US Forces in Somalia

Library image of an armed Reaper drone, December 2019 (US Air Force/ Senior Sergeant Haley Stevens)

Belligerent
US Forces
Country
Somalia
start date
end date
Airwars Grading
Confirmed
Fair
Belligerent Assessment
Strike Status
Strike Type

Incident Code

USSOM209-C

Incident date

March 18, 2019

Location

Laantabuur or Abdow Dibile, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

2.0913, 45.0693 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Exact location (other) level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Exact location (other)

Airwars assessment

Up to four civilians were killed in a US strike in the Lower Shabelle region, international media and investigating NGOs reported from the ground, though US Africa Command claimed that the strike had only killed three “terrorists.” It later again officially denied causing any civilian casualties.

Initially, allegations of civilian harm came from a Reuters journalist who spoke to a relative of someone who reportedly died in Laanta Buuro.

Abdiqadir Nur, an employee of the telecommunications company Hormuud Telecom died alongside three others at what was initially described as 04:30 local time as they drove through the village of Laanta Buuro, Reuters reported.

A later investigation published in Foreign Policy by freelance journalist Amanda Sperber, suggests that at least one of those killed – and possibly two others – had no connection to terrorism.

“Ibrahim Hirei had been driving back to Mogadishu with two friends on March 18 when his car was hit in an American airstrike. Hirei, who had spent the day in the village of Muuri inspecting his family’s farm, was killed, along with a second man in the car. The third passenger died later in the hospital,” Sperber reported.

“My innocent brother became a victim of that airstrike. Now we are struggling to manage the life of the family left behind,” Hirei’s older brother, Ahmed Hassan Hirei, told Foreign Policy in a text message.

US Africa Command said in their initial press release issued the day after the event that they were aware of reports that alleged civilian harm as a result of this strike. They noted: “As with any allegation of civilian casualties we receive, U.S. Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties.”

In September 2019, Amnesty International issued an extensive report on the case, having interviewed eleven witnesses, and insisting that the three victims of the attack “were  in fact civilian farmers with no evidence of links to the armed group [al Shabaab].”

“On 18 March 2019, Abdiqadir and Mahad Nur Ibrahim and Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey were travelling towards the hamlet of Abdow Dibile from the village of Muuri, Lower Shabelle, in a white Toyota Surf SUV. They had been visiting their farms near Muuri that day, as they often would, and were returning from the farms to their respective homes in Mogadishu, Leego and Yaaq Bariwayne. Between 3 and 4pm, when the vehicle was approximately 750m north of Abdow Dibile, it was hit and destroyed by a munition launched by a US aircraft.

“A friend of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim, living in Mogadishu, told Amnesty International that he learned on the night of the attack of his death from a relative of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim. Early the following morning, the friend left Mogadishu and travelled to Abdow Dibile. At around 8am he arrived in the hamlet where he found Mahad Nur Ibrahim, badly burnt but alive, inside a vehicle bound for hospital. Amnesty International also viewed photographs of these injuries.

[Before his death almost three weeks later,] Mahad Nur Ibrahim told his friend that the three men had been travelling from their farms near Muuri, when their car was struck.

“Shortly after they spoke, Mahad Nur Ibrahim was driven to Digfeer hospital in Mogadishu, approximately 30km away. “Mahad later succumbed to his injuries and died in a Mogadishu hospital,” the friend told Amnesty International. According to hospital records viewed by Amnesty International, Mahad Nur Ibrahim died on 6 April 2019. The records state that the cause of death was cardiac arrest, after suffering from sepsis and burns on more than 50% of his body.

“The friend described to Amnesty International what the scene of the attack looked like when he arrived, and how he identified the two victims whose bodies remained at the scene. On arrival, he found Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey’s body cut into pieces and lying near the wreckage, after local people had removed him from the back of the vehicle. Amnesty International reviewed photographs that appear to show Ibrahim’s burnt head and torso.

“The friend and relatives of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim and Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey buried the two men in Abdow Dibile on Tuesday 19 March. An elder in the Wadalaan Gorgaate clan and distant cousin of Abdiqadir and Mahad Nur Ibrahim explained that the families of the men received no support from the Somalia or US government after losing their loved ones.

