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

USSOM123-C

Incident date

April 1, 2018

Location

Ceel Buur, Mudug, Somalia

Geolocation

4.621699, 46.454628 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Up to four civilians, including one child and one woman, were killed along with up to five al Shabaab fighters as a US airstrike struck El Burr, Galmudug, international media reported. Following a year of denials, US Africa Command admitted in April 2019 that civilians had in fact died in the event – and that the US Congress had been misled.

The event marked the first time in twelve years of military actions in Somalia that AFRICOM had publicly conceded civilian harm.

US Africa Command’s initial statement asserted that “U.S. Forces conducted an airstrike against Al-Shabaab militants near El Burr, Somalia, the afternoon of April 1, killing five (5) terrorists and destroying one (1) vehicle. We assess no civilians were killed in this airstrike.”

However, civilian harm allegations were later confirmed by US Africa Command following sharp questioning by Congress, and a major report by Amnesty International alleging civilian harm from US actions in Somalia. Its Director of Operations told reporters in 2019 that elements of AFRICOM had in fact  known of the civilian harm for a year: “The command received an allegation of civilian casualties at the time, but determined that it was not credible.

“About a week later, an ‘AFRICOM subordinate unit conducting counterterrorism operation in Somalia’ received new information, Olson said, which prompted the team to open up its investigation. That investigation concluded that the strike 12 months ago had actually killed the woman and child along with four al-Shabab militants. AFRICOM said it was only informed of the new information, investigation, and discovery of civilian casualties last week, after the commander of AFRICOM, Marine General Thomas Waldhauser, launched an audit of all U.S. airstrikes in Somalia since 2017.”

As Defense Post noted: “The error was compounded when senior leaders said during congressional testimony that U.S. forces had caused zero civilian casualties in Africa. Africom commander General Thomas D. Waldhauser had ordered a review of airstrikes conducted in Somalia since 2017 “due to a recent increase in airstrikes and continued interest by Amnesty International and Congress on civilian casualties,” the release said.”

AFRICOM issued a public statement on April 5th 2019 which said: “On March 30, 2019, the command was notified about the results of a post-strike internal assessment conducted in April 2018 that found credible evidence of the two civilian casualties. Unfortunately, the finding was not properly reported to U.S. Africa Command headquarters.

“Because of the reporting error, U.S. Africa Command was not informed of the assessment’s conclusion-and subsequently the information was not reported to external authorities, such as the host nation and Congress. Consequently, on April 2, 2018, U.S. Africa Command stated in a press release based on an initial post-strike intelligence review the strike killed five al-Shabaab terrorists, and that the command assessed “no civilians were killed in this airstrike.” Unaware of the subsequent assessment and findings, senior leaders later stated during congressional testimony and media engagements that U.S. forces caused zero civilian casualties in Africa. U.S. Africa Command is committed to transparency in its reporting of civilian casualties. While believed to be an isolated occurrence, the reporting error is being addressed.”

Reporting at the time of the incident had included some mention of civilian casualties.

An al Shabaab statement reported by local media said two prominent local elders, Ali Hared and Yusuf Dhegay, were killed. VOA described Dhegay as a poet, but that “[Somali] Government officials said Dhegey used his poems to incite violence and help al-Shabab recruit.”

All Africa also reported the death of a woman, but it was unclear if she had been included in the al Shabaab statement. The news site however said the strike took place on April 2nd, not April 1st.

The New Arab said that pro-al Shabaab media outlets reported two civilian deaths, referencing senior commanders of the group. Sources in the area also told All Africa that a drone fired a missile which hit a convoy carrying civilians, but no additional details were given.

Two Somali intelligence officials meanwhile told AP that the strike hit a vehicle carrying senior al Shabaab officials and that the dead included a woman.

After reaching out for clarification, US Africa Command confirmed to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2019 that a woman and a child were killed in the strike, as was initially reported by the BBC.

The strike, according to All Africa, took place in Da’ar, an al Shabaab controlled area around 20 kilometres from El Burr. El Burr is in the semi-autonomous region of Galmudug. In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM  again confirmed it had struck on this date what it says were “al Shabaab Fighters”, in the vicinity of El Burr, Somalia.

The incident occured in the afternoon.

The victims were named as:

Ali Hared
Adult male killed
Yusuf Dhegay
Adult male killed
Unnamed
Adult female killed
Unnamed
Child killed

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a convoy in Da’ar area, about 20 kilometers west of the town El Bur (or Ceel Buur). Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the strike. The coordinates for Ceel Buur are: 4.685184, 46.619229. The village located exactly 20 kilometers west of the town is called Dab Xarar, for which the coordinates are: 4.621699, 46.454628. This could refer to the Da’ar area mentioned in the reports.

