An adult woman was reported killed by an alleged US attack on Qoryole, according to the Turkish news organisation TRT – an event it dated to before midnight on February 23rd 2019. Despite conducting four strikes in the near region that day. AFRICOM later insisted that “no U.S. military strike took place at the alleged time and location.”
A sequence of US airstrikes on the night of February 23rd had led to several claims of civilian harm. Four strikes took place in different locations in the Lower Shabelle region, AFRICOM later confirmed – with an attack at Kunyo Barrow town also reportedly killing a father and child that night.
While the US did not report a strike on Qoryoley itself that night, it did declare an action in the vicinity of nearby Janaale.
In an investigation into civilian harm in Somalia from recent US actions, published in September 2019, TRT World Research Centre stated the following:
“In the middle of the night on 23 February 2019, the US military conducted an air strike in the town of Qoryoley in the Shabeelaha Hoose (Lower Shabelle) region. The attack took place just before midnight. ‘It was just before midnight, about 11:00 pm. We heard
the diyaarad [drones] coming. At first, we ran towards the bushes to hide from the attack but my sister was killed by the strike. We returned back, and found her
body. We managed to bury her the next morning, and we left the area. My sister was newly married and a young woman with a promising future in a good family.
‘We lost our property, belongings and animals [farm livestock]. Now, we are displaced people inside our own country. I’m not sure who to blame for the killings, but I can say
that the attack was conducted by a Diyaarad – maybe it was the US or Somali government. They did not discriminate between civilians and combatants. There were no Al-Shabaab or militia near us. All those killed or injured were not fighters. The attackers were looking for Al Shabaab, but they did not discriminate civilians from the combatants. To my knowledge, there were no Al Shabaab near to us. However, we heard rumors that Al Shabaab were hiding in the bushes, which is not far. Everyone in the area were civilians.'”
“In an email exchange with AFRICOM, they replied: “All U.S. Africa Command airstrikes conducted in February 2019 are detailed, with locations, on our public website – please see our press release section.” AFRICOM published a press release on 24 February regarding two airstrikes executed on 23 February in the “vicinity of Kunyow Barrow”. However, according to testimony documented by TRT World Research Centre, the strikes took place in Qoryoley which is some 167.08 kilometers from the vicinity of Kunyow Barrow as put forward by AFRICOM.
“A local media station, Gundhig reported in the morning of the attack on 24 February that the “air strike, which happened at midnight last night, targeted al-Shabaab operated areas, including Kuunya Barrow, Awdheegle, and the Dacaaraha village, which is near to Qoryoley and Janaale.”
“TRT World Research Centre’s investigative research finds evidence contradicting AFRICOM’s publically [sic] reported strikes. The above interview establishes that there was one confirmed civilian killed, with the full extent of the civilian casualties unknown. The fact that one civilian was killed by a lethal strike suggests that a strike took place, in addition to on-the-ground witness testimony. AFRICOM needs to come clean over the mission conducted in this case, and undergo an independent and impartial investigation to assess civilian casualties. If there was more than one attack, it should ensure full transparency by providing public information on all of them.”
In April 2020 AFRICOM denied responsibility for civilian harm in this event, noting: “After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place at the alleged time and location.”
The incident occured at approximately 11:00 pm local time.