“No one apologized or even asked us about their death. We came together as a family after their death, but we just could not give them any support. We left it to God. We don’t know what actually happened and why they were killed, maybe it was a mistake. We would like justice to be served and the families of the deceased supported.”

“Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim was a father of eight. He owned electric generators supplying the village of Leego in Wanlaweyn district, Lower Shabelle, and farmed land near Muuri, in Afgoye district. He was also the head of Hormuud’s Leego office. Mahad Nur Ibrahim was a father of four. Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey was a father of seven. In addition to farming, he leased out farm equipment and ran a business transporting foodstuff between Mogadishu and Muuri. Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey previously lived with his family in Muuri, but they fled to Mogadishu five years ago due to the conflict between Biyamal and Habargidir clans.

“Amnesty International interviewed family members, neighbours, and colleagues of the victims, all of whom unequivocally stated that the men were not members of Al-Shabaab.

“All 11 people Amnesty International spoke to were adamant that the three men were civilians. “He was not Al-Shabaab” a relative of Mahad Nur Ibrahim explained. “He owned a truck and he transported charcoal to Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab banned charcoal business in Leego and Lower Shabelle so he was not doing much in the past two years. He wanted to invest in the farms with the help of his brother, but both were killed while coming back from the farms.”

“A Habargidir clan elder and relative of Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey was also clear on this point: “I can confirm before anyone that Ibrahim was a civilian and not an Al-Shabaab guy”. Another relative concurred: “He was a civilian, he was not member of Al-Shabaab. If he were Al-Shabaab we would not have run away from the Biyamal-Habargidir conflict. We were basically IDPs in Mogadishu with Ibrahim supporting us. I don’t know why he was targeted. It was a clear aggression.”

“According to a fellow employee at Hormuud who Amnesty International interviewed, as well as relatives, Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim had worked for Hormuud for over a decade and was also not an Al-Shabaab member. Those who knew the men questioned why they had been killed. “I don’t know why [Abdiqadir’s] car was targeted but I think it was a mistake,” a friend said. “The three people who were killed in that car were farmers and not members of Al-Shabaab”.

“In addition to the testimonies, there is additional circumstantial evidence which indicates that the deceased were civilians. Al-Shabaab did not treat the three men as if they were members of the armed group. Families of the victims were not prevented from recovering the bodies and taking the injured to hospital. Testimony gathered throughout Amnesty International’s research in Somalia has consistently shown that Al-Shabaab will collect and bury their dead themselves, often before they permit civilians back into the area. Additionally, Mahad Nur Ibrahim was transported from Abdow Dibile to government-controlled Mogadishu, where he was treated at Digfeer hospital, a civilian facility, where it would have been relatively easy for Somalia government forces to question or arrest him.”

The identity of a possible fourth victim originally cited by Reuters has not been publicly determined. As of late 2019, Africom was still assessing the civilian harm allegations related to this event. US investigative journalist Nick Turse obtained via FOIA a declassified document listing recent locally-alleged civilian harm from US actions, which AFRICOM was reviewing. The third entry notes for the date March 18th 2019 that “[redacted source] posted an article alleging that a U.S. airstrike killed and wounded a number of civilians in a vehicle in the vicinity of Awdeegle… Outcome PENDING.”

In April 2020, AFRICOM overtly denied causing civilian harm in this event: “March 18, 2019, AFRICOM received two allegations from an online media source claiming between three to four (3-4) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Afgooye, Somalia, on March 18, 2019. AFRICOM received three duplicate allegations of this incident on April 29, 2019, May 7, 2019, and August 29, 2019, from online media sources, and one duplicate allegation again on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization.

“After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. U.S. intelligence confirmed the identity of the individuals as al-Shabaab militants involved in logistics operations. The vehicle and occupants were observed in support of known al-Shabaab locations, and strike video indicates that the effects of the strike were limited to the vehicle. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.”

