In retaliatory actions against al Al Shabaab for a mass casualty bombing in Mogadishu a day earlier, the United States said that it had conducted three strikes against al Shbaab commanders, killing four people in total.This entry relates to one of two strikes in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow in Lower Shabelle.
Al Shabaab itself claimed that the strike in fact killed at least one civilian non combatant it named as local businessman Kusow Haji Mohammed Yusuf – with locals also reporting that a herd of 11 camels was slain in the attack. However in April 2020 AFRICOM refuted this, insisting that “It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.”
According to an AFRICOM press release issued on the same day as the event, “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted three (3) airstrikes in two (2) locations targeting al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Qunyo Barrow and Caliyoow Barrow, Somalia, respectively, Dec. 29.”
“Initial assessment concluded two airstrikes killed two (2) terrorists and destroyed two (2) vehicles in Qunyo Barrow; and one airstrike killed two (2) terrorists in Caliyoow Barrow. We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes. We comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict during the course of our operations to ensure the safety of civilians.”
It added that “These precision airstrikes targeted al-Shabaab militants responsible for terrorist acts against innocent Somali citizens and coordinating with al-Qaeda.”
In what may be a separate or related incident, according to one local source, Somalia Terror Updates, two strikes took place “in the vicinity of Moqokori in Hiiraan region.” Since this is not in Lower Shabelle this would appear to be a different event.
The alleged al Shabaab suicide bombing on December 28th 2019 caused the largest single loss of civilian life of the year – with at least 81 people slain.
However there was later some doubt over whether al Shabaab was solely responsible, with VOA reporter Harun Maruf tweeting on December 30th that “Somalia’s intelligence agency says it has submitted a preliminary report indicating that a foreign country ‘planned’ Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu. NISA didn’t publicly release the evidence pointing towards the involvement of a foreign country.”
Also on December 30th, reports emerged via al Shabaab that at least one adult civilian male had died in one of the Kunyo Barrow attacks, along with a herd of camels. According to Morad News, Horn News and others – which published images of the aftermath of the attack and the funeral of the victim – “local businessman” Kusow Haji Mohammed Yusuf was in fact killed when his 4-wheel drive was targeted. A nearby herd of 11 or 12 camels also died.
Horn News was alone in reporting that “several civilians” were killed – though offered no further details.
In April 2020, AFRICOM explicitly denied causing civilian harm in this event: “After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. On December 29, 2019 two airstrikes were executed against two individuals (one individual per strike) which U.S. intelligence confirmed were affiliated with al-Shabaab. Intelligence identified the individuals’ affiliation with the organization which was further corroborated during post-strike assessment. Strike video confirmed that the effects were limited to the two individuals. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.”
The local time of the incident is unknown.