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
Belligerent Assessment
Strike Status
Strike Type

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

USSOM123-C

Incident date

April 1, 2018

Location

Ceel Buur, Galmudug, Somalia

Geolocation

4.621699, 46.454628 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Up to four civilians, including one child and one woman, were killed along with up to five al Shabaab fighters as a US airstrike struck El Burr, Galmudug, international media reported. Following a year of denials, US Africa Command admitted in April 2019 that civilians had in fact died in the event – and that the US Congress had been misled.

The event marked the first time in twelve years of military actions in Somalia that AFRICOM had publicly conceded civilian harm.

US Africa Command’s initial statement asserted that “U.S. Forces conducted an airstrike against Al-Shabaab militants near El Burr, Somalia, the afternoon of April 1, killing five (5) terrorists and destroying one (1) vehicle. We assess no civilians were killed in this airstrike.”

However, civilian harm allegations were later confirmed by US Africa Command following sharp questioning by Congress, and a major report by Amnesty International alleging civilian harm from US actions in Somalia. Its Director of Operations told reporters in 2019 that elements of AFRICOM had in fact  known of the civilian harm for a year: “The command received an allegation of civilian casualties at the time, but determined that it was not credible.

“About a week later, an ‘AFRICOM subordinate unit conducting counterterrorism operation in Somalia’ received new information, Olson said, which prompted the team to open up its investigation. That investigation concluded that the strike 12 months ago had actually killed the woman and child along with four al-Shabab militants. AFRICOM said it was only informed of the new information, investigation, and discovery of civilian casualties last week, after the commander of AFRICOM, Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, launched an audit of all U.S. airstrikes in Somalia since 2017.”

As Defense Post noted: “The error was compounded when senior leaders said during congressional testimony that U.S. forces had caused zero civilian casualties in Africa. Africom commander General Thomas D. Waldhauser had ordered a review of airstrikes conducted in Somalia since 2017 “due to a recent increase in airstrikes and continued interest by Amnesty International and Congress on civilian casualties,” the release said.”

AFRICOM issued a public statement on April 5th 2019 which said: “On March 30, 2019, the command was notified about the results of a post-strike internal assessment conducted in April 2018 that found credible evidence of the two civilian casualties. Unfortunately, the finding was not properly reported to U.S. Africa Command headquarters.

“Because of the reporting error, U.S. Africa Command was not informed of the assessment’s conclusion-and subsequently the information was not reported to external authorities, such as the host nation and Congress. Consequently, on April 2, 2018, U.S. Africa Command stated in a press release based on an initial post-strike intelligence review the strike killed five al-Shabaab terrorists, and that the command assessed “no civilians were killed in this airstrike.” Unaware of the subsequent assessment and findings, senior leaders later stated during congressional testimony and media engagements that U.S. forces caused zero civilian casualties in Africa. U.S. Africa Command is committed to transparency in its reporting of civilian casualties. While believed to be an isolated occurrence, the reporting error is being addressed.”

Reporting at the time of the incident had included some mention of civilian casualties.

An al Shabaab statement reported by local media said two prominent local elders, Ali Hared and Yusuf Dhegay, were killed. VOA described Dhegay as a poet, but that “[Somali] Government officials said Dhegey used his poems to incite violence and help al-Shabab recruit.”

All Africa also reported the death of a woman, but it was unclear if she had been included in the al Shabaab statement. The news site however said the strike took place on April 2nd, not April 1st.

The New Arab said that pro-al Shabaab media outlets reported two civilian deaths, referencing senior commanders of the group. Sources in the area also told All Africa that a drone fired a missile which hit a convoy carrying civilians, but no additional details were given.

Two Somali intelligence officials meanwhile told AP that the strike hit a vehicle carrying senior al Shabaab officials and that the dead included a woman.

After reaching out for clarification, US Africa Command confirmed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2019 that a woman and a child were killed in the strike, as was initially reported by the BBC.

The strike, according to All Africa, took place in Da’ar, an al Shabaab controlled area around 20 kilometres from El Burr. El Burr is in the semi-autonomous region of Galmudug. In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM  again confirmed it had struck on this date what it says were “al Shabaab Fighters”, in the vicinity of El Burr, Somalia.

The incident occured in the afternoon.

  • Ali Hared Adult male killed
  • Yusuf Dhegay Adult male killed
  • Unnamed Adult female killed
  • Unnamed Child killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 4
  • (1 child1 woman2 men)
  • 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
    2–5

Sources (25) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on Somalia, March 26th 2019

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a convoy in Da’ar area, about 20 kilometers west of the town El Bur (or Ceel Buur). Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the strike. The coordinates for Ceel Buur are: 4.685184, 46.619229. The village located exactly 20 kilometers west of the town is called Dab Xarar, for which the coordinates are: 4.621699, 46.454628. This could refer to the Da’ar area mentioned in the reports.