Given that all local sources as well as a major Amnesty field investigation determined that some or all of the victims were in fact non combatants, Airwars continues to grade this as a likely US civilian harm event.

The incident occured at approximately 4:30 pm local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

  • Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim 46 years old male "an employee of telecommunications company Hormuud Telecom". Combat status unclear, though Reuters suggest he was a civilian. killed
  • Mahad Nur Ibrahim 46 years old male Half brother of Abdiqadir. Injured and later died. According to Reuters, he was "totally burnt". It's unclear whether he later died. Reuters suggest he was a civilian. killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 4
  • (3–4 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (7) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Horn News published what it implied was a victim of the strike - likely to be Mahad Nur Ibrahim, who later died of his injuries.
  • Destroyed vehicle - presumably from this event - publoished by Amnesty International in its September 2019 report.

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a vehicle driving through the village of Laantabuur (or Laanta Buuro) near the town of Afgooye. Amnesty placed the precise coordinates at Abdow Dibile: 2.0913, 45.0693

  • Geolocation via Amnesty International. Original caption: This image shows a partial panorama of the air strike scene, overlaid on a satellite image showing the same location on 9 April, 2019, several weeks after the air strike. © Amnesty International. Source Image: © 2019 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar Company.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Other
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • March 18, 2019, AFRICOM received two allegations from an online media source claiming between three to four (3-4) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Afgooye, Somalia, on March 18, 2019. AFRICOM received three duplicate allegations of this incident on April 29, 2019, May 7, 2019, and August 29, 2019, from online media sources, and one duplicate allegation again on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. U.S. intelligence confirmed the identity of the individuals as al-Shabaab militants involved in logistics operations. The vehicle and occupants were observed in support of known al-Shabaab locations, and strike video indicates that the effects of the strike were limited to the vehicle. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

"In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia's continued efforts to weaken al-Shabaab, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in the vicinity of Awdheegle, Lower Shabelle Region, Somalia, on March 18, 2019 (...)

At this time, it is assessed this airstrike killed three (3) terrorists.

Also, we are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties resulting from this airstrike. As with any allegation of civilian casualties we receive, U.S. Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 4
  • (3–4 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM195-C

Incident date

February 23, 2019

Location

حرمك, Kunya Barrow, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.798211, 43.385648 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Exact location (via Airwars) level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Exact location (via Airwars)

Airwars assessment

A father and young child were reported killed in a US airstrike on the al Shabaab-occupied town of Kunyo Barrow. AFRICOM later admitted the deaths of two civilians along with three injuries in the event in its first quarterly civilian harm report of April 2020.

US Africa Command first reported on February 24th 2019 that a day earlier it had conducted four actions in Somalia, including “Two airstrikes (…) in the vicinity of Kunyow Barrow.”

According to local reports, the four strikes targeted Da’araha; Kunya Barrow (where two civilians died and at least two more were injured, it was reported); the vicinity of Janaale and Qoryoley (where one additional adult female civilian was said to have died); and Awdhegle. The Da’araha action appears to be the second event cited by AFRICOM for that day near Kunya Barrow.

AFRICOM initially stated that “it is assessed these airstrikes killed two terrorists” and the Bureau of Investigative journalism confirmed through email with AFRICOM that they were killed during the two strikes in the vicinity of Kunyow Barrow. The official statement added that “At this time, it is assessed no civilians were injured or killed in these airstrikes.”

Mareeg nevertheless reported on February 24th that two civilians, including one “20 day old child” and the child’s father, had in fact been killed in airstrikes carried out in “rebel-held areas of Da’araha, Janaale, Kunya Barow,  Awdhegle”. The article stated that “it is unclear who carried out the raid,” and gave no further details on which of the four strikes had harmed civilians.

Horn News – which published graphic photographs released by al Shabaab – said the two had died during a strike on Kunyo Barrow town itself. SomaliMemo described the victims as “a two-year-old boy and a Quran school teacher.”

Mogadishu update tweeted four images it said had been released by al Shabaab, including one showing a woman and child reportedly injured in the attack. It also said the fatal victims were father and son.

