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
Civilian Harm Status
Belligerent Assessment
Declassified Documents
Strike Status
Strike Type
Infrastructure

Incident Code

USSOM397

Incident date

August 15, 2023

Location

in a remote area near Cali Heele, Galgaduud, Somalia

Airwars assessment

Five al-Shabaab militants were reportedly killed by declared US airstrikes near Cali Heele in the Galgaduud region on August 15, 2023

AFRICOM released a statement that “At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense airstrike in a remote area near Cali Heele, approximately 244 kilometers North East of Mogadishu, Somalia against al-Shabaab terrorists on August 15. The airstrike was in support of Somali National Army forces who were engaged by the terrorist organization. Working with the Somali National Army, U.S. Africa Command’s initial assessment is that the U.S. airstrike killed 5 al-Shabaab terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed.”

The Somali government added that the strikes also destroyed a militant hideout.

According to @HarunMaruf, Somali state media reported a similar casualty figure, which was supposedly one of the first times that the Somali state and the US reported similar casualty counts.

The incident occured in the morning.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5

Sources (10) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense airstrike in a remote area near Cali Heele, approximately 244 kilometers North East of Mogadishu, Somalia against al-Shabaab terrorists on August 15.

The airstrike was in support of Somali National Army forces who were engaged by the terrorist organization.

Working with the Somali National Army, U.S. Africa Command's initial assessment is that the U.S. airstrike killed 5 al-Shabaab terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed.

U.S. Africa Command takes great measures to prevent civilian casualties. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command's operations to promote a more secure and stable Africa.

Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack partner and U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests.

Somalia remains key to the security environment in East Africa. U.S. Africa Command's forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to give them the tools that they need to degrade al-Shabaab.

U.S. Africa Command will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM375

Incident date

February 15, 2023

Location

Hawda Qaycad, Mudug, Somalia

Geolocation

5.011765, 47.991627 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Local and official sources alleged that 10 al-Shabaab militants were killed and others were injured by Somalia National Army operations and airstrikes near Hawda Qaycad on February 15, 2023.

Abdi Garad Omar Mohamed, one of the officials of Wisil district in Mudug region, told Mustaqbal Media News that around 60 members of al-Shabaab were killed in a battle that took place in Hawda Qaida in the south of Mudug region. The source added that battle was accompanied by airstrikes against an al-Shabaab base near Hawda Qaycad.

The official Twitter account of the Somali National Army Radio Snaradio announced that “@SNAForce
with the support of the Galmudug State forces and local forces killed 10 #AlShabaab and injured others after conducting a planned operations against terrorists’ hideout at #Qaycad area in Mudug region.” The tweet did not mention airstrikes in assistance.

AFRICOM announced airstrikes in a different region near Bacadweyne on February 15th that resulted in the death of 5 al-Shabaa militants.

While no sources directly implicated the US in the operation, the Somali government’s reference to airstrikes has in the past indicated US involvement.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    10
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2

Sources (2) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • "@SNAForce with the support of the Galmudug State forces and local forces killed 10 #AlShabaab and injured others after conducting a planned operations against terrorists’ hideout at #Qaycad area in Mudug region." (Image via @RadioSNA on Twitter)
  • "@SNAForce with the support of the Galmudug State forces and local forces killed 10 #AlShabaab and injured others after conducting a planned operations against terrorists’ hideout at #Qaycad area in Mudug region." (Image via @RadioSNA on Twitter)
  • "@SNAForce with the support of the Galmudug State forces and local forces killed 10 #AlShabaab and injured others after conducting a planned operations against terrorists’ hideout at #Qaycad area in Mudug region." (Image via @RadioSNA on Twitter)
  • "@SNAForce with the support of the Galmudug State forces and local forces killed 10 #AlShabaab and injured others after conducting a planned operations against terrorists’ hideout at #Qaycad area in Mudug region." (Image via @RadioSNA on Twitter)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Hawda Qaycad, for which the generic coordinates are: 5.011765, 47.991627. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    10
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2

Sources (2) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM408

Incident date

September 23, 2023

Location

Shabeelow village, Somalia

Airwars assessment

More than 30 Al-Shabaab militants were killed in an airstrike declared by Somali forces on Shabeelow village, located in the Mudug region of central eastern Somalia on the 23rd of September 2023, according to the Somali Ministry of Defense.

Whilst an exact number of casualties was not given, the Ministry of Defense statement reported that the attack had been carried out against “Khawarij centers, resulting in heavy losses for the Khawarij. Over 30 neutralized, including leaders and militiamen”. Khawarij is the preferred term currently used by the Somali government to refer to Al-Shabaab militants. The statement added that the operation had dismantled key “gathering points” used by the militant group.

Middle East Monitor News, on the 24th of September, reported on the attack, noting that “the airstrike came hours after a suicide truck car bomb in the central town of Beledwayne killed more than 18 people and wounded 40 others”.