  • The village Dab Xarar located 20 kilometers west of Ceel Buur/El Bur (radius of 20 kilometers marked in red)

    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 strike blast
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    2
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • Stated location
    Near el Burr, Somalia
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Aug 1, 2019
  • Apr 5, 2019
  • During a commander-directed review of airstrikes conducted in Somalia since 2017, U.S. Africa Command learned an April 1, 2018 airstrike killed two civilians. The commander, U.S. Africa Command directed the review due to a recent increase in airstrikes and continued interest by Amnesty International and Congress on civilian casualties. "Credibility, transparency, and accountability are fundamental to military operations," said U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command. "It is critically important that people understand we adhere to exacting standards and when we fall short, we acknowledge shortcomings and take appropriate action." The April 2018 airstrike was designed to degrade the al-Shabaab terrorist group near El Burr, Somalia. In the airstrike four al-Shabaab militants also were killed. The airstrike was not one of the allegations presented by Amnesty International in its March 2019 report. On March 30, 2019, the command was notified about the results of a post-strike internal assessment conducted in April 2018 that found credible evidence of the two civilian casualties. Unfortunately, the finding was not properly reported to U.S. Africa Command headquarters. Because of the reporting error, U.S. Africa Command was not informed of the assessment's conclusion-and subsequently the information was not reported to external authorities, such as the host nation and Congress. Consequently, on April 2, 2018, U.S. Africa Command stated in a press release based on an initial post-strike intelligence review the strike killed five al-Shabaab terrorists, and that the command assessed "no civilians were killed in this airstrike.” Unaware of the subsequent assessment and findings, senior leaders later stated during congressional testimony and media engagements that U.S. forces caused zero civilian casualties in Africa. U.S. Africa Command is committed to transparency in its reporting of civilian casualties. While believed to be an isolated occurrence, the reporting error is being addressed. The Federal Government of Somalia was notified of this newly learned information, and U.S. Africa Command remains in close coordination with our partners. U.S. Africa Command takes prudent measures to minimize civilian casualties and fully complies with the Law of Armed Conflict. The Command has processes in place to ensure the safety and protection of the local population remains a top priority. "Airstrike assessments are a critical and continuous component of operations," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. "Trust and credibility are central to our operations. If an innocent loss of life occurs, we are committed to being transparent and learning from this regrettable incident to prevent future occurrences." The command has executed 28 airstrikes in Somalia in 2019, compared to 47 in 2018 and 35 in 2017.

  • A declassified AFRICOM document earlier made the following determination: "Multiple CIVCAS allegations of a U.S. strike that took place on 1 April 2018. The time frame and geographic location coincide with a known strike, however, the number and type of casualties are inconsistent with confirmed BDA [Battle Damage Assessment]. NOT/NOT CREDIBLE: Intelligence sources indicate that all occupants of the vehicle were adult males. Two al-Shabaab mid- to high-level leaders were killed in the strike."

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

U.S. Conducts Airstrike in Support of the Federal Government of Somalia

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Forces conducted an airstrike against Al-Shabaab militants near El Burr, Somalia, the afternoon of April 1, killing five (5) terrorists and destroying one (1) vehicle.

We assess no civilians were 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
    2 – 4
  • (1 child1 woman2 men)
  • 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
    2–5

Sources (25) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM274-C

Incident date

February 2, 2020

Location

Jilib, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.494527, 42.777868 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

US Africa Command declared on the same day that it had conducted an airstrike “in the vicinity of Jilib” which it said had killed “one (1) terrorist.” However local reports said that one young woman was killed and two or three other women injured in the event in Jilib town, which AFRICOM later acknowledged.

According to AFRICOM’s original press release, “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike targeting an al-Shabaab terrorist in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, Feb. 2. Initial assessment concluded the airstrike killed one (1) terrorist. We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike.”

However the day after the attack, Somali reporter Mohamed Osman Ali tweeted: “Very sad to learn that an airstrike on Sunday evening killed my brother-in-law’s daughter, and injured two of his daughters and his mother who is also my aunt and my mother-in-law in Jilib town, 380 KM south of Mogadishu. surprised to those saying no civilian casualties!”.

Naming three victims on February 4th, Radio Morad said that one civilian woman had been killed and two others injured: “#AFRICOM claimed killing 1 #AlShabaab fighter & no civilians harmed. But locals reporting 3 civilian casualties, all women.”

According to the Somali Guardian, “Residents told Somali media outlets that a US drone carried out the strike on Monday night which fired several missiles to a residential area inside Jilib town. Several missiles hit a civilian home killing a 17-year-old mentally ill girl, wounding her mother and younger sister who were then rushed to a hospital.”

According to the Defence Post, an AFRICOM official was informed by a relative of the civilian deaths prior to its announcement of no harm: “Abdi said his family was unable to obtain photo evidence of the incident because Shabaab does not allow smartphones in its territory, but confirmed the identity of his relatives in photos posted on Twitter, and provided The Defense Post with other family photos for comparison. Abdi is not sure who took the photos that were posted online, but the experienced journalist said it may have been members of al-Shabaab. He said it was possible the strike may have been targeting Shabaab militants outside the house because the group fully controls Jilib, about 110 km north of Kismayo in Somalia’s Middle Juba region.

“Abdi said he approached an American military officer from AFRICOM’s communications office during a conference in Mogadishu and detailed his story hours before the command released a statement assessing that no civilians were killed. ‘He only said sorry about your relatives,’ Abdi told The Defense Post. ‘He did not tell me anything further, or ask me. He said we try our best not to damage or hit civilian areas,’ he recalled. Ismael Mukhtar Omar, the Somalia Federal Government’s official spokesperson, corroborated Abdi’s account, saying he was present for the conversation with the AFRICOM officer.”