When approached by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism for clarification, AFRICOM first said that it still assessed that no civilian harm had occurred as a result of this strike, stating: “US Africa Command is aware the article alleging civilian casualties resulting from the February 23, 2019 airstrikes in Kunyow Barrow, Awdeegle, and Janaale, Somalia.

“As with any allegation of civilian casualties we receive, U.S. Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties. If the information supporting the allegation is determined to be credible, USAFRICOM will then determine the next appropriate step. USAFRICOM complies with the law of armed conflict and takes all feasible precautions during the targeting process to minimize civilian casualties and other collateral damage.
At this time, we still assess no civilians were injured or killed in these airstrikes.”

In September 2019, TRT World Research Centre alleged that a woman was also killed that night in another US strike, in the vicinity of Janaale and Qoryoley villlages.

Each of the four confirmed US strikes on this date has been assigned a separate incident report by Airwars.

In autumn 2019, US investigative journalist Nick Turse obtained via FOIA a declassified document listing recent locally-alleged civilian harm from US actions, which AFRICOM was reviewing. The second entry notes for the date February 23rd 2019 that “[redacted source] alleges that U.S. airstrikes were responsible for civilian casualties… Outcome PENDING.”

In January 2020, Airwars submitted to AFRICOM a comprehensive dossier on this civilian casualty event, including a precise geolocate. Three months later in its first quarterly civilian casualty report, US Africa Command conceded the incident, noting that “AFRICOM received a follow-on allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After thorough review, several of the allegations were assessed to be substantiated. Regrettably, two (2) civilians were likely and unintentionally killed and three (3) injured as a result of the airstrike. It is assessed the deaths and injuries occurred due to the effects of U.S. munitions or secondary explosions caused by explosives stored by al-Shabaab at the location of the strike.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

  • Quranic teacher Adult male killed
  • Child of teacher 1 years old male 20 months old killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (1 child1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    3
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (13) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Graphic photograph of a 20-month old baby, killed in a reported US airstrike on Kunyo Barrow on February 24th 2019 (via Horn News)
  • Damage, reportedly at Kunyo Barrow, following a US airstrike on February 24th 2019 (via Horn News)
  • A father and child reportedly killed at Kunyo Barrow, February 23rd 2019, by a US airstrike (via Mareeg)
  • A woman and child reportedly injured at Kunyo Barrow, February 23rd 2019, by a US airstrike (Mareeg via al Shabaab)
  • Reported damage at Kunyo Barrow following a US airstrike on February 23rd 2019 (Image via Al Shabaab propaganda)
  • Reported damage at Kunyo Barrow following a US airstrike on February 23rd 2019 (Image via Al Shabaab propaganda)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

  • Wrapped body of a child victim of a reported US strike on Kunyo Barrow, Somalia on February 23rd 2019 (Image via al Shabaab propaganda release)
  • Reported damage at Kunyo Barrow following a lethal US airstrike on February 23rd 2019 (via Gundhig)
  • Reported damage at Kunyo Barrow following a lethal US airstrike on February 23rd 2019 (via Gundhig)
  • Reported damage at Kunyo Barrow following a lethal US airstrike on February 23rd 2019 (via Gundhig)

Geolocation notes (3) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in the vicinity of the village Kunya Barrow (حرمك), for which the coordinates are: 0.7928186, 43.3841839. Images published by Al Shabaab show damage to a residential area in the vicinity of 4 radio towers. Based on these images we think that the strike took place in this area: 0.798211, 43.385648.