  • The village Dab Xarar located 20 kilometers west of Ceel Buur/El Bur (radius of 20 kilometers marked in red)

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 4
  • (1 child1 woman2 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–5

Sources (25) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing on Somalia, March 26th 2019

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Credible / Substantiated
    The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties regrettably occurred.
  • Given reason for civilian harm
    Killed by strike blast
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    2
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • Stated location
    Near el Burr, Somalia
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • Aug 1, 2019
  • Apr 5, 2019
  • During a commander-directed review of airstrikes conducted in Somalia since 2017, U.S. Africa Command learned an April 1, 2018 airstrike killed two civilians. The commander, U.S. Africa Command directed the review due to a recent increase in airstrikes and continued interest by Amnesty International and Congress on civilian casualties. "Credibility, transparency, and accountability are fundamental to military operations," said U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, commander, U.S. Africa Command. "It is critically important that people understand we adhere to exacting standards and when we fall short, we acknowledge shortcomings and take appropriate action." The April 2018 airstrike was designed to degrade the al-Shabaab terrorist group near El Burr, Somalia. In the airstrike four al-Shabaab militants also were killed. The airstrike was not one of the allegations presented by Amnesty International in its March 2019 report. On March 30, 2019, the command was notified about the results of a post-strike internal assessment conducted in April 2018 that found credible evidence of the two civilian casualties. Unfortunately, the finding was not properly reported to U.S. Africa Command headquarters. Because of the reporting error, U.S. Africa Command was not informed of the assessment's conclusion-and subsequently the information was not reported to external authorities, such as the host nation and Congress. Consequently, on April 2, 2018, U.S. Africa Command stated in a press release based on an initial post-strike intelligence review the strike killed five al-Shabaab terrorists, and that the command assessed "no civilians were killed in this airstrike.” Unaware of the subsequent assessment and findings, senior leaders later stated during congressional testimony and media engagements that U.S. forces caused zero civilian casualties in Africa. U.S. Africa Command is committed to transparency in its reporting of civilian casualties. While believed to be an isolated occurrence, the reporting error is being addressed. The Federal Government of Somalia was notified of this newly learned information, and U.S. Africa Command remains in close coordination with our partners. U.S. Africa Command takes prudent measures to minimize civilian casualties and fully complies with the Law of Armed Conflict. The Command has processes in place to ensure the safety and protection of the local population remains a top priority. "Airstrike assessments are a critical and continuous component of operations," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. "Trust and credibility are central to our operations. If an innocent loss of life occurs, we are committed to being transparent and learning from this regrettable incident to prevent future occurrences." The command has executed 28 airstrikes in Somalia in 2019, compared to 47 in 2018 and 35 in 2017.

  • A declassified AFRICOM document earlier made the following determination: "Multiple CIVCAS allegations of a U.S. strike that took place on 1 April 2018. The time frame and geographic location coincide with a known strike, however, the number and type of casualties are inconsistent with confirmed BDA [Battle Damage Assessment]. NOT/NOT CREDIBLE: Intelligence sources indicate that all occupants of the vehicle were adult males. Two al-Shabaab mid- to high-level leaders were killed in the strike."

Original strike reports

US Forces

U.S. Conducts Airstrike in Support of the Federal Government of Somalia

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Forces conducted an airstrike against Al-Shabaab militants near El Burr, Somalia, the afternoon of April 1, killing five (5) terrorists and destroying one (1) vehicle.

We assess no civilians were killed in this airstrike.

U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect U.S. citizens and to disable terrorist threats. This includes partnering with AMISOM and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) in combined counterterrorism operations and targeting terrorists, their training camps, and their safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 4
  • (1 child1 woman2 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–5

Sources (25) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM209-C

Incident date

March 18, 2019

Location

Laantabuur or Abdow Dibile, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

2.0913, 45.0693 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Exact location (other) level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Up to four civilians were killed in a US strike in the Lower Shabelle region, international media and investigating NGOs reported from the ground, though US Africa Command claimed that the strike had only killed three “terrorists.” It later again officially denied causing any civilian casualties.

Initially, allegations of civilian harm came from a Reuters journalist who spoke to a relative of someone who reportedly died in Laanta Buuro.

Abdiqadir Nur, an employee of the telecommunications company Hormuud Telecom died alongside three others at what was initially described as 04:30 local time as they drove through the village of Laanta Buuro, Reuters reported.

A later investigation published in Foreign Policy by freelance journalist Amanda Sperber, suggests that at least one of those killed – and possibly two others – had no connection to terrorism.

“Ibrahim Hirei had been driving back to Mogadishu with two friends on March 18 when his car was hit in an American airstrike. Hirei, who had spent the day in the village of Muuri inspecting his family’s farm, was killed, along with a second man in the car. The third passenger died later in the hospital,” Sperber reported.

“My innocent brother became a victim of that airstrike. Now we are struggling to manage the life of the family left behind,” Hirei’s older brother, Ahmed Hassan Hirei, told Foreign Policy in a text message.

US Africa Command said in their initial press release issued the day after the event that they were aware of reports that alleged civilian harm as a result of this strike. They noted: “As with any allegation of civilian casualties we receive, U.S. Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties.”

In September 2019, Amnesty International issued an extensive report on the case, having interviewed eleven witnesses, and insisting that the three victims of the attack “were  in fact civilian farmers with no evidence of links to the armed group [al Shabaab].”

“On 18 March 2019, Abdiqadir and Mahad Nur Ibrahim and Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey were travelling towards the hamlet of Abdow Dibile from the village of Muuri, Lower Shabelle, in a white Toyota Surf SUV. They had been visiting their farms near Muuri that day, as they often would, and were returning from the farms to their respective homes in Mogadishu, Leego and Yaaq Bariwayne. Between 3 and 4pm, when the vehicle was approximately 750m north of Abdow Dibile, it was hit and destroyed by a munition launched by a US aircraft.