In April 2020, Amnesty International reported that 18-year-old Nurto Kusow Omar Abukar had been killed in the airstrike after she was struck in the head by a heavy metal fragment. The strike injured Nurto’s younger sisters. Fatuma (12) was struck in the clavicle and chest, and remains in the hospital as of April 2020. 7-year-old Adey was hit in the ear. The sister’s grandmother Khadija Mohamed Gedow (around 70 years old) was hit in the knee and is still unable to walk.

According to a weapon expert’s analysis of photographs of the munitions used, it was “likely a US GBU-69/B Small Glide Munition with a 16-kilogramme warhead” that hit the family’s house around 8pm on February 2nd. The report states that “the family of five, who lived in the home, had just sat down for dinner after the Isha prayer, about 8pm, when at least one munition struck their residence. The cariish home, made of wood, sticks and mud, was significantly damaged in the blast.”

The girls’ father, Kusow Omar Abukar (50) was also present in the house during the airstrike, but made it out without injuries. He told Amnesty: “I never imagined it was going to hit us. I suddenly heard a huge sound. It felt like our house had collapsed. There was a huge sound and a bright flash and a huge smoke. The sand and the smoke filled my eyes.” Mr. Omar Akubar is a farmer and, according to his relatives, not a member of Al Shabaab.

According to the report, “prior to the strike, witnesses heard the sound of an aircraft above Jilib, but reported that there was no sign of fighting in the area at that time.”

According to Amnesty International, neither the US or Somalian authorities have reached out to the Kusow family for compensations or medical assistance.

Responding to the Amnesty report, US Air Force Major Karl Wiest told the Defense Post on April 1st that an assessment of the incident is ongoing: “Our in-depth post-strike analysis relies on intelligence methods that are not available to non-military organizations, including Amnesty International.”

Al Jazeera interviewed Kusaw Omar Abukar via telephone, revealing more details about the incident. Abukar confirmed that his daughter Nurto had been disabled and that his surviving daughter Fadumo’s situation remained critical, stating that the girl had undergone two surgeries and is in desperate need of further medical assistance. “We don’t have good hospitals here. And we can’t afford to take her anywhere else”, her father told Al Jazeera.

Marine Corps Times reported that, following the Amnesty report, AFRICOM officials “said they intend to issue a new quarterly report on the status of ongoing civilian casualty allegations and assessments starting at the end of April [2020].”

Human Rights Watch published a detailed investigation into the incident saying: ” Human Rights Watch investigations indicate that 1 civilian, a woman, was killed, and 3 others were injured, including 2 girls.”

The NGO also interviewed the victims: “Nurto’s aunt, who reached the family’s home the following morning, recounted what family members told her: ‘Nurto was standing along the gate, and my mum was also near the gate. The airstrike hit the ground, the pieces went up and hit Nurto in the head and killed her.’

Nurto’s and the two girls’ father, Kusow Omar Abukar, told a relative that he heard a huge sound and then couldn’t see anything for about 30 minutes, just a lot of smoke and dust. He said he could not understand what was happening to him. He told the relative, ‘I was so worried about my daughters but couldn’t see them.'”

In its second quarterly civilian casualty report, published on July 28th 2020, AFRICOM accepted responsibility for civilian harm in this event: “Between Feb. 3 and June 17, 2020 USAFRICOM received eight total allegations as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, on February 2, 2020. After a thorough assessment into the facts and circumstances following the Feb. 2, 2020 airstrike, USAFRICOM substantiates the death of one (1) civilian and three (3) injured.”

The incident occured at approximately 8:00 pm local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (4)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 child)
  • 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
    1

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (11) [ collapse]

  • Apparent missile fragment from a February 2nd 2020 strike on Jilib (via Radio Morad)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The body of 18 year old Nurto Kusow, reportedly killed in a US strike on Jilib on February 2nd 2020 (via Radio Morad).
  • 12-year-old Fatima Kusow, reportedly injured in a US strike on Jilib on February 2nd 2020 (via Radio Morad).
  • 70 year old Khadija Mohamed, reportedly injured in a US strike on Jilib on February 2nd 2020 (via Radio Morad)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the town of Jilib, for which the coordinates are: 0.494527, 42.777868.

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
    No reason given
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    1
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    3
  • Stated location
    in the vicinity of Jilib
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Jul 28, 2020
  • February 3, 2020 (Substantiated) Between Feb. 3 and June 17, 2020 USAFRICOM received eight total allegations as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, on February 2, 2020. After a thorough assessment into the facts and circumstances following the Feb. 2, 2020 airstrike, USAFRICOM substantiates the death of one (1) civilian and three (3) injured.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike targeting an al-Shabaab terrorist in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, Feb. 2.
"Al-Shabaab is an al-Qaeda affiliate seeking to further its jihadist agenda," said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations, U.S. Africa Command. "Removal of even one terrorist makes the region and the U.S. safer. Continuous pressure on the network is necessary to prevent al-Shabaab from building a safe haven and exporting violence."
Initial assessment concluded the airstrike killed one (1) terrorist.
We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike.
U.S. Africa Command will continue to work with its partners to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in Somalia 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 counterterrorism operations with the Federal Government of Somalia and Somali National Army forces.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 child)
  • 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
    1

Sources (20) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM312-C

Incident date

July 29, 2020

Location

جيليب, Jilib, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.494527, 42.777868 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

The US military reported on the same day that it had conducted an airstrike against al Shabaab fighters in the town of Jilib. However it was locally claimed that the attack had killed three young children, whose bodies were shown on social media.

