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

USSOM340

Incident date

July 25, 2021

Location

Between Qaycad town and Xarardheere district, Galmudug, Somalia

Geolocation

4.82888, 47.923205 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Subdistrict level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

The US conducted its second airstrike within four days against Al Shabab fighters in the Qay’ad area between Qaycad town and Xarardheere district on July 23, 2021 at 10:21AM.

According to Morad News, the US airstrike was in support of Somali forces involved in fighting with Al Shabab fighters as they were trying to capture Qay’ad.

The Somali Ministry of Information released a statement that “at 10:21 in Galmudug state between Qaycad town and Xarardheere district an airstrike has crippled the al-Shabaab terrorist. The precision strike only destroyed al-Shabaab fighters and weapons with zero civilian casualties.”

The US confirmed that it carried out the strike. AFRICOM released a statement saying “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command forces conducted an airstrike against al-Shabaab in the vicinity of Qeycad, Galmudug, Somalia today. There were no U.S. forces accompanying Somali forces during this operation. U.S. forces were conducting a remote advise and assist mission in support of designated Somali partner forces.”

@jseldin, correspondent for Voice of America, reported that “@PentagonPresSec tells @VOANews’s @CarlaBabbVOA, other reporters traveling w/@SecDef that like Tuesday’s strike, US troops executed the strike while working w/Somali forces remotely.”

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told VOA and other reporters traveling aboard a US military aircraft with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that Friday’s strike was carried out in support of Somali forces near the village of Qeycad. He said the strike was permitted by the powers granted by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. Kirby added that just as with the earlier airstrike that week, US troops were not on the ground with Somali forces but were conducting a remote advise-and-assist mission. Further information was not provided because of “operational security.”

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin further justified the need for the strikes in a statement that asserted: “Most recently what’s happened is our partner forces have increased their op[erational] tempo, and they have been pushing back on al-Shabab in a more significant way,” Austin told reporters traveling with him to Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. “The result of that is some engagements that were fairly intense, and we conducted those strikes to support our partner forces,” he added.

The Hill pointed out that while the authority to carry out the strike on July 20th was justified by U.S. Africa Command chief Gen. Stephen Townsend’s “existing authorities to act in the defense of our Somali partners, who were under attack by al Shabaab,” the strike on July 23rd was permitted by the AUMF.

Reuters also quoted several lawmakers, including Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who leads a key Senate foreign relations subcommittee, [who] criticized the Pentagon for carrying out the strikes even when no US forces were in danger. “It’s time to do away with questionable legal justifications claimed by one administration after the next for acts of war like this,” Murphy said in a statement.

The incident occured at 10:21:00 local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • A statement released by the Somali Ministry of Information about the US airstrike near Qaycad on July 25, 2021.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the area between the town of Qeycad and the boundary of Xarardheere district. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for a middle point between these two locations are: 4.82888, 47.923205.

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

n coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command forces conducted an airstrike against al-Shabaab in the vicinity of Qeycad, Galmudug, Somalia today. There were no U.S. forces accompanying Somali forces during this operation. U.S. forces were conducting a remote advise and assist mission in support of designated Somali partner forces. U.S. forces are authorized to conduct strikes in support of combatant commander-designated partner forces under the 2001 Authorization of Use for Military Force.

The command’s initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed given the remote nature of where this engagement occurred.

“The engagement was conducted to support our Somali partners who were taking significant fire from al-Shabaab fighters,” said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Greg Anderson, U.S. Africa Command, director of operations.

The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. These efforts contrast with the indiscriminate attacks that al-Shabaab regularly conducts against the civilian population.

The Federal Government of Somalia and the U.S. remain committed to fighting al-Shabaab to prevent the deaths of innocent men, women and children.

Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to U.S. and regional interests.

Due to operational security U.S. Africa Command is unable to release further information at this time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM339

Incident date

July 20, 2021

Location

Vicinity of Qeycad, Mudug, Somalia

Geolocation

5.0105526, 47.991289 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Exactly six months after Joe Biden became president, the US conducted its first declared strike in Somalia of his administration, at either 10.21 or 11.05am on July 20th 2021.

According to Morad News the attack took place in the Qay’ad area of Muldug, with Sonna state media reporting that the airstrike was conducted on a fortified position in Qaycad village, between Wisil and Bacaadweyn. Sonna also said that 20 al Shabaab militants were killed in the attack, with “many more” injured.

