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

USSOM414

Incident date

January 21, 2024

Location

35 km northeast of Kismayo, Lower Juba, Somalia

Airwars assessment

On January 21st, 2024, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) conducted a drone strike against the Al-Shabaab militant group 35 kilometers northeast of the city of Kismayo in the Lower Juba region of Somalia, reportedly killing three militants. To date, there have been no reports of civilian casualties in connection to the strike.

Two days later, on the 23rd of January, AFRICOM released a statement on the strike: “at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense airstrike with two engagements against the Al-Shabaab terrorist group on Jan. 21”. The statement added that after an initial assessment, it was judged that “no civilians were injured or killed” by the airstrike and that three Al-Shabaab militants had been killed.

The Long War Journal published an online article, written by Bill Rodrigo and Caleb Weiss, dated January 23rd, which stated that the attack had specifically been a drone strike and observed that the attack was the first declared US drone strike in Somalia in 2024. The Long War Journal noted that “neither AFRICOM, the U.S. military command responsible for such strikes, nor Somalia itself have confirmed the exact coordinates” of the strike.

Additionally, a report from Associated Press (AP) written by Omar Faruk on January 23rd, reported that there had been “no immediate response” from Al-Shabaab concerning the strike. Furthermore, Garowe Online on January 24th, stated that the militants killed were “not notorious” but that the strike had been carried out “for defense purposes” in coordination with the Somali National Army (SNA).

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
    3

Sources (18) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (3) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: @hornafricanguy
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: @jseldinit should be @jseldin
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: @5hekina

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

Federal Government of Somalia, AFRICOM target al Shabaab

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense airstrike with two engagements against the al Shabaab terrorist group on Jan. 21.

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense airstrike with two engagements against the al Shabaab terrorist group on Jan. 21.

The collective self-defense strike occurred in a remote area of Somalia, approximately 35 kilometers northeast of Kismayo.

The initial assessment is that the U.S. airstrike killed three al Shabaab terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed.

U.S. Africa Command will continue to assess the results of this airstrike 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.

Al Shabaab is the largest and most 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, 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
    3

Sources (18) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM410

Incident date

December 17, 2023

Location

near to Jilib, Middle Juba, 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]

Incident Code

USSOM408

Incident date

September 23, 2023

Location

Shabeelow village, Mudug, 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

USSOM406

Incident date

September 23, 2023

Location

Villages of Balal-Dheer, El-Gambar, and Mililiqo, Galguduud, Somalia

Airwars assessment

Local and official sources alleged that 27 al-Shabaab militants were killed by operations and airstrikes declared by the Somali military in the villages of Balal-Dheer, El-Gambar, and Mililiqo on September 22, 2023.

On Friday the 22nd of September, 2023, the Somali Ministry of Defense posted a statement on X / Twitter that “over 27 Khawarij militants were eliminated in a successful operation by the Somali National Army”. Yeni Safak News provided further details of the Ministry of Defense statement: that the operation had taken place in the villages of Balal-Dheer, El-Gambar, and Mililiqo where “three terrorist bases were targeted and destroyed, along with their vehicles and military equipment”. Also on the 22nd of September, Garowe Online News added context to the attacks, noting recent “intensified ops involving airstrikes in south and central Somalia”.

Osman Omar, an open-source intelligence investigator, posted on X / Twitter, on the 23rd of September, that the Somali Air Force had “successfully targeted and neutralized an Al-Shabaab convoy” in the Gal-Gaduud region after a tip-off was received by the Somali National Army from a nomadic resident regarding the presence of Al-Shabaab militants in the areas of Balal and God Shilin. Omar stated that “Somali Air Forces swiftly acted, eliminating both vehicles and dozens of Al-Shabaab fighters”. There have been no reports of civilian casualties connected to the strikes.

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
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    27

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: @Osman_estate
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: @Osman_estate

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
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    27

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM407

Incident date

September 23, 2023

Location

Elbur, Galguduud, Somalia

Airwars assessment

An unknown number of Al-Shabaab members, including top leaders, were reportedly killed by airstrikes allegedly carried out by the US and/or Somali military on Elbur in Galgaduud province on September 23, 2023. There have been no reports of civilian casualties connected to the strikes.