In a press release published on the evening of the attack, AFRICOM noted: “The command’s initial assessment concluded this airstrike killed one (1) terrorist and wounded one (1) terrorist. An al-Shabaab compound was destroyed in the airstrike.”

The release also noted that “U.S. Africa Command is aware of reports alleging civilian casualties resulting from this airstrike. At this time, U.S. Africa Command currently assesses no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike.”

However al Shabaab released images which it said were taken at the scene of the US strike, showing the bodies of three young boys and a destroyed structure. Morad news named the dead as Abukar Ahmad, 8 years old; Abdisamad Hussain, aged 12; and Abdullahi Mohamad, aged 13.

AllBalcad said: “The bombing, which took place at around 2pm, featured pro-al-Shabaab media showing the bodies of three children and the destruction of a house. The children were said to be between the ages of 8 and 13 and Alshabab did not say who else was injured in the bombing.”

Mareeg reported: “But the strike has killed at least 3 children under the age of 13, and destroyed their wooden house in the town.

The children were playing outside their home when they were struck by a heavy metal fragment from the munition and then, all died on scene, a witness, who asked to be anonymous said.”

Halgan Media and other sources said it was a drone strike.

In it fourth quarter civilian casualty assessment AFRIOM said: “After review, the reports were assessed as unsubstantiated. Contrary to the reports stating the airstrike targeted a residence killing three children, the airstrike was executed on July 29, 2020 against two al-Shabaab members on a known al-Shabaab compound used as a senior al-Shabaab leadership meeting place. U.S. intelligence confirmed that the compound was only accessible to al-Shabaab members, and the casualties of the strike were al-Shabaab members. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action. One source also used one photo that was previously published in 2015.”

Airwars found that one picture used by Goobjoog had indeed been used before.

The incident occured at approximately 2:00 pm local time.

  • Abukar Ahmad 8 years old male killed
  • Abdisamad Hussain 12 years old male killed
  • Abdullahi Mohamad 13 years old male killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 children)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in East Africa
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (19) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (13) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

  • 'The United States says a bombing in Jilib has killed a number of al-Shabab members, wounded others and destroyed a military base. Al Shabaab has denied the allegations, saying three children were killed in the shelling. Expect their names.'
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Picture of alleged victim of US airstrike on Jilib on July 29h, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Picture of alleged victim of US airstrike on Jilib on July 29h, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Picture of alleged victim of US airstrike on Jilib on July 29h, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Picture of alleged victim of US airstrike on Jilib on July 29h, 2020 (via Hon Siciid Ibnu dhakhtar)
  • Aftermath of alleged US airstrike on Jilib on July 29h, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • Aftermath of alleged US airstrike on Jilib on July 29h, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • Aftermath of alleged US airstrike on Jilib on July 29h, 2020 (via Somali Memo)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the town of Jilib, for which the generic coordinates are: 0.494527, 42.777868. Due to limited satellite imagery and information 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
  • Nov 6, 2020
  • July 29, 2020 (Unsubstantiated) USAFRICOM received three (3) reports from online media sources and a social media account claiming up to three (3) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, on July 29, 2020. After review, the reports were assessed as unsubstantiated. Contrary to the reports stating the airstrike targeted a residence killing three children, the airstrike was executed on July 29, 2020 against two al-Shabaab members on a known al-Shabaab compound used as a senior al-Shabaab leadership meeting place. U.S. intelligence confirmed that the compound was only accessible to al-Shabaab members, and the casualties of the strike were al-Shabaab members. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action. One source also used one photo that was previously published in 2015.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab terrorists in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, July 29.

“U.S. Africa Command continues to assist the Federal Government of Somalia in disrupting al-Shabaab plans for destruction,” said U.S. Air Force Col Chris Karns, director of public affairs, AFRICOM. “We remain committed to supporting our partners in our mutual fight against violent extremism.”

The command's initial assessment concluded this airstrike killed one (1) terrorist and wounded one (1) terrorist. An al-Shabaab compound was destroyed in the airstrike.

U.S. Africa Command is aware of reports alleging civilian casualties resulting from this airstrike. At this time, U.S. Africa Command currently assesses no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike.

As with any allegation of civilian casualties we receive, U.S. Africa Command reviews reasonably available information it has about the incident. U.S. Africa Command complies with the law of armed conflict and takes all feasible precautions to minimize risk to civilians.

In support of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces will use a range of effective and appropriate methods to assist in the protection of the Somali people. Together with partner and allied forces, U.S. Africa Command works on a daily basis to improve security conditions to enhance governance and economic development while preventing al-Shabaab's desire to expand their reach and further export violence.

U.S. Africa Command continues to work with its Somali partners to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in Somalia to the Federal Government of Somalia and its Member States.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 children)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in East Africa
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (19) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM237-C

Incident date

July 3, 2019

Location

Iskushuban or Mareero, Bari, Somalia

Geolocation

10.170363, 49.847404 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Province/governorate level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Province/governorate

Airwars assessment

According to a local source, heavy fighting near the port of Bari in Puntland killed two people and injured five others, including civilians. AFRICOM later declared that “no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.”

Radio Shabelle initially said that an airstrike by an unknown party had contributed to the violence – though did not blame it directly for the casualties.

