One elderly civilian, claimed by al Shabaab to be a tribal elder, was allegedly killed by a US airstrike in Kamsuuma. The US later pushed back heavily against the claim, insisting the victim was a terrorist.
AFRICOM initially described the action – which it said killed one al Shabaab fighter – as a response to US and partner forces coming under fire on the ground, noting “a collective self-defense strike against al-Shabaab terrorists who engaged U.S. partner forces, Somali National Army Danab, and Jubaland Security Force.”
Local media – some with pro Shabaab leanings – claimed the victim of the strike was a civilian. Halgan Media reported: “Confirmed reports reaching the Halgan Media service desk reveal suspected US drones bombed the Al Shabaab controlled town of Kabsumma in the Lower Jubba province of Somalia. Local media reports surfacing from Somalia’s Jubba Valley reveal unmanned drones fired a series of missiles on the town, which fatally struck a motorist. It’s being revealed the motorist died instantly in the drone strike. The victim has been identified as a local clan elder named Abbas Mohamed Haji. It’s not clear at the moment whether there are any more victims from the strike.”
Morad News said: “Reports of US drone strike in the outskirt of Kabsuuma town in Somalia’s Lower Jubba region. Prominent clan elder, Suldaan Abaas Mahamed Haji, Suldan of Jareerwene clan killed while riding on his motorbike”
AFRICOM itself declared two strikes in the area on April 9th and 10th: “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike against al-Shabaab terrorists who engaged U.S. partner forces, Somali National Army Danab, and Jubaland Security Force, near Kobon, Somalia, Apr. 9. The command also conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab terrorists in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, Apr. 10. The command’s initial assessment concluded the Apr. 9 airstrike killed ten (10) terrorists and that the Apr. 10 airstrike killed one (1) terrorist. U.S. Africa Command currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes.”
The press release of the Somali Ministry of Information revealed more on the location of the April 9th strike, which it said was conducted “in the vicinity of Koban between Jammaamme and Jilib Districts.” Kamsuuma is located between those two.
AFRICOM later overtly refuted claims of civilian harm in a detailed statement issued five days after the attack: “Immediately prior to the airstrike, this al-Shabaab terrorist displayed the murdered bodies of Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers in a village. Following this act of coercion and intimidation, the al-Shabaab terrorist departed the village. Once isolated in a remote and secluded area, the terrorist was killed by an airstrike executed by the command in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia.
“‘This was no innocent civilian. This was a purposeful and heinous act. It was a war crime by an al-Shabaab terrorist who desecrated bodies to scare and intimidate innocent Somalis into submission,’ said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. ‘This terrorist posed with al-Shabaab flags prominently displayed in the background as Somalis of all ages were exposed to his gruesome public display.’
“One of the two outlets falsely reporting civilian casualties is al-Shabaab associated news affiliate SomaliMemo. Weakened by sustained military operations led by the SNA and AMISOM forces, al-Shabaab is increasingly relying on lies and propaganda, including releasing gruesome pictures of unverified civilian casualties, in an effort to grab media attention, as well as deceive the Somali public.”
The local time of the incident is unknown.