On the 23rd of September, 2023, the Somali Ministry of Defense posted a statement on X /Twitter that a “precision airstrike” had been conducted on a “meeting house” in the town of Elbur in the Galgaduud region. The statement went on to claim that the Somali National Army had killed key Al-Shabaab leaders including “their head of extortion and finance, Sahal.” Garowe Online stated that the individual killed, known only as ‘Sahal’, had been the group’s “finance and tax head,” while also attributing the strikes to the US military rather than the Somali military.

M.M.Dhoore, a former BBC journalist and the managing editor of SNTV (Somali National Television), London, released a post via X/Twitter on the evening of the 23rd of September stating that Somalia’s armed forces had conducted the airstrike using “recently acquired helicopters”. M.M. Dhoore’s post contained a photo of such aircraft.

Middle East Monitor News also reported on the attack, emphasizing the strategic significance of the town of Elbur and noting that it has been an Al-Shabaab stronghold for more than 15 years.

None of the sources gave a precise number of militants killed, with some referring to “several militants” killed while others reported “heavy casualties”.

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
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: @dhoorebbc

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
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM405

Incident date

September 22, 2023

Location

Wajid District, Bakool, Somalia

Airwars assessment

The militant organization Al-Shabaab claimed that U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) had conducted an airstrike against the terrorist network on 22nd of September, 2023. The group alleged that the airstrike, carried out in the Wajid district of Bakool in southwestern Somalia, had reportedly killed eight civilians, including six children. However, the Somalia government declared their responsibility for the same strike which they reported had killed eight members of Al-Shabaab, including leader Isaaq Abdullahi.

On September 24th, freelance journalist Zakeriye Ahmed tweeted the full Al-Shabaab statement on the strike which stated that at 9:20am on the 22nd September, US airstrikes killed three generations of the Sheikh Ishaaq family near Buurdhuhunie, Bakool after bombing their homes outside of the village, and provided the identities of those killed: Jawaahir Sheikh Ishaaq Abdullah – 3 years old, Fathi Sheikh Ishaaq Abdullah – 4 years old, Asma Sheikh Ishaaq Abdullah – 5 years old, Hafsa Sheikh Ishaaq Abdullah – 7 years old, Wiilo Isaaq Ahmed (mother of the four children listed before), Fadumo Ibrahim (grandmother of the four children listed before), Juweyriyah Abdullah – 4 years old, Zaynab Abdi Abdullah – 14 years old. Based on their names, it seems possible that they could be related to the Al-Shabaab leader Isaaq Abdullahi who was reportedly killed in the attack. The statement also accused the US military of repeatedly using cluster munitions in residential areas. However, a senior U.S. defense official, speaking to VOA News correspondent Carla Babb, stated that no U.S. airstrikes were conducted in Somalia on the day in question.

Xinhua News, on the 22nd of September, reported that the Somali National Army (SNA) had stated that “its forces killed eight al-Shabaab terrorists including one of the group’s leaders in an airstrike in the southwestern region of Bakool”. The Xinhua report elaborated on claims made by the Somali Ministry of Defense that the airstrike had specifically targeted and killed Al-Shabaab leader Isaaq Abdullahi and his seven bodyguards “as they planned to carry out attacks in the area”.

On the same day, Garowe Online similarly reported on the Somali Ministry of Defense statement and on Abdullahi’s death: “the slain leader was in charge of terrorist activity in the province on the Ethiopia border, per the statement”.

Moreover, VOA journalist, Harun Maruf, posted online via X/Twitter regarding the airstrike, and referred to Abdullahi as the “Al-Shabaab figure leading militant operations in the Bakool region”.