“It is not clear what led to the shelling, and it is not yet known who carried out the airstrike. There was no immediate comment from the Puntland government regarding the shelling,” noted Radio Shabelle.

“There was fighting for several hours between Puntland forces and a militia guarding a migrant group operating there. Reports indicate that Puntland forces with armored vehicles attacked the militants who were based in the Marero area of ​​Bari region.

“At least two people were killed in the fighting, while five others were wounded, including civilians.”

Halgan Media – when tweeting a link to the Radio Shabelle story – claimed the strike on a location it gave as Iskashubun – had been conducted by US forces.

However in April 2020 US Africa Command explicitly denied responsibility, noting: “January 21, 2020, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming two (2) civilians were killed and five (5) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Iskashubun, Somalia, on July 3, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–5
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1–5

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident gave conflicting accounts on the location where civilians were killed. Radio Shabelle reported that various places in Bari, northern Puntland, were bombed. There was heavy fighting in the Mareero area, the outskirts of the port town Bossaso, for which the coordinates are: 11.33052, 49.29675. At the same time it said that shelling took place in Iskushuban district. Halgan Media, only pointed to the town of Iskushuban as the location of a strike. The coordinates for the town of Iskushuban are: 10.28178, 50.23009. It is unclear where in Bari the civilians were killed and injured. The generic coordinates for the Bari region are: 10.170363, 49.847404. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • Bossaso, Mareero and Iskushuban in the Bari region (borders of Bari marked in red)

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected 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
    No Coalition strikes were conducted in the geographical area
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • January 21, 2020, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming two (2) civilians were killed and five (5) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Iskashubun, Somalia, on July 3, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.

Original strike reports

Unknown
  • English
    /
    Original

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–5
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Other
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1–5

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM099-C

Incident date

November 10–11, 2017

Location

2km north of Baasra, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

2.329050, 45.265357 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

US forces carried out a strike against al Shabaab at approximately 8pm local Somalia time killing “several” fighters, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said. It was also alleged by local officials that three civilians had died.

The strike hit the Lower Shabelle region. A Somali military official told Voice of America the strike, which they said was carried out by a drone, hit fighters in the region’s Basra village, located 30 kilometres north of Mogadishu.

A local Somali official said that three civilians had been killed in the strike, though the spokesperson for the security ministry dismissed the allegation as al Shabaab propaganda, Voice of America reported. An AFRICOM spokesperson later told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that this allegation had been assessed by them to be non credible.

AFRICOM officials said at least 13 fighters were killed in this attack. This and the four additional strikes between November 9th and November 12th killed “more than 40 terrorists,” a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters on November 13th. He did not say how many people were killed in which of the five strikes, “for operational reasons,” an AFRICOM spokesperson told the Bureau on November 15th 2017.

In July 2019, US investigative reporter Nick Turse obtained a FOIA response from AFRICOM which offered significant detail on the civilian casualty assessment (see below). Deeming the attack ‘NOT CREDIBLE’, the assessment claimed that “The targeted group was maneuvring, and openly displaying weapons, in an area approximately 2.5km north of the closest town, Basra.”

Amnesty International has also examined this case, noting the following in March 2019: “On 10 November 2017, the US conducted at least three air strikes in and around Baladul-Rahma and Geeshaan. In an email to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, AFRICOM confirmed it conducted a strike in the Lower Shabelle region. It did not provide details of casualties “for operational reasons”, however news reports at the time indicate three civilians were amongst those killed. According to records obtained
by Amnesty International, a total of 10 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, three Griffin missiles, and two GBU-69/Bs were fired by the US Air Force in Somalia between 10-17 November 2017.”

A senior Amnesty researcher later told Airwars that “The info on the Nov 10/11 strikes did come from interviews with local villagers, and it should line up both with the Bureau’s data and a lot of other news reporting – a fairly major operation happened in the general ‘Basra’ area at that time, but we weren’t able to name exactly which civilians died from air strikes and which died from ground ops.”

In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM confirmed it had struck what it says were al Shabaab fighters, north of Baasra, on this date.

The incident occured at approximately 8:00 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    10–13

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • CGTN Africa Live report on US strikes in Somalia, November 13th 2017

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place 2 kilometers north of the village Baasra. The coordinates for this area are: 2.329050, 45.265357. Amnesty reported that the US ‘conducted at least three airstrikes in and around Baladul Rahma and Geeshaan’ on this date. These two villages are within very near vicinity of Baasra: the coordinates for Baladul Rahma are: 2.296128, 45.264368; the coordinates for Geeshaan are: 2.297905, 45.273261.

  • The villages Baasra, Baladul Rahma and Geeshaan, and the area 2 km north of Baasra

    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
  • Stated location
    2.5km north of Basra
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Jul 1, 2019
  • [FOIA assessment obtained by US investigative reporter Nick Turse] On 25 JUN 18, New America reporter, David Sterman, contacted USAFRICQM PAO to inquire about a CIVCAS allegation concerning a strike IVO Basra, Somalia on 10NQV17. The allegation was featured in a single Voice of America (VOA) news report on 15NOV17. Voice of America indicated that "...A local official told VOA that three civilians were among at least 13 people killed on Saturday when drone-fired missiles targeted militants in the Basra village..." but that "...a Security Ministry spokesman denied the reported civilians death, dismissing it as al-Shabaab propaganda." NOT/NOT CREDIBLE: The targeted group was maneuvering, and openly displaying weapons, in an open area approximately 2.5 km north of the closest town, Basra, Somalia. The targeted group was observed massing approximately 2 km from the friendly force location. The strike occurred in the context of an assisted, partner force operation in the area where partner forces came under fire from hostile forces over a period of six hours. USAFRICOM is only aware of the allegations arising in one media report/allegation, and cite only one, unnamed villager. The VOA article itself indicates the Somali government Security Ministry separately assessed no civilians were killed.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