SomaliAffairs instead said the strike “targeted Al-Shabab militants stationed between Qay’ad village and Harardhere town”.

The US military said the strike was near Galkayo – the first recorded US action since 2018 in that immediate area.

According to a Pentagon spokeswoman cited by the New York Times, the attack had struck al Shabaab fighters assaulting Somali special forces on the ground.

According to the Times, “The [drone] strike was carried out by military aircraft against Shabab fighters who were attacking members of the Danab, an elite American-trained Somali commando force, near the town of Galkayo in the country’s north, said a Pentagon spokeswoman, Cindi King.”

“Mrs. King said the Danab commandos were being advised remotely by American trainers when they came under attack. ‘There were no U.S. forces accompanying Somali forces during this operation,’ Mrs. King said in an email. “U.S. forces were conducting a remote advise-and-assist mission in support of designated Somali partner forces.’”

AFP noted that an official DoD letter stated that “A battle-damage assessment is still pending due to the ongoing engagement between Al-Shabab and Somali forces, however the command’s initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this strike”.

Voice of America reported that Somali commanders had been hoping for a resumption of US strikes: “Somali Army spokesman Colonel Ali Hashi Abdinur told VOA earlier this week he hoped the U.S. would resume the strikes, especially to target the al-Qaida-linked fighters in areas where the Somali infantry can’t reach.  ‘We have good cooperation and collaboration with the U.S.,’ he said. ‘There are hard-to-reach areas in the forests where the airstrikes used to target their leaders.’”

The President of Galmudug State later tweeted that “The aim of the strike was to protect the brave armed forces those who are facing the enemy and it was successfully conducted as there were zero civilian casualties involved.”

An initial statement from the Somali government on the attack made no mention of US forces participation, placing the event at 11.05am local time. Breaking with recent convention, the strike was then declared directly by the Pentagon rather than by US Africa Command. However, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman confirmed to media that the strike had in fact been authorised by General Townsend of AFRICOM.

Biden’s first action in Somalia caused some discomfort in Congress. Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia told Politco’s NatSec Daily that ““I remain concerned with the justification of ‘collective self-defense’ to respond with U.S. military force to protect foreign groups when there is no direct threat to the U.S., its armed forces, or citizens… I look forward to getting more information from the administration about this specific drone strike, especially as we continue to work together to rebalance the Article I and Article II powers on use of force issues and update the 2001 AUMF to reflect current threats against the United States.”

A trio of senators – Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Mike Lee of Utah – issued a statement condemning the attack: “We’re troubled that no one in the administration sought the required legal authorization from Congress for Tuesday’s drone strike in Somalia especially with no American forces at risk—and apparently, did not even check with our commander-in-chief.”

And Congresswoman Ilhan Omar wrote expressing her concerns about the strike to President Biden, requesting answers to eight specific questions about the action.

 

The incident occured between 10:21 am and 11:05 am local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    20
  • Belligerents reported injured
    6–12

Sources (17) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Qeycad, for which the generic coordinates are: 5.0105526, 47.991289. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

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 forces conducted one airstrike in the vicinity of Galkayo, Somalia, July 20, 2021.

A battle-damage assessment is still pending due to the ongoing engagement between al-Shabaab and Somali forces, however the command’s initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this strike as the strike targeted known al-Shabaab fighters and took place in a remote area.

“This strike was conducted under collective self-defense authority and targeted al-Shabaab fighters engaged in active combat with our Somali partners,” said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Thomas Savage, U.S. Africa Command deputy director of operations. “We are committed to supporting our Somali partners as they fight against these terrorists.”

The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command forces take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. These efforts contrast with the indiscriminate attacks that al-Shabaab regularly conducts against the civilian population.

The Federal Government of Somalia and the U.S. remain committed to fighting al-Shabaab to prevent the deaths of innocent men, women and children.

Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to U.S. and regional interests.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    20
  • Belligerents reported injured
    6–12

Sources (17) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM338-C

Incident date

June 2–3, 2021

Location

Ceel-Cadde, El Adde, Somalia

Airwars assessment

At least one civilian, a woman, was killed and up to seven other civilians, including five children, were injured alleged US drone strikes or Kenyan airstrikes on the town of Ceel-Cadde in the Gedo region on June 2-3, 2021.