  • Original photo published by Al Shabaab with the radio towers and trees marked

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

  • Location of these landmarks in a satellite image of Kunya Barrow, indicating the likely location of the strike impact in black

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

  • Direction in which the photo was likely taken

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Credible / Substantiated
    The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties regrettably occurred.
  • Given reason for civilian harm
    Killed by secondary explosion(s)
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    2
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    3
  • Stated location
    Vicinity of Kunyo Barrow
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • February 24, 2019, the command received allegations from online media sources claiming two (2) civilians were killed and two (2) civilians injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia, on February 23, 2019. The initial allegation claimed dozens were alleged to have been killed but only provided specific information regarding four alleged civilian casualties. AFRICOM received a follow-on allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, several of the allegations were assessed to be substantiated. Regrettably, two (2) civilians were likely and unintentionally killed and three (3) injured as a result of the airstrike.// Regarding the February 23, 2019 strike, we assess that it is likely that two civilians were regrettably and unintentionally killed and three were injured as a result of the airstrike that also killed two al-Shabaab terrorists who were the intended targets. “While we follow very precise and rigorous standards, in instances where we fail to meet our expectations, we will admit the mistake,” said Townsend. “Regrettably two civilians were killed and three others injured in a February 2019 airstrike. We have the highest respect for our Somali friends and we are deeply sorry this occurred.” On February 24, 2019, the command received allegations from online media sources claiming two (2) civilians were killed and two (2) civilians injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia, on February 23, 2019. An initial allegation claimed dozens were alleged to have been killed but only provided specific information regarding four alleged civilian casualties. AFRICOM received a follow-on allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After thorough review, several of the allegations were assessed to be substantiated. Regrettably, two (2) civilians were likely and unintentionally killed and three (3) injured as a result of the airstrike. It is assessed the deaths and injuries occurred due to the effects of U.S. munitions or secondary explosions caused by explosives stored by al-Shabaab at the location of the strike. The February 23, 2019, airstrike was designed to degrade the al-Shabaab terrorist group and the command’s assessment is that two terrorists, the intended targets, were also killed as a result of this airstrike. In adherence to established procedures, the command has notified the Federal Government of Somalia and appropriate U.S. authorities verifying the credibility of the allegations and the fact that two civilians were unintentionally killed and three were injured as a result of an airstrike.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In support of the Federal Government of Somalia's increased efforts to degrade al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted four airstrikes on February 23, 2019.

"Somali-led operations continue to place pressure on the al-Shabaab network, creating conditions for enhanced stability and security," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. "In addition to creating enhanced security, airstrikes help to disrupt al-Shabaab operations and the network while preventing future attacks by this terrorist group."

Two airstrikes on February 23 occurred in the vicinity of Kunyow Barrow, Somalia, which is approximately 250 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu. One airstrike occurred in the vicinity of Awdeegle, Somalia, which is approximately 50 kilometers west of Mogadishu. One airstrike occurred in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia, which is approximately 75 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.

Airstrikes such as these complement our Somali partners’ successes against al-Shabaab, and are one component of our combined efforts to protect the Somali people from terrorism. Somali security forces continue to effectively target al-Shabaab forces in order to increase the span of governance of the Federal Government of Somalia.

These four airstrikes eliminated checkpoints and facilities used by al-Shabaab to collect illegal taxes to fund terrorist activities and to oppress the innocent people of Somalia.

"Degrading various facilities and checkpoints impacts al-Shabaab’s ability to finance operations, recruit, and execute operations," said Olson. "The Federal Government of Somalia continues to place persistent pressure on the network."

At this time, it is assessed these airstrikes killed two terrorists.

At this time, it is assessed no civilians were injured or killed in these airstrikes.

U.S. Africa Command will continue to work with its partners to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in Somalia from AMISOM to the Federal Government of Somalia and its Member States. In support of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces will use all effective and appropriate methods to assist in the protection of the Somali people, including partnered military counter-terror operations with the Federal Government of Somalia, AMISOM and Somali National Army forces.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (1 child1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    3
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM139-C

Incident date

August 11, 2018

Location

Leego, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

2.71437, 44.50902 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Local reporters alleged that US and Somali forces had killed four civilians including a mother and child, during an operation in Leego.

Caasimada alleged that the civilians were killed around midnight, by Somali troops accompanied by ‘white US officers’, and claimed that the attacking forces had flown there from a military base to the north. An accompanying image used on social media was clearly unrelated to the event.

A declassified AFRICOM civilian casualty assessment report referenced the alleged deaths of four civilians at the hands of partner forces (possibly alongside US personnel) “on the outskirts of Leego village”.