Via email:

"U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Somalia against al-Shabaab on Friday, Nov. 10 at approximately 8 p.m. local Somalia time, killing several militants. The operation occurred in the Lower Shabelle Region of Somalia, about 20 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    10–13

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM293-C

Incident date

March 10, 2020

Location

Near Janaale, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.80953, 44.69345 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Between four and six civilians were allegedly killed by a US airstrike near Janaale.

Morad News, reportedly close to Al Shabaab, tweeted: “US drone strike kills 4 civilians after bombing a minibus near Janaale town. 2 of the victims r members of a well known family in Mogadishu. An elderly man & driver are among the victims. GRAPHIC photos from scene of the drone strike published.”

Halgan Media wrote: “Many civilians where killed today in a US drone strike in Somalia. The Americans are more than likely to claim responsibility for the strike within the next 48 hours and I’m more than certain the victims, in this case which are women and children will be labeled as Terrorists.”

AFRICOM officially declared the strike, saying the victims were members of Al Shabaab: “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab terrorists in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia, Mar. 10. The command’s initial assessment concluded this airstrike killed five (5) terrorists. We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike.”

On the allegations of civilian harm it added: “While we currently assess that this airstrike injured no civilians, we are aware of social media reports alleging civilian casualties resulting from this strike. U.S. Africa Command complies with the law of armed conflict and takes all feasible precautions during the targeting process to minimize civilian casualties and other collateral damage. As with any allegation of civilian casualties, U.S. Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties, and take appropriate action based on the outcome of this review.”

According to Anadolu, “the U.S. African Command airstrike in the town of Janale in the lower Shabelle region killed at least six unarmed civilians who were traveling to the capital Mogadishu, Mahad Dhoore, a lawmaker from the Southwest state, told local media on Thursday.”

Al Jazeera added: “The victims were civilians travelling in a minibus heading to the capital Mogadishu, Abdullahi Abdirahman Ali, who lost his father in the air strike, said.
‘The Americans are lying. They killed my elderly father. He is 70 years old and can barely move. He can’t walk without the help of a walking stick. He is not al-Shabab,’ Abdullahi told Al Jazeera.

‘They killed these civilians because they know no one will take action against them,’ he added, anger palpable in his voice. One of the other victims was a 13-year-old boy, relatives said. Photos posted online show some of the bodies burned beyond recognition and the wreckage of a blood-soaked vehicle.

‘The minibus was going to Mogadishu. If the Americans suspected anything, they could have waited for them there. For them it is easier to kill civilians than to question them,’ Abdullahi added.”

The Intercept published a detailed investigation of the incident saying: “But Farhan Mahmoud Mohammed, a resident of Janaale who spoke to The Intercept by phone last Friday, told a different story.

Mohammed’s 13-year-old son Abdi Farhan Mahmoud was on his way to school when a U.S. missile struck a mini-bus taxi he was riding in. Mahmoud was decapitated in the strike, his father said. He could hardly bear to look at the boy’s charred face.

Another passenger in the minibus, 70-year-old Abdirahman Ali Waadhoor, was also killed in the attack, according to his son Abdullahi Abdirahman Ali. ‘My father is a disabled man. He never had a problem with anyone.’ said Ali, who lives in London and saw pictures of his father’s corpse on his phone. Asked how he felt when he saw the images, Ali replied: ‘That’s not my father. It’s only meat. Brown meat.'”

Human Rights Watch later received information about the victims and “found that at least 6 people were killed in the strike, including 3 men over age 55 and a 13-year-old boy, who were on their way home to Mogadishu and nearby Elasha Biyaha. No evidence was found of any links to Al-Shabab.

Human Rights Watch received unconfirmed information that two Al-Shabab fighters may have boarded the minibus in or near Ugunji. Their presence may have been the basis for the US strike against the bus. The attack may have been unlawfully disproportionate, depending on the military importance of the alleged Al-Shabab fighters.”

In its civilian casualty assessment third quarter report AFRICOM said the incident was currently under review. In the following report it said: “On May 8, 2020, USAFRICOM closed this report as unsubstantiated. USAFRICOM received a new report of this incident from a NGO on May 15, 2020, claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians. USAFRICOM received a duplicate report of this incident from an online media source on June 17, 2020, claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians. USAFRICOM received six (6) duplicate reports of this incident via the USAFRICOM CIVCAS website on July 28 and 30 2020, claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians. USAFRICOM has reopened this case and our assessment is ongoing.”

In another civilian casualty report AFRICOM said the claims of civilian harm were  unsubstantiated: “The assessment concluded that the U.S. airstrike that occurred March 10, 2020 in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia targeted a vehicle containing five (5) al-Shabaab members after the vehicle departed an al-Shabaab compound. The airstrike occurred in open terrain and the effects of the strike were limited to the vehicle. Contrary to some reports, the vehicle was not traveling in the direction of Mogadishu. The source of the initial March 10, 2020 report is a known al-Shabaab propaganda outlet and their report contained a recirculated photograph taken in 2019, before the airstrike occurred. This photograph appears to have been recycled from a previous report of civilian casualties. Forensic analysis indicated that other photographs utilized by the al-Shabaab propaganda outlet were deliberately manipulated.”