“A friend of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim, living in Mogadishu, told Amnesty International that he learned on the night of the attack of his death from a relative of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim. Early the following morning, the friend left Mogadishu and travelled to Abdow Dibile. At around 8am he arrived in the hamlet where he found Mahad Nur Ibrahim, badly burnt but alive, inside a vehicle bound for hospital. Amnesty International also viewed photographs of these injuries.

[Before his death almost three weeks later,] Mahad Nur Ibrahim told his friend that the three men had been travelling from their farms near Muuri, when their car was struck.

“Shortly after they spoke, Mahad Nur Ibrahim was driven to Digfeer hospital in Mogadishu, approximately 30km away. “Mahad later succumbed to his injuries and died in a Mogadishu hospital,” the friend told Amnesty International. According to hospital records viewed by Amnesty International, Mahad Nur Ibrahim died on 6 April 2019. The records state that the cause of death was cardiac arrest, after suffering from sepsis and burns on more than 50% of his body.

“The friend described to Amnesty International what the scene of the attack looked like when he arrived, and how he identified the two victims whose bodies remained at the scene. On arrival, he found Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey’s body cut into pieces and lying near the wreckage, after local people had removed him from the back of the vehicle. Amnesty International reviewed photographs that appear to show Ibrahim’s burnt head and torso.

“The friend and relatives of Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim and Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey buried the two men in Abdow Dibile on Tuesday 19 March. An elder in the Wadalaan Gorgaate clan and distant cousin of Abdiqadir and Mahad Nur Ibrahim explained that the families of the men received no support from the Somalia or US government after losing their loved ones.

“No one apologized or even asked us about their death. We came together as a family after their death, but we just could not give them any support. We left it to God. We don’t know what actually happened and why they were killed, maybe it was a mistake. We would like justice to be served and the families of the deceased supported.”

“Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim was a father of eight. He owned electric generators supplying the village of Leego in Wanlaweyn district, Lower Shabelle, and farmed land near Muuri, in Afgoye district. He was also the head of Hormuud’s Leego office. Mahad Nur Ibrahim was a father of four. Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey was a father of seven. In addition to farming, he leased out farm equipment and ran a business transporting foodstuff between Mogadishu and Muuri. Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey previously lived with his family in Muuri, but they fled to Mogadishu five years ago due to the conflict between Biyamal and Habargidir clans.

“Amnesty International interviewed family members, neighbours, and colleagues of the victims, all of whom unequivocally stated that the men were not members of Al-Shabaab.

“All 11 people Amnesty International spoke to were adamant that the three men were civilians. “He was not Al-Shabaab” a relative of Mahad Nur Ibrahim explained. “He owned a truck and he transported charcoal to Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab banned charcoal business in Leego and Lower Shabelle so he was not doing much in the past two years. He wanted to invest in the farms with the help of his brother, but both were killed while coming back from the farms.”

“A Habargidir clan elder and relative of Ibrahim Mohamed Hirey was also clear on this point: “I can confirm before anyone that Ibrahim was a civilian and not an Al-Shabaab guy”. Another relative concurred: “He was a civilian, he was not member of Al-Shabaab. If he were Al-Shabaab we would not have run away from the Biyamal-Habargidir conflict. We were basically IDPs in Mogadishu with Ibrahim supporting us. I don’t know why he was targeted. It was a clear aggression.”

“According to a fellow employee at Hormuud who Amnesty International interviewed, as well as relatives, Abdiqadir Nur Ibrahim had worked for Hormuud for over a decade and was also not an Al-Shabaab member. Those who knew the men questioned why they had been killed. “I don’t know why [Abdiqadir’s] car was targeted but I think it was a mistake,” a friend said. “The three people who were killed in that car were farmers and not members of Al-Shabaab”.

“In addition to the testimonies, there is additional circumstantial evidence which indicates that the deceased were civilians. Al-Shabaab did not treat the three men as if they were members of the armed group. Families of the victims were not prevented from recovering the bodies and taking the injured to hospital. Testimony gathered throughout Amnesty International’s research in Somalia has consistently shown that Al-Shabaab will collect and bury their dead themselves, often before they permit civilians back into the area. Additionally, Mahad Nur Ibrahim was transported from Abdow Dibile to government-controlled Mogadishu, where he was treated at Digfeer hospital, a civilian facility, where it would have been relatively easy for Somalia government forces to question or arrest him.”

The identity of a possible fourth victim originally cited by Reuters has not been publicly determined. As of late 2019, Africom was still assessing the civilian harm allegations related to this event. US investigative journalist Nick Turse obtained via FOIA a declassified document listing recent locally-alleged civilian harm from US actions, which AFRICOM was reviewing. The third entry notes for the date March 18th 2019 that “[redacted source] posted an article alleging that a U.S. airstrike killed and wounded a number of civilians in a vehicle in the vicinity of Awdeegle… Outcome PENDING.”

In April 2020, AFRICOM overtly denied causing civilian harm in this event: “March 18, 2019, AFRICOM received two allegations from an online media source claiming between three to four (3-4) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Afgooye, Somalia, on March 18, 2019. AFRICOM received three duplicate allegations of this incident on April 29, 2019, May 7, 2019, and August 29, 2019, from online media sources, and one duplicate allegation again on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization.

“After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. U.S. intelligence confirmed the identity of the individuals as al-Shabaab militants involved in logistics operations. The vehicle and occupants were observed in support of known al-Shabaab locations, and strike video indicates that the effects of the strike were limited to the vehicle. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.”