One of the victims was confirmed by AFRICOM to be a woman – though it nevertheless classed her as a belligerent.

The official report – obtained by US investigative reporter Nick Turse in early 2019 – noted that “Two allegations of CIVCAS were determined. Somalimemo.net alleged that Somali forces, which received orders from the U.S., killed at least four people on the outskirts of Leego Village. Caasimada.net posted a second allegation [about the same event], claiming Somali Special Forces, backed by U.S. troops, killed four civilians, including a woman and her child.”

The accompanying casualty assessment determined that any casualties were caused by ‘partner forces’ – though conceded that a woman was killed in the incident.

“NOT/NOT CREDIBLE:

“Intelligence garnered from recovered items corroborated that numerous vehicle occupants were associated with al- Shabaab personalities. Intel assesses with high confidence that the cargo truck engaged by partnered forces was driven by al-Shabaaab personnel who inadvertently encountered the partner forces. Reporting indicates other al-Shabaab within the area fled and maneuvred around partnered forces once their location was identified Intelligence further corroborates that al-Shabaab members engaged first despite the employment of the escalation of force by partnered forces.

“Following the engagement, partnered forces did not find the deceased body of a child. To the contrary, partnered forces rescued an uninjured child from the cargo truck and turned him over to local villagers. All available information conclusively indicates that all of the deceased individuals, including the woman, were occupants of the vehicle that fired on partnered forces. Available information also conclusively indicates that partnered forces responded appropriately in self-defence.”

The assumed target of this event was al Shabaab.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (1 child1 woman)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected attacker
    Somalia Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–4

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the outskirts of the village of Leego. The generic coordinates for the village of Leego are: 2.71437, 44.50902. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Other
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Sep 4, 2018
  • Two allegations of CIVCAS were determined. Somalimemo.net alleged that Somali forces, which received orders from the U.S., killed at least four people on the outskirts of Leego Village. Caasimada.net posted a second allegation [about the same event], claiming Somali Special Forces, backed by U.S. troops, killed four civilians, including a woman and her child. NOT/NOT CREDIBLE: Intelligence garnered from recovered items corroborated that numerous vehicle occupants were associated with al- Shabaab personalities. Intel assesses with high confidence that the cargo truck engaged by partnered forces was driven by al-Shabaaab personnel who inadvertently encountered the partner forces. Reporting indicates other al-Shabaab within the area fled and maneuvred around partnered forces once their location was identified Intelligence further corroborates that al-Shabaab members engaged first despite the employment of the escalation of force by partnered forces. Following the engagement, partnered forces did not find the deceased body of a child. To the contrary, partnered forces rescued an uninjured child from the cargo truck and turned him over to local villagers. All available information conclusively indicates that all of the deceased individuals, including the woman, were occupants of the vehicle that fired on partnered forces. Available information also conclusively indicates that partnered forces responded appropriately in self-defence.

Somalia Military Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (1 child1 woman)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected attacker
    Somalia Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–4

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM138-C

Incident date

August 2, 2018

Location

Gobanle (Gobaale), Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

3.123005, 44.775008 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Three civilians were reportedly killed in a US strike in Gobanle village, according to Amnesty International – though US Africa Command claimed that only four “terrorists” were killed.

However an AFRICOM declassified assessment of the event published in July 2019 indicated that the US itself was unaware of the identities of those in the vehicle – most likely having used pattern of life before attacking.

A BBC Somalia report on the same day as the strike said locals had said civilians were among those killed in the targeted vehicle. Mogadishu Update tweeted the following: “BREAKING: At least three civilians including well-known businessman identified as Abdi Samad Hassan and one of #Hormuud telecommunication company Engineers killed in an Air strike carried out suspected #US drones near Goobaale village in #Somalia’s L/Shabelle region.”

In March 2019 Amnesty International released a report on civilian harm in Somalia that detailed this event.

The three civilians were driving in a rural area 1km outside of Gonable village when the strike hit their vehicle. Some of the eyewitnesses that Amnesty spoke to said that there was one al Shabaab member in the vehicle that may have been the target of the strike. Amnesty identified the three civilian fatalities by name and age, as listed below.