The incident occured in the afternoon.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 6
  • (1 child4 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
    0–5

Sources (27) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (14) [ collapse]

  • Radio report on the incident
  • Vehicle allegedly destroyed by a US strike near Janaale on March 10th, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • Vehicle allegedly destroyed by a US strike near Janaale on March 10th, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • Vehicle allegedly destroyed by a US strike near Janaale on March 10th, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • Vehicle allegedly destroyed by a US strike near Janaale on March 10th, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Victim of an alleged US strike near Janaale on March 10th, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Victim of an alleged US strike near Janaale on March 10th, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Victim of an alleged US strike near Janaale on March 10th, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Victim of an alleged US strike near Janaale on March 10th, 2020 (via Somali Memo)
  • Car supposedly destroyed by US strike near Janaale on March 10th, 2020 (via Somali Memo)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a strike in the vicinity of Janaale, for which, due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The coordinates for Janaale are: 1.80953, 44.69345.

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.
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Mar 5, 2021
  • Nov 6, 2020
  • Jul 28, 2020
  • March 10, 2020, USAFRICOM received two allegations from online media sources claiming four (4) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia, on March 10, 2020. USAFRICOM received four duplicate allegations of this incident from online media sources on March 11, 2020, that changed the number of civilians killed to a range from four (4) to up to ten (10) civilians. USAFRICOM received three additional duplicate allegations of this incident from online media sources on March 12, 2020, claiming six (6) civilians were killed, and one duplicate allegation from an online media source on March 19, 2020, claiming two (2) civilians were killed. USAFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on April 1, 2020 from an online media source. USAFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident from a Non-Government Organization on May 15, 2020, claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians. USAFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident from an online media source on June 17, 2020, claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians.

  • Between March 10, 2020, and April 1, 2020, USAFRICOM received multiple reports from sources variously claiming four (4) to ten (10) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia, on March 10, 2020. On May 8, 2020, USAFRICOM closed this report as unsubstantiated. USAFRICOM received a new report of this incident from a NGO on May 15, 2020, claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians. USAFRICOM received a duplicate report of this incident from an online media source on June 17, 2020, claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians. USAFRICOM received six (6) duplicate reports of this incident via the USAFRICOM CIVCAS website on July 28 and 30 2020, claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians. USAFRICOM has reopened this case and our assessment is ongoing.

  • (Unsubstantiated) Between March 10, 2020, and April 1, 2020, U.S. Africa Command received multiple reports from various sources stating between four (4) and ten (10) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia that occurred on March 10, 2020. On May 8, 2020, U.S. Africa Command closed this report as unsubstantiated. Subsequently, U.S. Africa Command received a new report of this incident from a NGO on May 15, 2020, claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians who were in a taxi, traveling in the direction of Mogadishu. On June 17, 2020, U.S. Africa Command received another report of this incident from an online media source, with content mirroring the NGO report from May 15, 2020. On July 28 and 30, 2020, U.S. Africa Command received six (6) additional reports of this incident via the U.S. Africa Command Civilian Casualty reporting website (https://www.africom.mil/civilian-casualty-reporting), also claiming the airstrike killed six (6) civilians. As a result of the new reports made between May 15 and July 30, 2020, U.S. Africa Command reopened its assessment. The assessment concluded that the U.S. airstrike that occurred March 10, 2020 in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia targeted a vehicle containing five (5) al-Shabaab members after the vehicle departed an al-Shabaab compound. The airstrike occurred in open terrain and the effects of the strike were limited to the vehicle. Contrary to some reports, the vehicle was not traveling in the direction of Mogadishu. The source of the initial March 10, 2020 report is a known al-Shabaab propaganda outlet and their report contained a recirculated photograph taken in 2019, before the airstrike occurred. This photograph appears to have been recycled from a previous report of civilian casualties. Forensic analysis indicated that other photographs utilized by the al-Shabaab propaganda outlet were deliberately manipulated. U.S. Africa Command's first and second assessments of these reports of civilian casualties determined that the reports of civilian casualties occurred as a result of the U.S. airstrike on March 10, 2020 are unsubstantiated.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab terrorists in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia, Mar. 10.
“Our strikes are a key effort to combatting terror and helping to bring stability to Somalia,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Miguel Castellanos, U.S. Africa Command deputy director of operations. “Not only do they degrade al-Shabaab’s ability to conduct violent activities in the region, but they illuminate the fighter network and impede the al-Qaida affiliated terrorist organization’s ability to recruit and export terrorism.”
The command's initial assessment concluded this airstrike killed five (5) terrorists.
We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike.
In Somalia the U.S. works closely with our international partners on security sector development efforts, which include the United Nations, European Union, African Union, AMISOM and other troop contributing countries. Together, we remain committed to Somali-led progress on improving conditions for a well-trained Somali National Security Force that can assume and sustain security within the country. U.S. capabilities, influence, and credibility, provides critical support to Somali efforts, including assistance coordinating other international partner engagement. Incremental progress within Somalia is occurring because of the ongoing international effort.
U.S. Africa Command and our international partners recognize that stability in Somalia will not be achieved through purely military means. The partner and allied forces we work with on a daily basis are trying to create security conditions to enhance governance and economic development. As such, U.S. Africa Command's security cooperation efforts are closely linked with the U.S. Embassy in Somalia's political and economic initiatives targeting the root causes of instability.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 6
  • (1 child4 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
    0–5