Given that all local sources as well as a major Amnesty field investigation determined that some or all of the victims were in fact non combatants, Airwars continues to grade this as a likely US civilian harm event.

In March 2022, AFRICOM released their 4th Quarter, 2021 Civilian Casualty Assessment Quarterly Report, which stated that “The Command has read Amnesty International’s investigation and does not contest or challenge that these individuals were farmers or worked for Hormuud. Through multiple methods, both prior to and following the strike, we have concluded they were al-Shahaab operatives. During this operation AFRICOM intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets followed a white SUV with one occupant that originated from an al-Shabaab controlled village. During the surveillance, ISR assets observed stops at three al-Shabaab checkpoints positively identified by al-Shabaab flags and activity consistent with al-Shabaab checkpoints. During stops at each checkpoint the initial occupant exited the vehicle, interacted with al-Shabaab members, and picked up two additional adult males who were also positively identified as al-Shabaab members. After driving through a fourth positively identified al-Shabaab checkpoint, U.S. forces maintained continuous surveillance of the vehicle until the strike. Multiple conflicting Somalia media reporting, and the statement from Hormuud Telecommunications stating that none of their employees were killed in a strike in this area, further diminishes the CIVCAS claim. U.S. ISR assets maintained continuous surveillance until completion of the strike mitigating the risk of collateral damage and civilian casualties.”

The incident occured at approximately 4:30 pm local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

46 years old male "an employee of telecommunications company Hormuud Telecom". Combat status unclear, though Reuters suggest he was a civilian. killed
46 years old male Half brother of Abdiqadir. Injured and later died. According to Reuters, he was "totally burnt". It's unclear whether he later died. Reuters suggest he was a civilian. killed

The victims were named as:

30 years old male Farmer killed

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a vehicle driving through the village of Laantabuur (or Laanta Buuro) near the town of Afgooye. Amnesty placed the precise coordinates at Abdow Dibile: 2.0913, 45.0693

  • Geolocation via Amnesty International. Original caption: This image shows a partial panorama of the air strike scene, overlaid on a satellite image showing the same location on 9 April, 2019, several weeks after the air strike. © Amnesty International. Source Image: © 2019 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar Company.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 4
  • (3–4 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Unknown
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (7) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Horn News published what it implied was a victim of the strike - likely to be Mahad Nur Ibrahim, who later died of his injuries.
  • Destroyed vehicle - presumably from this event - publoished by Amnesty International in its September 2019 report.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Other
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • Mar 11, 2022
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • March 18, 2019, AFRICOM received two allegations from an online media source claiming between three to four (3-4) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Afgooye, Somalia, on March 18, 2019. AFRICOM received three duplicate allegations of this incident on April 29, 2019, May 7, 2019, and August 29, 2019, from online media sources, and one duplicate allegation again on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. U.S. intelligence confirmed the identity of the individuals as al-Shabaab militants involved in logistics operations. The vehicle and occupants were observed in support of known al-Shabaab locations, and strike video indicates that the effects of the strike were limited to the vehicle. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.

  • The Command has read Amnesty International's investigation and does not contest or challenge that these individuals were farmers or worked for Hormuud. Through multiple methods, both prior to and following the strike, we have concluded they were al-Shahaab operatives. During this operation AFRICOM intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets followed a white SUV with one occupant that originated from an al-Shabaab controlled village. During the surveillance, ISR assets observed stops at three al-Shabaab checkpoints positively identified by al-Shabaab flags and activity consistent with al-Shabaab checkpoints. During stops at each checkpoint the initial occupant exited the vehicle, interacted with al-Shabaab members, and picked up two additional adult males who were also positively identified as al-Shabaab members. After driving through a fourth positively identified al-Shabaab checkpoint, U.S. forces maintained continuous surveillance of the vehicle until the strike. Multiple conflicting Somalia media reporting, and the statement from Hormuud Telecommunications stating that none of their employees were killed in a strike in this area, further diminishes the CIVCAS claim. U.S. ISR assets maintained continuous surveillance until completion of the strike mitigating the risk of collateral damage and civilian casualties.

Original strike reports

US Forces

"In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia's continued efforts to weaken al-Shabaab, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in the vicinity of Awdheegle, Lower Shabelle Region, Somalia, on March 18, 2019 (...)

At this time, it is assessed this airstrike killed three (3) terrorists.

Also, we are aware of reports alleging civilian casualties resulting from this airstrike. As with any allegation of civilian casualties we receive, U.S. Africa Command will review any information it has about the incident, including any relevant information provided by third parties."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 4
  • (3–4 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Unknown
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM130-C

Incident date

May 29–June 3, 2018

Location

Bariire, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

2.04707, 44.89832 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

A suspected airstrike in a field outside Bariire, a village 30 miles west of Mogadishu, killed three boys and left one woman injured, according to The National.

Journalist Amanda Sperber met Halimo Mohamed Abdi, a herder who was injured in the action:

“The blast broke both her hips, left shrapnel embedded in her thigh, and caused terrible burns that cost her both breasts. Before she lost consciousness, she told me, she saw three boys—ages 9, 10, and 16—die in the explosion, which occurred at night in a field outside Bariire, a village 30 miles west of the Somali capital of Mogadishu. She also said the strike came from the sky and that afterward she had to be hospitalized for three months.”

