al Shabaab commented on the latest attacks in Somalia.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attackers
    French Armed Forces, Unknown
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    40–50

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a major Al Shabaab base in the town Jamaame. It is unclear where this base is located exactly, is might be around the airport, for which the coordinates are: 0.057686, 42.755259. The generic coordinates for the town Jamaame are: 0.06978, 42.748066. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

French Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    French Armed Forces
  • French Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Unknown Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Unknown
  • Unknown position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attackers
    French Armed Forces, Unknown
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    40–50

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Incident Code

SOM170a

Incident date

October 20–21, 2019

Location

Jilib, Middle Juba, Somalia

Airwars assessment

Local media reported a pair of alleged international airstrikes targeting the al Shabaab held towns of Jilib and Jamaame. Unusually the culprit was alleged to be France according to vague ‘sources’. However reporting remains poor.

According to Mareeg News, “A suspected French military fighter jet has carried out airstrikes against al Shabab, an al Qaeda affiliated group in the southern regions of Somalia. The strikes were conducted in Jamame and Jilib towns under control of al Shabab where over one hundred militants were killed and injured, reliable sources said.

The sources said the fighter jets fired 3 missiles at the major militant base in Jamame town where 700 armed militants stationed, killing dozens.

They [sources] says the 2nd strike was executed in Jilib town, targeting nearly 300 foreign jihadists fighting alongside al Shabaab. It is unclear how many foreign fighters were killed in the 2nd air attack.

They added there is also another raid that targeted al Shabaab militants, while the militants were regrouping to carry out an ambush attack on Somali army forces.

Neither Somali authorities nor al Shabaab commented on the latest attacks in Somalia.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    40–50

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    40–50

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Incident Code

SOM016a-1

Incident date

January 12, 2013

Location

Bulo Marer, Somalia

Airwars assessment

French commandos failed to a rescue a French spy held hostage by al Shabaab since 2009. Paris claimed the militants executed the captured secret service agent, known by his alias Denis Allex, during an assault by 50 Special Forces troops. However al Shabaab’s media wing said the hostage survived.

Seventeen alleged militants were reportedly killed and eight civilians died, including a child and both his parents. Four civilians were killed when they were woken by helicopters landing. They were reportedly shot when they turned on flashlights. Survivors allegedly warned the militants of the advancing French force.

AFP gave the most detail regarding the civilian casualties: “‘Four civilians, including three from one family, are among the dead. They were all killed outside Bulomarer, where the French commandos landed before entering the city,’ resident Adan Derow said by telephone. The victims were a couple, their son and another man, other residents said. ‘We don’t know why those civilians were killed’ outside Bulomarer, where the raid took place, added another resident, Ali Moalim Hassan.

“‘Four other civilians were also caught in the crossfire and died in the town of Bulomarer” during a pitched battle between French commandos and Islamist fighters. The four included a woman, her child and a local market guard, according to residents.”

Al Shabaab claimed they had moved Allex to a new location before the attack although French and Somali government sources said he was killed by his captors during the attack. The militant commander Shiekh Ahmed was reportedly killed in the gunfight. One French commando was killed and another was wounded. The injured soldier was taken by al Shabaab who said he subsequently died of his wounds.

At least five helicopters ferried the commandos from the amphibious assault ship Mistral to Bulo Marer. The French force underestimated the resistance they would face, reported AFP. An anonymous Somali aid worker told the agency: “We were told there were about 40 of them against more than 100 heavily armed Shebab fighters. Their mission was impossible and not very professional.”

The US provided “limited technical support” to the French operation. US Air Force strike fighters entered Somali air space but did not fire their weapons. The operation was reportedly timed to coincide with a French air and ground offensive in Mali. Paris denied the two African operations were connected.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

The victims were named as:

Family members (3)

  • Unnamed man Adult male Killed outside Bulomarer killed
  • Unnamed woman Adult female Wife of above killed
  • Unnamed child Child Child of above killed

Family members (2)

  • Unnamed woman Adult female Killed in crossfire in Bulomarer killed
  • Child Child killed
  • Unnamed man Adult male Killed outside Bulomarer killed
  • Unnamed man Adult male Local market guard killed in crossfire killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    8
  • (2 children2 women3 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    French Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    17

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Denis Allex (Via al Shabaab propaganda video)

French Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    French Armed Forces
  • French Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    8
  • (2 children2 women3 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    French Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    17

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Incident Code

SOM016-1

Incident date

May 15, 2012

Location

Near Haradheere, Somalia

Airwars assessment

The European Union (EU) launched attack helicopter and “maritime aircraft” strikes on an alleged pirate base near Haradheere. Stating that there had been no EU “boots on the ground”, reports indicated that helicopters from the EU’s Naval Force (NAVFOR) had destroyed nine speedboats, an arms dump and fuel supplies in a night-time raid.

Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, later told Associated Press: “They destroyed our equipment to ashes. It was a key supplies center for us,” Hussein said. “The fuel contributed to the flames and destruction. Nothing was spared.’ The pirates responded angrily to the strike and pirate commander Abdi Yare told AFP ‘If they continue attacking Somali coastal villages, then there will be terrible consequences.’ Although no casualties were recorded fisherman Mohammed Hussein alleged fishing boats were destroyed in the operation. ‘We are very much worried that fishermen will die in such operations,’ he added.

Speaking to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, NAVFOR spokesperson Lt Cmdr Sheriff acknowledged some pirate camps were also used by fishermen but said the target of the strike had been a known pirate base with no fishing activity.

NAVFOR commander Rear Admiral Duncan Potts said of the attack: “The EU Naval Force action against pirate supplies on the shoreline is merely an extension of the disruption actions carried out against pirate ships at sea. We believe this action by the EU Naval Force will further increase the pressure on and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea and attack merchant shipping and dhows.”

Although the EU did not reveal which nations had taken part in the attack, AP reported that the newly-commissioned French amphibious assault ship Dixmude, part of NAVFOR, carried Tigre helicopter gunships. But NAVFOR spokesperson Timo Lange told the Bureau the Dixmude had left the EU flotilla at around the end of April, returning to French naval command. Lt Cmdr Sherriff told the Bureau the attack was instead carried out with helicopters “organic to the ships we have with us” and that small arms fire was used for the attack.

However “an intelligence operative close to EU anti-piracy operations” told Defence Report EU that ground forces did lead the strike, saying the destruction of the pirates’ fast boats could only have been achieved with a ground assault.

EU foreign policy spokesperson Michael Mann said that “This action against piracy is part of a comprehensive EU approach to the crisis in Somalia, where we support a lasting political solution on land.” A Royal Navy source told the Daily Telegraph it was a good time to step up attacks on pirate infrastructure. The source continued: “However, the Somalis will certainly be better prepared next time round and are likely to defend their bases with significant anti-aircraft assets now they know that the ante has been upped. This will inevitably lead to bloodshed and escalation.”

The EU had paved the way for the strikes in a March 23 decision allowing it to target Somalia’s “territorial, coastal and internal waters.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Known attacker
    EU Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other

Sources (13) [ collapse]

EU Military Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    EU Military Forces
  • EU Military Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Known attacker
    EU Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM023-C

Incident date

April 17, 2012

Location

Gumah, Bari, Somalia

Geolocation

10.88443, 51.11405 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

“Unknown military jets fired several missiles” at a suspected Somali pirate base in the northern autonomous region of Puntland a coastguard official told AFP. The target was the village of Gumah, described as being between Hafun and Bargal towns and some 220 kilometres (140 miles) east of Bossaso, the main port of Somalia’s breakaway Puntland state.

At least two civilians were reported injured, whom RBC Radio described as fishermen.

The air strike came near midnight and was apparently unprecedented as it targeted pirates, not al Shabaab. Muse Jama, an elder, told AFP that the two aircraft that attacked his village “came from the sea.”

Which nation the aircraft belong to is unknown. The European Union’s anti-piracy operation had been authorised to launch strikes on Somali coastal territory. But a spokesperson told AFP the EU was “not involved whatsoever” in the strike and refused to comment on who was. Both NATO and the US were also conducting anti-piracy operations at the time, though neither was known to have deployed airstrikes.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, EU Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in a coastal village called Gumah, 220 kilometres east of the port city Bosaso in Puntland. This likely refers to a village that also goes by the name Gumbax, for which the coordinates are: 10.88443, 51.11405. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • The coastal village Gumbax, 220 kilometres east of Bosaso (220 km radius marked in red)

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

EU Military Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    EU Military Forces
  • EU Military Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, EU Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other

Sources (4) [ collapse]