Sources (27) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM204-C

Incident date

March 7–8, 2019

Location

Gamboole, Middle Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

3.084048, 45.181788 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

According to local reports a US airstrike, carried out as part of a land and air operation, was conducted in the Gambole area killing up to eight alleged Al-Shabaab fighters on March 8th. Two civilians were also reportedly killed in the strike and four more injured, Voice of America said.

According to Mareeg: “U.S. forces have launched a new air and ground operation to oust Al Shabaab militia from towns in south of Somalia. Somali especial forces were also involved in the operation carried out in Gambole area, some 50km away from Jowhar town. Jowhar, a town lies some 91km north of Somali capital Mogadishu.

“The operation triggered a brief gun battle between the coalition forces and Al Shabaab, according to a witness, who asked to be anonymous. Somali regional officials said at least 8 militants were killed in air strike after ground offensive.”

According to Halgan Media: “#US Special Forces conducted a Night raid overnight targeting Gambole village in Southern #Somalia. Fierce clashes erupted between Militants & #US Special Forces. The Americans retreated under the cover of unmarked Helicopters & the village was hit with Drone Strike shortly after”.

However Voice of America Somali reported that two civilians were killed and four injured in the raid: “Residents told VOA that the shelling targeted a building occupied by al-Shabaab militants, offices and judicial and training centers. The attack, which resulted in heavy casualties among Al-Shabaab militias, is said to have been carried out by Somali and US forces although this has not been confirmed.

A senior official of said that at least eight Al-Shabaab militants were killed in the operation. Two civilians were also killed and four others injured. Al-Shabaab officials said they had lost about three members, including Gambole County chief of operations, and the deputy chief of finance for al-Shabaab. Gamboole is al-Shabaab’s largest base in the Middle Shabelle region. There have been no reports from al-Shabaab and Somali government forces so far.”

Garowe Online also reported two civilian deaths in the raid.

Soomaaliweyn published what it said were munitions left behind after the raid. And Gedo Times said that “Residents said that they first heard the sound of a helicopter flying in at low altitude area and then heard a loud crash in the area, followed by foreign and Somali troops inside Gamboole, an al-Shabaab stronghold, to carry out various actions. No one has been able to confirm the casualties caused by the shelling but the Gamboole area is an important area for al-Shabaab.”

In April 2020 AFRICOM denied responsibility, noting in its first quarterly civilian harm report: “January 21, 2020, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming two (2) civilians were killed and four (4) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Gambole, Somalia, on March 8, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date and location.”

However, since the allegation clearly refers to a joint US-Somali ground operation as well as a possible airstrike, Airwars reached out for further clarification. On May 6th 2020, an AFRICOM official stated the following:

“The term ‘strike’ is defined as U.S. munitions of any type employed by U.S. military forces under the authority of U.S. Africa Command. This includes both air and ground operations.

1) Were US ground forces present as alleged?

USAFRICOM forces were not in the vicinity of where the alleged civilian harm occurred.

2) Did US ground forces engage in kinetic actions?

USAFRICOM did not execute a kinetic strike on the alleged date.

3) Are any US kinetic ground actions believed to have contributed to civilian harm?

USAFRICOM ground forces did not contribute to the alleged civilian harm.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • Civilians reported injured
    4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–8

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (10) [ collapse]

  • Reported image from a Somali_US raid on an al Shabaab base at Gambole, March 7th-8th in which two civilians were among those reported killed (Image via Caasimada)
  • Reported image from a Somali_US raid on an al Shabaab base at Gambole, March 7th-8th in which two civilians were among those reported killed (Image via Caasimada)
  • Reported image from a Somali_US raid on an al Shabaab base at Gambole, March 7th-8th in which two civilians were among those reported killed (Image via Caasimada)
  • Reported image from a Somali_US raid on an al Shabaab base at Gambole, March 7th-8th in which two civilians were among those reported killed (Image via Caasimada)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted an Al Shabaab camp in the village of Gamboole in South Somalia, some 50 kilometers from of the town Jowhar. The coordinates for the village Gamboole are: 3.084048, 45.181788. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected 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.
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • May 6, 2020
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • January 21, 2020, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming two (2) civilians were killed and four (4) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Gambole, Somalia, on March 8, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date and location.

  • For the Civilian Casualty Quarterly Assessment report the term "strike" is defined as U.S. munitions of any type employed by U.S. military forces under the authority of U.S. Africa Command. This includes both air and ground operations. We have answered the questions separately under each numbered incident. 1) Were US ground forces present as alleged? USAFRICOM forces were not in the vicinity of where the alleged civilian harm occurred. 2) Did US ground forces engage in kinetic actions? USAFRICOM did not execute a kinetic strike on the alleged date. 3) Are any US kinetic ground actions believed to have contributed to civilian harm? USAFRICOM ground forces did not contribute to the alleged civilian harm.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • Civilians reported injured
    4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–8

Sources (10) [ collapse]