A senior Lower Shabelle official also confirmed to Amnesty that three civilians were killed in an air strike near Gobanle. “I don’t know why they were hit, but maybe it was a mistake. The US are making a lot of mistakes in this region,” he said.

One witness eyewitness, Ibrahim, described the strike to Amnesty: “When they were away from us we saw a plane circling over them and they went under a tree” Ibrahim, a witness said. The aircraft disappeared from sight but returned shortly afterwards. The vehicle was then hit by an air strike, destroying it completely. “When the plane left they drove away in the vehicle, but the plane came back and hit them when they were in the open. We went there and took them. The four of them died there,”

In a statement, US Africa Command said that they conducted a strike on this day 74 miles northwest of Mogadishu, that killed four “terrorists”. They assessed that no civilian casualties had resulted from the strike.

Witnesses to the attack told Amnesty International that the three civilian victims were not armed and were not members of Al-Shabaab. “They had a shovel and a hammer but no weapons,” one witness said.

In response to Amnesty’s allegations of civilian harm, US Africa Command said:

“AFRICOM conducted a precision-guided strike that corresponds to the time and location alleged, targeting individuals who were members of al-Shabaab. The pro-al-Shabaab media outlet, Somaliamemo.net alleged CIVCAS shortly after the event. AFRICOM conducted a CIVCAS allegation assessment and determined that the allegation was not credible based on the unreliability of the source and the fact that the individuals targeted were members of al-Shabaab.”

Separately, US investigative reporter Nick Turse obtained a declassified AFRICOM assessment of the event, also published in July 2019. This strongly indicated that the US did not in fact know the identities of three of those killed in the vehicle, noting only that “Several circumstantial factors indicate that the three adult males in the vehicle were associated with al-Shabaab: The three individuals alleged to be civilians were located in a known al-Shabaab stronghold and accompanying a known al-Shabaab leader and no well digging activity or equipment was observed during target development.”

In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM  confirmed it had struck on this date what it says was an “al Shabaab named objective”, in the vicinity of Gobanle, Somalia.

The incident occured in the afternoon.

  • Abdisamad Sheikh Issack Mohamed 35 years old male worked for Hormuud Telecommunications Company killed
  • Adan Hassan Yarow (aka “Adan Dubbe”) 58 years old male married, father of nine killed
  • Abdi Nurow Adan 58 years old male father of nine killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (5) [ collapse]

  • Cartoonist Mike Dawson featured the August 2nd event in a graphic novella for Amnesty International

Geolocation notes

Amnesty investigation reports that the strike targeted a vehicle at 1 kilometer east of the village of Gobanle (or Gobaale). The coordinates for the village of Gobanle are: 3.12222, 44.76507; and the coordinates for the area 1 kilometer east of the village are: 3.123005, 44.775008.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Other
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • Stated location
    IVO Gobanie
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Aug 28, 2018
  • The initial allegation of CIVCAS was identified in a pro al- Shabaab news website, Somaliamemo.net. The allegation indicated that the three adult males in the vehicle with the objective were civilians. Further, it identified these individuals by name alleging that one was a noted local businessman with the Hormuud Telecom Company. The online article indicated that the other two adult males were well diggers and were engaged in digging a well. NOT/NOT CREDIBLE: Intelligence sources identified two of the four adult males in the vehicle were assessed as armed. The lethal strike was conducted in open, low collateral damage terrain while the four adult males were traveling in a vehicle. None of the individuals observed during target development were observed digging a well as reported by Somaliamemo.net. Several circumstantial factors indicate that the three adult males in the vehicle were associated with al-Shabaab: The three individuals alleged to be civilians were located in a known ai-Shabaab stronghold and accompanying a known al-Shabaab leader and no well digging activity or equipment was observed during target development.

Unknown

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab militants approximately 74 miles northwest of Mogadishu, Somalia, on August 2, killing four (4) terrorists.

We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike.