Halimo said she didn’t follow the Western calendar, but that the event was about two weeks before Eid al-Fitr, which began on June 14th in 2018.

US Africa Command had stated in a press release that it conducted an airstrike 30 miles southwest of Mogadishu on May 31st, that it said killed 12 terrorists – which is presently recorded by Airwars as another event. Due to the lack of clarity regarding the date of this incident, it is not clear whether these are referring to the same incidents. The date range for this event has been set at May 29th to June 3rd.

AFRICOM has not released details of any other airstrikes that match the date range or location given by Halimo. The US along with Kenya are the only countries known to be conducting airstrikes in this region of Somalia. Ms Sperber has suggested that the strike may also not match AFRICOM’s records because it could potentially be a CIA action.

In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM  confirmed it had struck what it says were “al-Shabaab Fighters”, in the vicinity of Merka District, Somalia. This appears most likely to relate to the other reported (and confirmed) US event on May 31st

The incident occured during the night.

The victims were named as:

Halimo Mohamed Abdi
Adult female injured

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in a field outside the village Bariire, 30 miles west of Mogadishu, destroying a house. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we weren’t able to verify the location of the field or house. The coordinates for the village of Bariire are: 2.04707, 44.89832.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 children)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–12

Sources (2) [ collapse]

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
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 children)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–12

Sources (2) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM145-C

Incident date

September 19, 2018

Location

سااكوو, Saakow, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

1.637795, 42.452829 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

At least three children were killed as up to 12 al Shabaab members were targeted and killed by a night time airstrike, local and international media reported – though it was unclear who was behind the attack.

Several senior al Shabaab officials were killed or wounded in an airstrike, Somalia intelligence officials reportedly said. The intelligence officials said the strike hit both a training school and nearby general hospital in Saakow, in the Middle Juba region.

According to Xinhua: “Independent sources confirmed the attack on al-Shabab militants in Sakow town, saying at least three children were killed in a school. A resident in Sakow town told Xinhua by phone that the warplane dropped four shells into the center of the town near the Jubba River there. ‘I cannot tell you the number of casualties in the airstrike here because I did not get out of my home since this morning, but shells were four that created big fear,” said the resident who asked for anonymity.'”

Hassan Yaqub, a longtime al Shabaab commander, was reportedly targeted in the action. The Somali Deputy Information Minister Adam Isak Ali said that Yaqub had been injured. Twelve members of the group were also killed, he said.

Meanwhile, Al Shabab said three children were killed in what it described as a drone attack, while a local elder told Mareeg also said at least three children died in the strike, which was confirmed it said by witnesses who contacted local radio stations.

Associated Press reported that several young recruits were killed. This suggests that the youngsters may instead have been child soldiers.

It was not clear who had carried out the strike, AP reported. US Africa Command said it had not carried out a strike since September 11th. Kenya also carried out strikes in Somalia at this time, as did Ethiopia. A local news site reported it as a Kenya strike.However, Kenya was also not thought to have precision night time strike capabilities at this time.

A statement from the Somali deputy information minister said only that the action was conducted by “international partners”.

The incident occured during the night.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a school and nearby hospital in the town of Saakow (سااكوو). Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to locate the school and hospital. The coordinates for the town of Saakow (سااكوو) are: 1.637795, 42.452829.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    School
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 children)
  • 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
    US Forces, Kenyan Military Forces, Ethiopian Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    12
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (14) [ collapse]

  • Damage at Saakow, reportedly the result of a night time air or drone strike on September 19th 2018
  • Damage at Saakow, reportedly the result of a night time air or drone strike on September 19th 2018
  • Damage at Saakow, reportedly the result of a night time air or drone strike on September 19th 2018
  • Damage at Saakow, reportedly the result of a night time air or drone strike on September 19th 2018
  • Al Shabaab image shows damage reportedly from a September 19th 2018 airstrike on Saakow.
  • Al Shabaab image shows damage reportedly from a September 19th 2018 airstrike on Saakow.
  • Al Shabaab image shows damage reportedly from a September 19th 2018 airstrike on Saakow.
  • Al Shabaab image shows damage reportedly from a September 19th 2018 airstrike on Saakow.
  • Bodies of two youths said to be students at a Qurani school at Saakow, killed in an airstrike by an unknown party on September 19th 2018 (Image via al Shabaab propaganda site)

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

Ethiopian Military Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    School
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 children)
  • 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
    US Forces, Kenyan Military Forces, Ethiopian Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    12
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM099-C

Incident date

November 10–11, 2017

Location

2km north of Baasra, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

2.329050, 45.265357 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

US forces carried out a strike against al Shabaab at approximately 8pm local Somalia time killing “several” fighters, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said. It was also alleged by local officials that three civilians had died.

The strike hit the Lower Shabelle region. A Somali military official told Voice of America the strike, which they said was carried out by a drone, hit fighters in the region’s Basra village, located 30 kilometres north of Mogadishu.

A local Somali official said that three civilians had been killed in the strike, though the spokesperson for the security ministry dismissed the allegation as al Shabaab propaganda, Voice of America reported. An AFRICOM spokesperson later told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that this allegation had been assessed by them to be non credible.

AFRICOM officials said at least 13 fighters were killed in this attack. This and the four additional strikes between November 9th and November 12th killed “more than 40 terrorists,” a Pentagon spokesperson told reporters on November 13th. He did not say how many people were killed in which of the five strikes, “for operational reasons,” an AFRICOM spokesperson told the Bureau on November 15th 2017.