As neither the Somali government nor any source found by Airwars commented on the civilian harm reported by the Al-Shebab statement following the strike, Airwars has ranged the number of civilians killed as eight. Similarly, as no source contested the number of Shebab militants killed reported by the Somali government – Airwars ranged it as between one and eight, due to the naming of one of the militants killed. Airwars will update its estimates once more information comes to light.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

The victims were named as:

Family members (8)

Jawaahir Sheikh Ishaaq Abdullah
3 years old killed
Fathi Sheikh Ishaaq Abdullah
4 years old killed
Asma Sheikh Ishaaq Abdullah
5 years old killed
Hafsa Sheikh Ishaaq Abdullah
7 years old killed
Wiilo Isaaq Ahmed
Adult female killed
Fadumo Ibrahim
Adult female killed
Juweyriyah Abdullah
4 years old killed
Zaynab Abdi Abdullah
14 years old killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    8
  • (6 children2 women)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attackers
    Somali Military Forces, US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–8

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Source: @ZakeriyeAxmed

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
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    8
  • (6 children2 women)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attackers
    Somali Military Forces, US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–8

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM404

Incident date

September 10, 2023

Location

Forward Operating Base in Awdhegle district, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Airwars assessment

Scores of militants were killed by alleged US drone strikes near Forward Operation Base in #Awdhegle district on September 10, 2023.

A tweet from @HornSentinel reported that US drones carried out two strikes against al-Shabaab fighter who had stormed the Somali National Army (SNA) Forward Operation Base in #Awdhegle district, resulting in the death of “scores” of militants fleeing. @abdihussezy also attributed the strikes to a US drone.

According to @THE_GEELLE, one drone strike hit a unit of five to seven fighters. However it is unclear whether the fighters were killed or injured. The source also posted footage it says was from pro-SNA channels and is described as bring reconnaissance footage before the “TB2” strike, indicating the drone to be Turkish manufactured, but didn’t say who was responsible for the strike.

@THE_GEELLE also provided the coordinates of the location of the strikes.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–7

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • (Image from @HornSentinel)

US Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–7

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM403

Incident date

September 6, 2023

Location

Oodweyn, Mudug, Somalia

Geolocation

4.888, 46.5106 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Up to seven civilians, including up to five children and a woman, were killed and up to five others, including children, were injured during an operation that has been declared by the Somali government. The US has denied directly participating in the operation despite accusations of US drone/air strikes, while the Somali government has denied responsibility for the civilian casualties. The operation occurred in Oodweyn village on September 6, 2023.

Reuters reported that a suspected drone strike resulted in the death of five civilians and three al-Shabaab militants after the militants hid in a civilian home containing a family. Reuters quoted Somalia’s state news agency SONNA which reported that a woman and two children were killed by a landmine that was hidden in a civilian home by al-Shabaab militants. Local leader Farah Aden told Reuters that one of the militants knew the owner of the home and “They were seated outside the house and were busy enjoying meat and rice. As they ate the meat, the drone struck them. The house was not struck and civilians were not targeted. The civilians were hit by the shrapnel of the bomb.”

However, Amal Ali, a relative of the victims, told AP that the airstrike targeted an al-Shabaab vehicle as it was passing near a family home, killing a grandmother and five of her grandchildren, and the children’s father Dahir Ahmed confirmed the incident but not the details. The grandfather of the children, Ahmed Mohamud Shuuke, told VOA Somali that the children – four boys by his son and a girl from his daughter – were staying with his wife (their grandmother) the night of the strikes, and that he and the children’s parents were away that night. Shuuke said that “This disaster came upon them, and we don’t know where it came from” but that he thought that there had been an airstrike. He added that there were tracks of vehicles at the site of the incident the morning after, and that “Their bodies have been taken away. Up to now we don’t know their whereabouts,” including any surviving relatives.

Abdifatah Ali Halane, secretary-general of the El-Garas administration, told AP that the incident was a US airstrike and that the airstrike killed three people, including two al-Shabaab members, and injured five people, including four children. @AUC31 reported that seven civilians had been killed.

Al-Shabaab’s Politics & Provinces Office released a statement accusing the US of carrying out airstrikes and a ground raid at 10pm, which killed six civilians, including four children from the same family, a female relative, and their grandmother: Mus’ab Daahir Ahmed (3 years old), Abdirahman Daahir Ahmed (4 years old), Abdi Mahad Daahir Ahmed (5 years old), Abdiqani Daahir Ahmed (7 years old), Ikhlaas Ahmad (7 years old), Kaaha Takar Warsame (60 years old). The attack also resulted in wounded livestock.