U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect U.S. citizens and to disable terrorist threats. This includes partnering with AMISOM and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) in combined counterterrorism operations and targeting terrorists, their training camps, and their safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM051-C

Incident date

April 11, 2016

Location

1.2 km east of Yontoy, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

-0.117661, 42.575190 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Three civilians were reportedly killed in a US drone strike in Lower Juba.

The attack began late on April 11 and continued into the small hour of April 12, Lt Col Michelle Baldanza of AFRICOM later said in a statement. The camp “posed an imminent threat to US personnel,” she said.

Somali officials allege the village was being used as a staging post for al Shabaab attacks. One unnamed “high-ranking security official” told Voice of America the al Shabaab fighters were seen making “some movements” before the drone attack started.

There were however reports of civilian casualties, with both a local Somali journalist and Voice of America’s Somali service reporting that the attacks killed eight people. Five of the dead were al Shabaab and three were civilians, according to witnesses and Somali officials. They said the strike hit the al Shabaab-controlled village of Yontyo in Lower Juba, 24km north of Kismayo.

There were reports in the week following the attack that civilians were “fleeing towards the countryside and other towns in lower Jubba region of southern Somalia for their safety, leaving behind their herds of goats dead in the airstrikes”.

In an email to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2016, Lt Col Baldanza denied civilians were killed: “We have no reports of civilian casualties from these strikes. We have significant mitigation measures in place during the conduct of operations to reduce the potential risks of collateral damage and civilian casualties.”

However, a declassified AFRICOM civilian harm review for Somalia, obtained by US investigative reporter Nick Turse in July 2019, found that the US military command was both alerted to the event and had assessed for civilian harm in July 2018. This insisted that “The targeted group was in an open area. displaying weapons, and not otherwise located in a place or group that would include civilians.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (1 woman)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–15

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • Tweet reporting on the incident
  • The same source reporting civilian harm

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strikes targeted the area 1.2 kilometers east of the village of Yontoy, north of Kismayo. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The coordinates for the area 1.2 kilometers east of the village Yontoy are: -0.117661, 42.575190.

  • 1.2 kilometers area around the village Yontoy, marked in red

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Insufficient evidence of civilian harm
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Jul 16, 2018
  • [Statement obtained via FOIA by Nick Turse in July 2019] On 25JUN18, New America reporter, David Sterman, contacted USAFRICOM PAO to inquire about a CIVCAS allegation concerning a strike IVO Yoontoy, Somalia on 11APR16. The allegation was featured in a Voice of America (VOA) news report on 12APR16 and in Chinese media reporting on 13APR16. Voice of America ("VOA") stated that "Witnesses and officials told VOA's Somali service that five militants and three civilians were killed in the airstrikes, which hit the al- Shabaab controlled village of Yontoy in Somalia's Lower Juba region." Xinhua (Chinese Media) claimed that recent U.S. airstrikes near Kismayo, Somalia resulted in the deaths of eight people. Their source, an unnamed local resident, said the death toll included five al-Shabaab militants and three civilians, one of whom was claimed to be a woman. N0T/NOT CREDIBLE: This incident occurred prior to the USAFRICOM CIVCAS SOP implementation; however, (USAFRICOM CCDR) was aware of the CIVCAS allegation and no further action was recommended or directed. 15 persons were observed at a known al-Shabaab bed-down location, during the day of the operation. The engagements occurred over 1.2 km to the east of the closest town and on the opposite side of a river. The targeted group was in an open area, displaying weapons, and not otherwise located in a place or group that would include civilians. The strike occurred in the context of an assisted partner force operation in the area, where partner forces came under fire from hostile forces.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In the late evening of 11 April and early morning of April 12 the US conducted self-defense fires against an al Shabaab camp in southern‎ Somalia which posed an imminent threat to US personnel.US forces are working closely with partner forces to combat al‎ Shabaab in Somalia. Al Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and continues to use its safe havens throughout Somalia to plot attacks against US citizens and interests in East Africa, as well as against our international partners in the region.The US is committed to supporting Somali and [Amisom] forces as they combat al Shabaab and work to bring stability to the region.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (1 woman)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–15

Sources (8) [ collapse]