Halgan Media reported that suspected US drones or Kenyan fighter jets carried out strikes on a home in the Al Shabaab controlled town of Ceel-Cadde that left 5 children wounded and killed their mother. Local contacts provided the name of the woman killed: Sahro Adan Warsame. Halgan Media also added that her five children survived but were in critical condition and that four civilian homes were destroyed in the town of Ceel-Cadde.

Ali Ahmed Sheikh, the woman’s husband, told Reuters on Monday he had been out of the house when the warplane struck his family home in El Ade and that of a neighbour on Thursday night. “I found my house destroyed, my wife Sahra Aden and the baby she suckled dead,” Sheikh told Reuters from Erdogan Hospital in the Somali capital Mogadishu. He was there attending to his children – two boys and two girls – who were injured in the attack. He said that in the raid, the Kenyan planes had also bombed other villages and destroyed telecommunications masts of Hormud Telecom, a Somali telecoms firm.

Horn Observer put the casualty toll at two civilians killed, a mother and her child, and seven other civilians wounded in the airstrikes in the Gedo region. Somali officials said, as quoted by the media, that 6 children who were wounded in June 3rd airstrikes by Kenyan Defense forces in Gedo region were airlifted to Mogadishu, all of them under 12 years old.

Bloomberg quoted Somalia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who accused Kenya of carrying out the attacks, stating that “is the most recent example of Kenyan Defence Force operations resulting in the death and maiming of civilians, including women and children, that are increasingly becoming an unpleasant hallmark of the Kenyan Air Force’s standard operating procedure” and adding that they would be presenting their concerns to the African Union.

Sources were conflicted as to whether the US or Kenya was responsible for the airstrikes.

The incident occured during the night.

The victims were named as:

Family members (5)

  • Sahro Adan Warsame Adult female killed
  • Child of Sahro Adan Warsame Child female injured
  • Child of Sahro Adan Warsame Child female injured
  • Child of Sahro Adan Warsame Child male injured
  • Child of Sahro Adan Warsame Child male injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 2
  • (1 child1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    4–7
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Kenyan Military Forces, US Forces

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • One of the children injured in strikes on the Gedo region of Somalia on June 3, 2021. (Image posted by Horn Observer)

Kenyan Military Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Kenyan Military Forces
  • Kenyan 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, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 2
  • (1 child1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    4–7
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    Kenyan Military Forces, US Forces

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM337

Incident date

April 3, 2021

Location

Bariire, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Airwars assessment

Clashes between Somali government forces, Al-Shabaab forces, and unknown airstrikes resulted in the reported deaths of up to 47 government soldiers and the injury of 11 other government soldiers, as well as the claimed death of 77 Al-Shabaab fighters in Bariire on April 3, 2021.

Hussein Mohamed, a journalist for the New York Times in Somalia, reported on airstrikes on Bariire town on April 3rd just hours after Al-Shabaab launched an attack on a Somali military base that resulted in the death of over 50 soldiers. The Uganda People’s Defence Force also reportedly shelled Al Shabaab positions in Bariire.

Deutsche Welle reported that “In Bariire, witnesses said the militants managed to enter the camp and torch some of the military supplies. Separately, the groups said it has captured military vehicles and supplies in the attacks.”

Al Jazeera included a quote from Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab’s spokesman for military operations, who said that “We overran Bariire base, burnt three military vehicles and took two vehicles.” Al-Shabaab used a vehicle-borne suicide-bomb attack at the Bariire base and briefly occupied the base. At the same time, they launched an attack on the nearby Awdhigle base so that troops there couldn’t reinforce Bariire.

Resident Abdirahim Malin told Al Jazeera “we heard a heavy explosion caused by a suicide bomber ramming a car at the entrance to the base and a heavy exchange of gunfire followed. A few minutes later the militant fighters managed to enter the camp and torched some military supplies belonging to the Somali army.”

General Mohamed Tahlil Bihi, commander of the government’s infantry forces, told The Associated Press “we lost nine of our soldiers and 11 others got wounded from our side” while Musab, al-Shabab’s spokesman, said that they killed 47 government troops. General Mohamed Tahlil Bihi also announced that the government forces “killed 60 of their militias on one spot and 17 others near the other base”. It is unclear what role the airstrikes played in causing casualties.

