Up to 10 civilians, including a child, were killed and up to 20 others were injured in alleged Somali and/or US airstrikes or drone strikes on the village of Mubarak on September 9, 2022. Sources are conflicted as to whether one of the people, Abdullahi Sheikh Abukar known locally as ‘Arab” was a member of al-Shabaab or a civilian.
Voice of America quoted Somalia police spokesman Sadiq Adan Ali Doodishe who said that Somalia’s elite military unit had conducted an operation against al-Shabab, killing two senior commanders – a senior al-Shabab commander known by the name “Carab” (other sources refer to him as “Arab”), and Aw Maaye, who was in charge al-Shabab’s extortion operations in Mubarak – and wounding 10 others, in addition to freeing civilian hostages who may have been hurt during the operation. Voice of America also reported that according to local media and residents, an airstrike was part of the military operation and that al-Shabaab claimed that the airstrike killed 10 civilians and wounded 20 others, including “truckers and farmers” according to @HarunMaruf quoting al-Shabaab.
An investigation done by journalist Mohamed Gabobe for Mepa News details the incident: around sunset in Mubarak, “a meeting was underway at a bus station with local hawkers and drivers to settle a dispute amongst the group, that’s when I heard a loud bang” according to one of the drivers of the lorry transporting vegetables (pseudonym Abdullahi Mohamed). Abdullahi recalled seeing numerous corpses and wounded people, all civilians, and he himself sustained injuries from shrapnel. The chairman, Haji Gafow and deputy chairman Hassan Abukar that were tasked with presiding over the meeting for the drivers and hawkers where instantly killed in the (drone) strike. Locals in the town began helping the wounded into a vehicle to be taken to Mogadishu for treatment but as they approached the Arbiska locality near Mogadishu about four or five military style vehicles cut them off the road, forced them to pull over, and took all the victims by force to the government run Medina Hospital. “Upon arriving at the government run Madina hospital, Abdullahi said many of the wounded civilians brought in from Mubarak where profusely bleeding, some could barely even speak and where in a state of shock, while others where unconscious. As soon as they entered the hospital, the security personnel at the government run Madina hospital began taking pictures of the victims when they were brought in, with some of the security personnel even heckling the wounded victims and calling them “Al-Shabaab”, which Abdullahi felt was a form of humiliation. Later on officers from the specially trained Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Somali police force began interrogating the wounded civilians as they lay stretched out on the bed. Questioning them on whether they had any ties to Al-Shabaab, taking photos of them, while others where even finger printed, Abdullahi says.”
Another witness named Abdirashid Hassan (not real name), whose younger brother Mahad Hassan (not real name) was wounded in the same drone strike, told Mepa News that the wounded victims “were intercepted by security forces as they approached the Arbiska locality. The wounded victims were seized and transferred to the government run Madina hospital in Mogadishu. After arriving at the government run Madina hospital, security personnel began asking the victims all sorts of questions that pertained to their identities and any links to Al-Shabaab. They even had a list ready, Abdirashid says. The matters were made worse by the officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) assigned to interrogate the wounded victims, he goes on to say.” His younger brother Mahad sustained serious shrapnel wounds that struck an area under his heart that caused him to lose consciousness and memory loss. When describing the incident, Abdirashid said “In the past, they would hear engines roaring in the distance, signaling a drone was in the area or a strike was imminent, forcing everyone to flee or take cover. However, Abdirashid said this time around it differed. In Mubarak, residents have fallen victim to numerous drone strikes over the years but the velocity of this air raid was never seen before.” Abdirashid named the killed civilians as “Osman Sidow, Aden Gajeelo, Madey Hassan Goobe, Hassan Figlow, Haji Gafow, Abukar Hassan, Hassan Haji Ibrahim and his young son, an individual from the nearby village of Darasulam named Abukar Abdimasud and Abdullahi Sheikh Abukar known locally as ‘Arab”, specifically refuted the government’s claim of ‘Arab’ as being a militant, adding that the closest Al-Shabaab base was two kilometers away.
A senior Somali government official speaking on the condition of anonymity told Mepa News that the meeting between drivers that transport people, crops and other goods from the Lower Shabelle region to Mogadishu included a high-profile al-Shabaab member who was the target, as well as confirming that there was intel about a high number of civilian casualties.
Radio Dalsan reported that a drone strike hit a bus station, killing eight people and seriously wounding nine people who were admitted to Medina Hospital, and that the families of the victims and the media have been denied access to the hospital wards by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). A resident of Mubarak who rushed the victims to Mogadishu told Radio Dalsan “I want to tell the government that the problem that occurred in Mubarak Yesterday, massacred civilians, and the majority of the drivers who were gathering for a meeting when they were targeted with the bombs. 8 people have died. 9 people who got injured in the attack are receiving treatment. I have heard that the CID is saying these people are Al-shabaab. I want to confirm to the Somali government that these people are innocent civilians who have no links to Al-shabaab.”
Anadolu Agency reported that residents in Mubarak told them that “several civilians were killed and more than a dozen others were injured” during the strike, and that they were taken to hospitals in Mogadishu for treatment. A video by Dalsan TV reported that 10 civilians were injured and at least five were killed by an attack by a US drone while Kulmiye News reported that some of the airstrikes hit civilian homes in the Mubarak area, killing three civilians and injuring 10 others.
According to the Somali Guardian, the US air strike hit a meeting of local drivers that transport residents between the agricultural town of Mubarak and Mogadishu, inflicting casualties on civilians, with some sources reporting up to seven killed and 20 wounded.
The Somali Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism released a statement that “Special Forces of the Somali National Army have destroyed al-Shabaab’s financial center in Mubarak area of Lower Shabelle region of South West State of Somali, killing the leader of al-Shabaab in the area and wounding nearly a dozen…..The wounded included Osman Daud who was the most senior al-Shabaab member in Mubarak and Aw May who was responsible for al-Shabaab’s extortion of money.” Somali police spokesman Sadiq Adan Ali Doodishe added that “at the time of the operation al-Shabab was holding civilians hostage for extortion but the army freed the hostages. Some of them were hurt during the operation.”
Sources are conflicted as to who was responsible for this incident. The Somali government initially released a statement taking credit for the raid, as well as acknowledge that civilians were injured. However, multiple sources have directly referred to US as being responsible for the civilian casualties, or have referred to the operation as being aided by drone, which only the US has the capabilities of.
This incident is the first allegation of civilian casualties resulting from US airstrikes since President Biden announced the redeployment of American special forces to Somalia.
The incident occured at approximately 5:00 pm local time.