The Somali Ministry of Information confirmed that an operation carried out in West El-lahelay resulted in the death of al-Shabaab militants Olol Ali Guled, the head of the al-Shabaab’s insurgent militia in Galmudug, Shuuke Ali Dheeg and Isse Barre. Shabelle Media Network reported that a total of five al-Shabaab militants, including Olol, were killed in the “joint” military operation between the Somali government and foreign partners.

AFRICOM released a statement two days after the operation, on September 8th, denying their responsibility for the civilian casualties: “On September 6, 2023, a Somali national force conducted a counter-terrorism operation in the vicinity of El-Lahelay, Somalia. The command’s initial assessment is that three al Shabaab leaders were killed as a result of the operation and, unfortunately, civilians were injured and killed in the vicinity of the operation. U.S. forces were not onsite for the operation and did not conduct air strikes during or in support of the operation. In response to a request from the Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command medically evacuated injured civilians. The claim being spread by al Shabaab that U.S. forces caused the unfortunate harm to civilians is false.”

Major Jessica Tait from AFRICOM told VOA in an email that “The command’s initial assessment is that one woman and three children were killed at the site,” she said. “At the request of the government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command medically evacuated two injured children, with one surviving.” Tait added that US forces “did not fire at any time while conducting the medical evacuation.” Minister of Information Daud Aweis told VOA Somali that “The government has received reports that civilians were hurt. An investigation is ongoing to verify that. We can’t confirm yet until the investigation is done.”

The incident occured during the night.

The victims were named as:

Family members (6)

Mus'ab Daahir Ahmed
3 years old killed
Abdirahman Daahir Ahmed
4 years old killed
Abdi Mahad Daahir Ahmed
5 years old killed
Abdiqani Daahir Ahmed
7 years old killed
Ikhlaas Ahmad
7 years old killed
Kaaha Takar Warsame
60 years old female killed

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Oodweyn, for which the generic coordinates are: 4.888, 46.5106. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.  

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike, Ground operation
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Agriculture
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 7
  • (3–5 children1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–5
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Planted explosives and unexploded ordnance (UXO)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Somali Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–3

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (6) [ collapse]

  • Location of operation/airstrikes on September 6, 2023. (Image posted by @HarunMaruf)
  • Statement from Somali government with reads: THE GOVERNMENT OF SOMALIA EXPOSED THREE SENIOR LEADERS WHO WERE EXCLUSIONS Mogadishu, September 07, 2023: In a special operation carried out by the National Army and the People's Defense Forces, three leaders who were responsible for the extra-religious activities of the Khawarij in Galmudug were killed. The raid that took place last night in West El-La Helay killed Ali Guled, who was the leader of the organization of the Kharijite rebels, Shuuke Ali Dheeg and Isse Barre who were also two wanted criminals. The mission was expertly negotiated and executed who broke the back of the Khawarij in general especially those hiding in Galmudug. The Somali government is grateful to the local people who helped facilitate the operation. The Government is committed to supporting the Somali people to punish the Khawarij conspirators who dare to harm the people and the country, and listen to the hard work to stay away from the Khawarij thoughts and actions. End
  • Images which reportedly show damage from airstrikes on the village of Oodweyn on September 6, 2023. (Image posted by @IbnSiqilli)
  • Images which reportedly show damage from airstrikes on the village of Oodweyn on September 6, 2023. (Image posted by @IbnSiqilli)
  • Images which reportedly show damage from airstrikes on the village of Oodweyn on September 6, 2023. (Image posted by @IbnSiqilli)
  • Images which reportedly show damage from airstrikes on the village of Oodweyn on September 6, 2023. (Image posted by @IbnSiqilli)

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

On September 6, 2023, a Somali national force conducted a counter-terrorism operation in the vicinity of El-Lahelay, Somalia.

The command's initial assessment is that three al Shabaab leaders were killed as a result of the operation and, unfortunately, civilians were injured and killed in the vicinity of the operation.

U.S. forces were not onsite for the operation and did not conduct air strikes during or in support of the operation.

In response to a request from the Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command medically evacuated injured civilians.

The claim being spread by al Shabaab that U.S. forces caused the unfortunate harm to civilians is false.

Somali Military Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Somali Military Forces
  • Somali Military 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
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 7
  • (3–5 children1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–5
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Planted explosives and unexploded ordnance (UXO)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Somali Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–3

Sources (11) [ collapse]