In July 2019, US investigative reporter Nick Turse obtained a FOIA response from AFRICOM which offered significant detail on the civilian casualty assessment (see below). Deeming the attack ‘NOT CREDIBLE’, the assessment claimed that “The targeted group was maneuvring, and openly displaying weapons, in an area approximately 2.5km north of the closest town, Basra.”

Amnesty International has also examined this case, noting the following in March 2019: “On 10 November 2017, the US conducted at least three air strikes in and around Baladul-Rahma and Geeshaan. In an email to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, AFRICOM confirmed it conducted a strike in the Lower Shabelle region. It did not provide details of casualties “for operational reasons”, however news reports at the time indicate three civilians were amongst those killed. According to records obtained
by Amnesty International, a total of 10 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, three Griffin missiles, and two GBU-69/Bs were fired by the US Air Force in Somalia between 10-17 November 2017.”

A senior Amnesty researcher later told Airwars that “The info on the Nov 10/11 strikes did come from interviews with local villagers, and it should line up both with the Bureau’s data and a lot of other news reporting – a fairly major operation happened in the general ‘Basra’ area at that time, but we weren’t able to name exactly which civilians died from air strikes and which died from ground ops.”

In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM confirmed it had struck what it says were al Shabaab fighters, north of Baasra, on this date.

The incident occured at approximately 8:00 pm local time.

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place 2 kilometers north of the village Baasra. The coordinates for this area are: 2.329050, 45.265357. Amnesty reported that the US ‘conducted at least three airstrikes in and around Baladul Rahma and Geeshaan’ on this date. These two villages are within very near vicinity of Baasra: the coordinates for Baladul Rahma are: 2.296128, 45.264368; the coordinates for Geeshaan are: 2.297905, 45.273261.

  • The villages Baasra, Baladul Rahma and Geeshaan, and the area 2 km north of Baasra

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    10–13

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • CGTN Africa Live report on US strikes in Somalia, November 13th 2017

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Insufficient evidence of civilian harm
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • Stated location
    2.5km north of Basra
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • Jul 1, 2019
  • [FOIA assessment obtained by US investigative reporter Nick Turse] On 25 JUN 18, New America reporter, David Sterman, contacted USAFRICQM PAO to inquire about a CIVCAS allegation concerning a strike IVO Basra, Somalia on 10NQV17. The allegation was featured in a single Voice of America (VOA) news report on 15NOV17. Voice of America indicated that "...A local official told VOA that three civilians were among at least 13 people killed on Saturday when drone-fired missiles targeted militants in the Basra village..." but that "...a Security Ministry spokesman denied the reported civilians death, dismissing it as al-Shabaab propaganda." NOT/NOT CREDIBLE: The targeted group was maneuvering, and openly displaying weapons, in an open area approximately 2.5 km north of the closest town, Basra, Somalia. The targeted group was observed massing approximately 2 km from the friendly force location. The strike occurred in the context of an assisted, partner force operation in the area where partner forces came under fire from hostile forces over a period of six hours. USAFRICOM is only aware of the allegations arising in one media report/allegation, and cite only one, unnamed villager. The VOA article itself indicates the Somali government Security Ministry separately assessed no civilians were killed.

Original strike reports

US Forces

Via email:

"U.S. forces conducted an airstrike in Somalia against al-Shabaab on Friday, Nov. 10 at approximately 8 p.m. local Somalia time, killing several militants. The operation occurred in the Lower Shabelle Region of Somalia, about 20 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    10–13

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM101-C

Incident date

November 12, 2017

Location

Southeast of Darusalaam, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.9072, 44.7978 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Exact location (via Airwars) level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

A US strike on al Shabaab fighters in the Lower Shabelle region also killed three civilians, Amnesty International later reported.

Two US strikes took place in Somalia on November 12th, with one targeting al Shabaab and the other hitting Islamic State fighters, according to US Africa Command. The strikes killed “several fighters”, it said.

The first attack hit at around 0300 local time killing “several terrorists” according to AFRICOM, while the second action is included in a separate report for this date.

SomaliMemo published graphic photographs later that day which it said were of three farmers (though Amnesty later said the bodies had been moved and staged by al Shabaab.)

In a March 2019 investigation into civilian harm in Somalia by Amnesty International, it was reported that three local farmers, Ibrahim Siid Wehelow (20 years old), Hassan Meyow Abkey (40 years old) and Ahmed Jeylani Sheekhow (26 years old) were killed when a strike targeted them as they were sleeping under a tree.

The men reportedly finished work at 2am, were too tired to walk and were waiting underneath the tree for a ferry the next morning to take them back from their farm to their homes on the other side of the Shabelle river.

Amnesty notes: “As the three men camped out at the side of the road, without warning a single air strike was launched at them at around 3am. A detonation shook the area, killing the three men and sending farmers to cover. Residents of both Mubarak and Darusalaam told Amnesty International that they were woken by the explosion. “I saw the heavy splashing light and then the big noise came, and I fell down,” said Liban, a farmer who was working nearby.