Following the attack, AFRICOM told Hussein Mohamed that the US did not conduct any airstrikes in Somalia that date. Alex Ward, a reporter for Vox, provided the same statement from AFRICOM. While this strike may the pattern of previous US actions in Somalia, other international actors are also active, including Kenya and Uganda.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Kenyan Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    86–124
  • Belligerents reported injured
    11

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (11) [ collapse]

  • Damage caused by fighting between Al-Shabaab and government forces, as well as unknown airstrikes on Bariire on April 4, 2021. (Image posted by Garowe News)
  • Damage caused by fighting between Al-Shabaab and government forces, as well as unknown airstrikes on Bariire on April 4, 2021. (Image posted by Garowe News)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Victims of the fighting between Al-Shabaab and government forces, as well as unknown airstrikes on Bariire on April 4, 2021. (Image posted by Horseed Media)
  • Prime Minister of Somalia visits soldiers wounded in Al Shabaab attack on Awdhiigle and Barire military bases. (Image posted by MM Dhoore via Twitter)
  • Prime Minister of Somalia visits soldiers wounded in Al Shabaab attack on Awdhiigle and Barire military bases. (Image posted by MM Dhoore via Twitter)
  • Prime Minister of Somalia visits soldiers wounded in Al Shabaab attack on Awdhiigle and Barire military bases. (Image posted by MM Dhoore via Twitter)
  • Prime Minister of Somalia visits soldiers wounded in Al Shabaab attack on Awdhiigle and Barire military bases. (Image posted by MM Dhoore via Twitter)

US Forces Assessment:

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

Kenyan Military Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Kenyan Military Forces
  • Kenyan Military Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Kenyan Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    86–124
  • Belligerents reported injured
    11

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM336

Incident date

February 17, 2021

Location

Hantiwadaag, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.88721, 44.7789 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

A single source alleged a US drone strike on Hantidawaag which AFRICOM later denied.

Halgan Media wrote: “US drones just bombed the village of Hantiwadaag in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle province and struck a vehicle carrying a group of Al Shabaab fighters – Sources.”

AFRICOM responded to a request from Airwars: “U.S. Africa Command’s last strikes were conducted on Jan. 19 2021.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Hantiwadaag, for which the generic coordinates are: 1.88721, 44.7789. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

U.S. Africa Command's last strikes were conducted on Jan. 19 2021.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM335

Incident date

February 11, 2021

Location

Salagle, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

1.81004, 42.28991 Note: The accuracy of this location is to District level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Several Al Shabaab militants were reported killed at Salagle in a military strike which two local sources claimed was a US drone action. However AFRICOM explicitly denied this in an email to Airwars, insisting that “U.S. Africa Command’s last airstrike in Somalia was conducted Jan. 19, 2021.”

Intelligence Briefs said: “A number of Al-Shabaab operatives including some mid-level commander are believed to have been killed and compounds destroyed after four drone missiles hit targets in Sakow and Salagle localities of Middle Jubba region of Somalia.

Open sources and local media reported that suspected US drone conducted the air raid on the two Al-Shabaab stronghold towns in Middle Jubba region.”

Somaliland wrote: “Dozens of al-Shabaab members including their commanders are feared dead after four missiles hit their stronghold towns in Sakow and Salagle localities.

local media reported that suspected US drones bombed the two al-Shabaab controled towns in Middle Jubba region. It is not clear the exact casualties of the attacks but officials who are privy to the missions, claimed one of the targets was a meeting point attended by a number of al-Shabaab commanders.”

 

The incident occured around midnight.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–12

Sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the district of Salagle, for which the generic coordinates are: 1.81004, 42.28991. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • Reports of the incident mention the district of Salagle.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

U.S. Africa Command's last airstrike in Somalia was conducted Jan. 19, 2021.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–12

Sources (2) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM334

Incident date

February 11, 2021

Location

سااكوو, Sakow, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

1.640397, 42.452334 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Subdistrict level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Several Al Shabaab militants were reported killed at Sakow in a military strike which several local sources claimed was a US drone action. However AFRICOM explicitly denied this in an email to Airwars, insisting that “U.S. Africa Command’s last airstrike in Somalia was conducted Jan. 19, 2021.”

Geesguud initially reported: “Residents in Middle Jubba reported a suspected US airstrike in their vicinity on Wednesday. Locals from the Sakow district reported hearing the rumblings of fighter jets late in the evening, followed by artillery shelling and bombs. The residents believe US forces were targeting Al-Shabaab bases in their surrounding area.”

Warsan Radio also claimed that most strikes had been carried out by US drones and others by fighter jets.

Somaliland wrote that “dozens of al-Shabaab members including their commanders are feared dead after four missiles hit their stronghold towns in Sakow and Salagle localities.”