On the 23rd of September, independent journalist Zakeriye Axmed commented on X/Twitter regarding the statement released by the Somali Ministry of Defense, acknowledging that, other than the statement itself, there was “no independent confirmation” of the attack.

While no sources directly implicated the US in the operation, the Somali government’s reference to airstrikes has in the past indicated US involvement.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    Somali Military Forces, US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    31

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Somali Military Forces Assessment:

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

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    Somali Military Forces, US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    31

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM387

Incident date

June 1, 2023

Location

in the vicinity of Wayanta, Lower Juba, Somalia

Airwars assessment

Three al-Shabaab fighters were allegedly killed by declared US airstrikes in the vicinity of Wayanta, Somalia on June 1. There have been no reports of civilian harm at this time.

AFRICOM released a statement that “at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of the Somali National Army engagements against al Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike in the vicinity of Wayanta, Somalia on June 1. The initial assessment is that the strike, approximately 60 km southwest of Kismayo, killed three al Shabaab fighters. The command’s initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed.”

A tweet from reporter @HarunMaruf stated that prior to the release of the AFRICOM statement, Somalia state media reported that the US-trained Danab forces were present in the area conducting operations.

Task and Purpose News also quoted AFRICOM spokeswoman Kelly Cahalan who said that Somali troops were fighting against al-Shabaab militants at the time of the strike, and that no US service members were close to the strike. Cahalan declined to provide information on which type of U.S. military aircraft was involved or what ordnance was used.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3

Sources (8) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of the Somali National Army engagements against al Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike in the vicinity of Wayanta, Somalia on June 1.

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of the Somali National Army engagements against al Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike in the vicinity of Wayanta, Somalia on June 1.

The initial assessment is that the strike, approximately 60 km southwest of Kismayo, killed three al Shabaab fighters.

The command’s initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has publicly stated that economic reform, social and political reconciliation, and religious tolerance are key pillars of his strategy to mobilize society against international terrorism. Military actions are just one part of the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts to comprehensively address their security challenges.

The U.S. is one of several countries providing humanitarian aid, stabilization efforts, economic development, and military assistance to the Federal Government of Somalia in their ongoing campaign.

U.S. Africa Command is the defense arm of the U.S. whole-of-government approach with African partners -- diplomacy, development and defense. This three-pronged, or “3D” approach brings together multiple agencies from within the U.S. government to increase cooperation and support for partner-led, U.S.-enabled solutions to shared security challenges, including violent extremism or terrorism.

Somalia remains central to stability and security in all of East Africa. U.S. Africa Command's forces train, advise, and assist partner forces to help give them the tools they need to defeat al-Shabaab, the largest and most deadly al-Qaeda network in the world.

U.S. Africa Command and partner forces will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security.

The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command will continue to take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command's operations to promote greater security for all Africans. To view the U.S. Africa Command Quarterly Civilian Casualty reports, visit: https://www.africom.mil/what-we-do/airstrikes/civilian-casualty-report

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM365

Incident date

January 9, 2023

Location

Hawadley, Middle Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

2.582890, 45.489100 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Up to 61 al-Shabaab militants were killed and dozens of others were wounded by alleged US drone strikes/Somali army operations near Hawadlay on January 9, 2022.

Anadolu Agency reported that according to the Somali Information Ministry, at least 61 al-Shabaab terrorists were killed and dozens others were wounded by an operation carried out by the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) and “international partners.” Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf al-Adalla was quoted by Anadolu Agency as saying that 150 al-Shabaab forces were planning to bomb government forces in Hawadlay when Somali forces attacked.

@SONNALIVE added that 2 VBIEDs were also destroyed by Somali forces and international partners at farmland in Hawadlay village.

Horn Sentinel attributed the casualties to US drone strikes that struck a convoy of “two heavily loaded VBIEDs that detonated after the drone missiles hit.” According to Horn Sentinel, the US drone strikes killed 50 al-Shabaab fighters and destroyed their convoy of “heavy battle wagons” while pointing out that though the Somali government claimed that the NISA was involved, sources in the Galmudug government confirmed there was no NISA involvement.

The incident occured during the night.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike, Ground operation
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Agriculture
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    60–61
  • Belligerents reported injured
    12–24

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Location of Somali and international partner operations near Hawadley on January 9, 2023. (Image posted by Anadolu Agency)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Hawadley, for which the generic coordinates are: 2.582890, 45.489100. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike, Ground operation
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Agriculture
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    60–61
  • Belligerents reported injured
    12–24

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM398

Incident date

August 20, 2023

Location

Buk Akable settlement, Hiran region, Somalia

Airwars assessment

Mepa News reported that according to local sources, US airstrikes on the Buk Akable settlement resulted in the death of three civilians, including women and children, and the injury of seven others. The source stated that Somalia government media was claiming that those killed were members of al-Shabaab and that AFRICOM has not released a statement on this incident.