“I was frightened and then I tried to gather what happened and I tried to call [Ibrahim, Ahmed and Hassan] and it said “unavailable”…Then, in the morning the people went to see what happened and to our surprise we found they had died. The noise of the plane was louder than before,” Liban continued,

“The weeks before it used to come and leave, only that night it was not leaving. It was coming and coming and coming… when the noise [of an airstrike] happened everything ceased…I was so frightened. I couldn’t keep watch on the farm at all. I went under the shelter of the tree and hid…These three young men were not expecting to be killed by a plane, and we did not expect the world to be silent.”

Witnesses described to Amnesty how al Shabaab came the next morning and rearranged the bodies, staging them for photos that they published online. The photos meant that Amnesty could geolocate the strike to a farm road 2 km southeast of Darusalaam.

Hassan Meyow Abkey was a local expert in fixing smartphones according to locals that Amnesty witnessed, leading some to believe that they were targeted because he was fixing an al Shabaab phone and the US were using signals intelligence (SIGINT).

From all of their available information, Amnesty assessed that all three of the men were civilians. In response to Amnesty International’s allegations, US Africa Command replied that the three men were instead members of al Shabaab:

“AFRICOM conducted a precision-guided strike that corresponds to the time and location alleged, targeting al-Shabaab fighters. The Shahada News Agency, an al-Shabaab media outlet, alleged CIVCAS shortly after the event and supported the claim using staged photos. AFRCOM conducted a CIVCAS allegation assessment and determined that the three men described in the allegation were not sleeping at the time of the strike and were members of al-Shabaab.”

The incident occured at approximately 3:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Ibrahim Siid Wehelow
20 years old male Farmer killed
Hassan Meyow Abkey
40 years old male Farmer killed
Ahmed Jeylani Sheekhow
26 years old male Farmer killed

Geolocation notes (2) [ collapse]

Field investigation by Amnesty points to the exact location of the strike at these coordinates: 1.907188, 44.797862. From Amnesty International: “At first light, villagers from Darusalaam and Mubarak reached the bodies. Witnesses described to Amnesty International the horrific injuries they were confronted with, and said they covered the bodies in white shrouds, in preparation for burial. Soon after, Al-Shabaab fighters arrived, removed the shrouds, and rearranged the bodies, staging them for photographs, that they later posted on social media and on SomaliMemo, a pro-Al-Shabaab website. While in these photographs the bodies appear to have been moved and as such the images do not present an accurate depiction of the scene immediately after the blast, they do confirm several important factors. First, they reveal the location of the air strike. Using digital verification techniques, Amnesty International researchers were able to use indicators from the landscape to precisely geolocate the crater to 1.9072 North, 44.7978 East, a farm road 2 km southeast of Darusalaam. This location also aligns with witness testimony.

  • Geolocation of strike by Amnesty International, march 2019

  • Geolocation of strike by Amnesty International, march 2019

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–3

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (11) [ collapse]

  • Via Amnesty: Scrap from the GBU-69/B, including the distinctive mesh tail fins in the crater. © SOMALIMEMO
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Staged body of a reported civilian farmer killed by a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Staged body of a reported civilian farmer killed by a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • Munition fragments from a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • Munition fragment from a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Staged bodies of reported civilian farmers killed by a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Staged bodies of reported civilian farmers killed by a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • CGTN Africa Live report of November 13th 2017 on recent US strikes in Somalia
  • Cartoonist Mike Dawson featured the November 12th event in a graphic novella for Amnesty International
  • Cartoonist Mike Dawson featured the November 12th event in a graphic novella for Amnesty International
  • Cartoonist Mike Dawson featured the November 12th event in a graphic novella for Amnesty International

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Other
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • Mar 1, 2019
  • AFRICOM conducted a precision-guided strike that corresponds to the time and location alleged, targeting al-Shabaab fighters. The Shahada News Agency, an al-Shabaab media outlet, alleged CIVCAS shortly after the event and supported the claim using staged photos. AFRCOM conducted a CIVCAS allegation assessment and determined that the three men described in the allegation were not sleeping at the time of the strike and were members of al-Shabaab.

Original strike reports

US Forces

Via email:
"U.S. forces conducted two separate airstrikes against al-Shabaab and ISIS, in Somalia on Nov. 12, killing several terrorists. The first strike occurred at approximately 3 a.m. local Somalia time against al-Shabaab in the Lower Shabelle Region about 40 miles west of the capital Mogadishu.
The second separate strike occurred at approximately 9 a.m. local Somalia time against ISIS in Puntland."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–3

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM025-C

Incident date

March 1–31, 2013

Location

Kol, near Bula Xawa, Gedo, Somalia

Geolocation

3.928658, 41.874032 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Two airstrikes by an unknown belligerent hit the nomadic settlement of Kol, near the city of Bulla-Xama, in southwestern Somalia’s Gedo region, killing a mother and her two children and injuring five others, a young man who fled the settlement following the strike told the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice.

According to a report, Black and White, the two strikes happened at around noon on an unspecified date in March 2013, “killing a mother and her two children and 13 goats. Three other women and two children were injured.”

Currently, no further details are available, including the presumed target of the strike.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

The victims were named as:

Family members (3)

Unnamed mother
Adult female killed
Unnamed 1
Child killed
Unnamed 2
Child killed

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that two airstrikes targeted the nomadic settlement of Kol, near the town Bula Xawa. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location of the settlement of Kol. The coordinates of the town Bula Xawa are: 3.928658, 41.874032.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (2 children1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    5
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    Unknown
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Unknown Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Unknown
  • Unknown position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (2 children1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    5
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    Unknown
  • Suspected target
    Unknown

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM138-C

Incident date

August 2, 2018

Location

Gobanle (Gobaale), Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

3.123005, 44.775008 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Three civilians were reportedly killed in a US strike in Gobanle village, according to Amnesty International – though US Africa Command claimed that only four “terrorists” were killed.