Badweyn Times was alone in alleging civilian harm, though blamed local Somali forces: “Reports from Sakow district in middle Jubba, Somalia indicate that there are significant reports of heavy shelling on children and other civilians. The bomber struck shortly after noon in front of a children’s home in Sakow district.  Out of the above 80 children were killed, while declare that there was still a number of serious offenses. Many children spoke out when the announcement was made after it was important as an emergency, according to one resident.

Security sources say Colonel Abdullah Dahir Abdullah (Ugas Abdalla) is responsible for the planned insult and the whole air strike. The site of the bombing was said to be caring for orphans between the ages of 5 and 12 and also part of a food service for the elderly people in the town.”

Highly unusually, no other media or local sources reported civilian harm in this event from any party despite Badweyn’s claim of high civilian deaths. While Airwars includes this claim here for completion, we do not presently consider this to be a valid civilian harm allegation.

The incident occured around midnight.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Somali Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–12

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the vicinity of Sakow (سااكوو) city. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Sakow are: 1.640397, 42.452334.

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

U.S. Africa Command's last airstrike in Somalia was conducted Jan. 19, 2021.

Somali Military Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Somali Military Forces
  • Somali Military Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Somali Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–12

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM333

Incident date

January 29, 2021

Location

Ma'moodow, Bakool, South West State, Somalia

Geolocation

4.12303, 43.890121 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Subdistrict level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

According to Somali official and media sources, an airstrike targeted a group of al Shabaab fighters in the vicinity of Ma’moodow town in Bakool province on January 29th.

According to an official statement from the Security Ministry of South West State, the attack was conducted by “friends of Somalia.”

Following requests for clarification, AFRICOM publicly denied responsibility for the event, insisting that the last US military action had been on January 19th – the last full day of the Trump presidency. .

Reports of a strike first emerged late on the night of January 29th, with Halgan Media asserting that “Sources reveal suspected US drones carried out a drone strike Tonight and bombed the Al Shabaab controlled town of Ma’moodow in the Bakool province of Somalia. Per Sources, the drone strike occurred at around 10PM local time.”

Halgan later added that “Sources confirm the (drone) strike targeted a group of Al Shabaab fighters that where conjured together in Ma’moodow and waiting for vehicles coming from the direction of Ceelbarde, when they came under attack from an American drone….Per sources the drone strike in Bakool came after Al Shabaab fighters ambushed a contingent of Ethiopian troops escorting supplies by road upon departing Ceelbarde. After the ambush, the insurgents gathered in Ma’moodow, which was followed by a strike”.

Anadolu Agency was among media citing a statement later published by the Security Ministry of Southwest State, which reportedly “said that US airstrikes killed several senior al-Shabaab commanders in the southwestern Bakool region. According to a statement issued by the ministry, the airstrikes took place in the vicinity of Ma’moodow, 410 km (254 mi) from Mogadishu.”

That statement in fact referred only to a strike by “friends of Somalia” – though officials appear to have briefed local reporters in more detail.

On February 1st 2021, responding to an email query from Airwars, AFRICOM’s public affairs team noted: “We are aware of the reporting. U.S. Africa Command was not involved in the Jan. 29 action referenced below. U.S. Africa Command last strike was conducted on Jan. 19. Our policy of acknowledging all airstrikes by either press release
or response to query has not changed.”

In light of that denial – and given a possible link between the strike and an earlier reported nearby attack on Ethiopian troops – Airwars presently determines that this was likely an AMISOM or Ethiopian action. Radio Dalsan and Badweyn Times reported the strike was conducted with fighter jets.

The incident occured at approximately 10:00 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    Amisom Military Forces, US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–4

Sources (9) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the town of Ma’Moodow, allegedly located 40km away from the city of Hudur, with sources suggesting it being situated in the direction of Ceel Barde. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Hudur are: 4.12303, 43.890121.

  • Reports of the incident mention the town of Ma’Moodow, allegedly located 40km away from the city of Hudur, with sources suggesting it being situated in the direction of Ceel Barde.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

Amisom Military Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Amisom Military Forces
  • Amisom Military Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

"We are aware of the reporting. U.S. Africa Command was not involved in the
Jan. 29 action referenced below. U.S. Africa Command last strike was conducted
on Jan. 19. Our policy of acknowledging all airstrikes by either press release
or response to query has not changed."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    Amisom Military Forces, US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–4

Sources (9) [ collapse]