No other sources were found to have reported on this incident.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (1–2 children1–2 women)
  • Civilians reported injured
    7
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (1–2 children1–2 women)
  • Civilians reported injured
    7
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM376

Incident date

February 17, 2023

Location

near Afcad, Hiiraan, Somalia

Geolocation

3.597604, 45.676374 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Over 50 al-Shabaab militants were killed by Somali forces and “international partner” airstrikes or ground operations in near Afcad location in Hiiraan region on February 17, 2023.

Somali National Television quoted the Somali Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism which released a statement that the Somali Armed Forces with support in international security partners killed over 50 al-Shabaab militants, including give ring leaders, in operations near Afcad.

A tweet from @dhoorebbc pointed out that “international security partners” is a term referring to US airstrikes. However, the Somali government did not directly attribute the airstrikes to the US.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    50

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Afcad, for which the generic coordinates are: 3.597604, 45.676374. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    50

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM410

Incident date

December 17, 2023

Location

near to Jilib, Somalia

Airwars assessment

On the 17th of December, 2023, a declared U.S. airstrike reportedly killed an Al-Shabaab leader, Maalim Ayman, near Jilib in southern Somalia.

On the same day as the airstrike, United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) released a statement on its website, stating that the airstrike had been conducted “in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, against the terrorist group Al-Shabaab”. The statement went on to claim that “one Al-Shabaab militant had been killed” and, whilst AFRICOM did not initially identify the militant in question, it was stated that the impact of the strike had been assessed and that there were “no civilian casualties” resulting from the strike.

Following the news of the death of Maalim Ayman on the 17th of December, released by Somali officials, the Wall Street Journal published an article regarding the airstrike, which noted that Ayman had been “the alleged mastermind behind a 2020 attack that left three Americans dead at a Kenyan airbase”. It is now known that of the three Americans killed, one was a U.S. soldier, and two were U.S. Defense Department contractors.

The Wall Street Journal article further stated that both U.S. and Kenyan forces had used the Manda Bay base, located just 60 miles from the Somali border in order to “support counter-terrorism operations against Al-Shabaab” and noted that, earlier in the year, the State Department had announced “a $10 million reward for information leading to Ayman’s arrest or conviction”.

Garowe Online wrote on the 17th of December, that since the attack in Kenya on the 5th of January 2020, the U.S. Army had been “pursuing the attackers”. Garowe Online specified that Ayman had “mainly organized the attack” against the airbase and had subsequently been “cornered after a search for months”.

VOA (Voice of America) News, on the 21st of December, reported that the U.S had “identified Ayman as the leader of ‘Jaysh Ayman’: an Al-Shabaab unit that conducts terrorist attacks and operations in Kenya and Somalia”. The VOA report further stated that ‘Jaysh Ayman’ (Army of Ayman) included “foreign militants recruited by Al-Shabaab largely from East Africa”.

One report from Anadolu Agency, dated December 21st, quoted Somali Information Minister Daud Aweis who said that “Ayman was accountable for planning multiple lethal terrorist attacks in Somalia and nearby countries”. The Anadolu Agency report also noted that the U.S. State Department had categorized Ayman as a “Specially Designated Global Terrorist in November, 2020”.

The Washington Post published an article on the 22nd of December which stated that the ‘Jaysh Ayman’ militant group was Al-Shabaab’s main unit in Kenya and the unit had attacked Garissa University, killing 148 people in 2015. The Washington Post emphasized that this was “the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy”.

The article in the Washington Post also contained a quote from Somali Information Minister Daud Aweis who addressed questions regarding positive confirmation that Ayman had been killed by the U.S. strike: “we can confirm 100 percent that it was him. It took us a few days to make the final confirmation”. Aweis additionally stated that Ayman had been the sole target of the strike.

The Daily Telegraph, on the 22nd of December, reported that the attack which killed Ayman had been a “U.S. airstrike” but added that Ayman had been “killed in a joint operation”. Also on the 22nd of December, The New York Times more specifically stated that Ayman “was killed by a U.S. Special Operations drone strike in a joint operation with the Somali national army”, according to Somali and U.S. officials.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (9) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command carried out an airstrike against the al-Shabaab terrorist group near Jilib, Somalia on Dec. 17.

The command’s initial assessment is that one al-Shabaab militant was killed in the strike and that there were no civilian casualties. U.S. Africa Command takes great measures to prevent civilian casualties. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command’s operations to promote a more secure and stable Africa.

This is another step to defeat the terrorist group that undermines Somalia’s peace and development. Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests. U.S. Africa Command, alongside its partners, continues to take action to prevent this malicious terrorist group from planning and conducting attacks on civilians.


Somalia remains key to the security environment in East Africa. U.S. Africa Command’s forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to give them the tools that they need to degrade al-Shabaab.

U.S. Africa Command will continue to assess the results of the operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operational security.

U.S. Africa Command, headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, with partners, counters malign actors and transnational threats, responds to crises, and strengthens security forces in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability and prosperity.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (9) [ collapse]