However an AFRICOM declassified assessment of the event published in July 2019 indicated that the US itself was unaware of the identities of those in the vehicle – most likely having used pattern of life before attacking.

A BBC Somalia report on the same day as the strike said locals had said civilians were among those killed in the targeted vehicle. Mogadishu Update tweeted the following: “BREAKING: At least three civilians including well-known businessman identified as Abdi Samad Hassan and one of #Hormuud telecommunication company Engineers killed in an Air strike carried out suspected #US drones near Goobaale village in #Somalia’s L/Shabelle region.”

In March 2019 Amnesty International released a report on civilian harm in Somalia that detailed this event.

The three civilians were driving in a rural area 1km outside of Gonable village when the strike hit their vehicle. Some of the eyewitnesses that Amnesty spoke to said that there was one al Shabaab member in the vehicle that may have been the target of the strike. Amnesty identified the three civilian fatalities by name and age, as listed below.

A senior Lower Shabelle official also confirmed to Amnesty that three civilians were killed in an air strike near Gobanle. “I don’t know why they were hit, but maybe it was a mistake. The US are making a lot of mistakes in this region,” he said.

One witness eyewitness, Ibrahim, described the strike to Amnesty: “When they were away from us we saw a plane circling over them and they went under a tree” Ibrahim, a witness said. The aircraft disappeared from sight but returned shortly afterwards. The vehicle was then hit by an air strike, destroying it completely. “When the plane left they drove away in the vehicle, but the plane came back and hit them when they were in the open. We went there and took them. The four of them died there,”

In a statement, US Africa Command said that they conducted a strike on this day 74 miles northwest of Mogadishu, that killed four “terrorists”. They assessed that no civilian casualties had resulted from the strike.

Witnesses to the attack told Amnesty International that the three civilian victims were not armed and were not members of Al-Shabaab. “They had a shovel and a hammer but no weapons,” one witness said.

In response to Amnesty’s allegations of civilian harm, US Africa Command said:

“AFRICOM conducted a precision-guided strike that corresponds to the time and location alleged, targeting individuals who were members of al-Shabaab. The pro-al-Shabaab media outlet, Somaliamemo.net alleged CIVCAS shortly after the event. AFRICOM conducted a CIVCAS allegation assessment and determined that the allegation was not credible based on the unreliability of the source and the fact that the individuals targeted were members of al-Shabaab.”

Separately, US investigative reporter Nick Turse obtained a declassified AFRICOM assessment of the event, also published in July 2019. This strongly indicated that the US did not in fact know the identities of three of those killed in the vehicle, noting only that “Several circumstantial factors indicate that the three adult males in the vehicle were associated with al-Shabaab: The three individuals alleged to be civilians were located in a known al-Shabaab stronghold and accompanying a known al-Shabaab leader and no well digging activity or equipment was observed during target development.”

In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM  confirmed it had struck on this date what it says was an “al Shabaab named objective”, in the vicinity of Gobanle, Somalia.

The incident occured in the afternoon.

The victims were named as:

Abdisamad Sheikh Issack Mohamed
35 years old male worked for Hormuud Telecommunications Company killed
Adan Hassan Yarow (aka “Adan Dubbe”)
58 years old male married, father of nine killed
Abdi Nurow Adan
58 years old male father of nine killed

Geolocation notes

Amnesty investigation reports that the strike targeted a vehicle at 1 kilometer east of the village of Gobanle (or Gobaale). The coordinates for the village of Gobanle are: 3.12222, 44.76507; and the coordinates for the area 1 kilometer east of the village are: 3.123005, 44.775008.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (5) [ collapse]

  • Cartoonist Mike Dawson featured the August 2nd event in a graphic novella for Amnesty International

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Other
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • Stated location
    IVO Gobanie
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • Aug 28, 2018
  • The initial allegation of CIVCAS was identified in a pro al- Shabaab news website, Somaliamemo.net. The allegation indicated that the three adult males in the vehicle with the objective were civilians. Further, it identified these individuals by name alleging that one was a noted local businessman with the Hormuud Telecom Company. The online article indicated that the other two adult males were well diggers and were engaged in digging a well. NOT/NOT CREDIBLE: Intelligence sources identified two of the four adult males in the vehicle were assessed as armed. The lethal strike was conducted in open, low collateral damage terrain while the four adult males were traveling in a vehicle. None of the individuals observed during target development were observed digging a well as reported by Somaliamemo.net. Several circumstantial factors indicate that the three adult males in the vehicle were associated with al-Shabaab: The three individuals alleged to be civilians were located in a known ai-Shabaab stronghold and accompanying a known al-Shabaab leader and no well digging activity or equipment was observed during target development.

Original strike reports

US Forces

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab militants approximately 74 miles northwest of Mogadishu, Somalia, on August 2, killing four (4) terrorists.

We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike.

U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect U.S. citizens and to disable terrorist threats. This includes partnering with AMISOM and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) in combined counterterrorism operations and targeting terrorists, their training camps, and their safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (7) [ collapse]