US Forces in Somalia

Library image of an armed Reaper drone, December 2019 (US Air Force/ Senior Sergeant Haley Stevens)

Belligerent
Country
Somalia
start date
end date
Airwars Grading
Belligerent Assessment
Strike Status
Strike Type

Incident Code

USSOM016-C

Incident date

October 13, 2011

Location

10 km east of Taabta, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.305181, 41.440288 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

In this single-source allegation, civilians were reported as possibly harmed following attacks on an al Shabaab base near Taabta village, Lower Juba, Somalia Report reported. It was not clear who was behind the actions.

Somalia Report reported that drones had targeted an al-Shabaab base used to train new fighters. Its source cited TFG military official Mohamed Hassan Bule as saying: “We are aware of the operations. It completes today’s operation on the group by the Somali National Forces. The airstrikes were carried out by drones from a friendly nation and destroyed a very important and large base ten kilometres east of Taabta. They used the base to train a misguided generation.”

Casualty numbers were unknown, though with some local sources reportedly saying that civilians were also “affected.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Original report archived via Wayback

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted an Al Shabab training camp 10 kilometers east of Taabta. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the strike. The coordinates for Taabta are: 0.305181, 41.440288.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM015-C

Incident date

October 6, 2011

Location

Dolbiyow, 35 kilometers east of Dhobley, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.411441, 41.327456 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Subdistrict level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Subdistrict

Airwars assessment

Four Somali farmers were reported to have been killed in a possible drone strike in Dolbiyow Village, 35km east of Dhobley according to Somalia Report, while one was reportedly injured.

The farmers and their camels were killed moments after al-Shabaab fighters fled the area in vehicles, witnesses said. However, a TFG official told Somalia Report that Al-Shabaab had instead mortared the village.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Archived Somalia Report claim via Wayback

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in the town Dolbiyow, 35 kilometers east of Dhobley (0.411429, 41.008691). Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location of Dolbiyow. The coordinates for the area 35 kilometers east of Dhobley are: 0.411441, 41.327456.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM014

Incident date

September 25, 2011

Location

Kismayo, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

-0.355651, 42.545703 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

City

Airwars assessment

The United States launched a series of drone attacks on al-Shabaab in Kismayo, according to residents, who reported strikes on three locations.

The BBC reported that “At least three targets were hit around Kismayo, the southern port which is under the control of the militants. One reconnaissance drone is reported to have crashed… al-Shabaab are patrolling the streets, preventing locals from using the hospital, which is treating their wounded.”

A large drone was also said to have crashed. Al Shahbaab official Sheikh Ibrahim Guled told Reuters: “This plane was a spy for the American government and by the will of Allah, it crashed near the airport. We did not target it but it fell down.”

Antiwar.com noted that no deaths were reported but several explosions were noted.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–6

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted three areas around Kismayo. A drone crashed near the Kismayo airport and was taken to the police station. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the strike. The generic coordinates for the city Kismayo are: -0.355651, 42.545703.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–6

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM013-C

Incident date

September 15, 2011

Location

Kismayo, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

-0.355651, 42.545703 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

City

Airwars assessment

A single source reported that nine civilians died in alleged US drone strikes on Kismayo.

According to the source Antiwar.com, “Eyewitnesses in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo have reported a number of missile strikes, apparently fired by US drones in and around the city. Terrified residents say that several loud explosions were heard in the area.

“The militant faction al-Shabaab, which is in control of the area, says the drones hit on the outskirts of the town and killed at least nine civilians, including women and children. 30 others were reported wounded in the strikes.”

AFP reported that residents of Kismayo heard “the sound of aircraft and heavy explosions… We heard planes flying over Kismayo and minutes later there were at least three explosions,” resident Mohamed Ali told AFP by phone. “The aircraft fired heavy missiles into a jungle area where the Shebab established training camps, but we don’t know more,” Abdikarim Samow, another resident, told AFP.

Armed drones were operating from Mahe in the Seychelles (along with those used purely for surveillance), the Washington Post reported: “In the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean…a small fleet of ‘hunter-killer’ drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.”

Seychelles foreign minister Jean-Paul Adam denied the drones were armed. However, a 2009 diplomatic cable stated the US “would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions … to gain approval’ to arm the Reapers in the Seychelles ‘should the desire to do so ever arise”.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    9
  • (2 children2 women)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–30
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, Unknown
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–30

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a jungle or the outskirts of Kismayo. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the strike. The generic coordinates for the city Kismayo are: -0.355651, 42.545703.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Unknown Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    9
  • (2 children2 women)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–30
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, Unknown
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–30

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM012-C

Incident date

July 6, 2011

Location

Afmadow, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.514539, 42.074264 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

In this single-source allegation, an unknown number of people were reportedly killed or wounded in possible US strikes in Afmadow district, as reported by Somalia Report. The source did not mention whether the victims were combatants or civilians.

According to Somalia Report, US drones or planes reportedly hit three al Shabaab militant training camps in Afmadow. “‘Early in the morning and before the sunrise, we heard more than five heavy blasts not far from the town. We believe it was an airstrike,’ said a resident. ‘Minutes later, we saw three military vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed to Kismayo. We believe they were carrying victims of the attack.'”

However, then-Somalia Report editor Michael Logan told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism by email that it was simply not known if US drones were behind this attack. “This is one of those that cannot be confirmed as a drone. Lots of witnesses and a TFG official do confirm an attack, so some kind of strike took place (but as you know, there are a variety of actors capable of launching missiles),” he said.

Somali deputy defence minister Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig said at the time, while confirming that airstrikes had occurred, that: “The foreigners and senior officials of the terrorist group are afraid. They secretly hide amongst the civilians. The airstrikes will continue until we minimize the enemy from our country.” Dr. Omar Ahmed, an academic and Somali politician, told Somalia Report that such airstrikes would increase local support for al Shabaab: “There is no reason for the western countries to use airstrikes against al-Shabaab. It will only increase the generations supporting al Shabaab.”

The incident occured around dawn.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1–3

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Original Somalia Report copy via Wayback

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in Afmadoow, for which the generic coordinates are: 0.514539, 42.074264. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1–3

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM011

Incident date

June 28, 2011

Location

Taabta, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.305181, 41.440288 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

In a news feature looking at drone strikes in Somalia, Somalia Report stated that on this day, “another [US] attack occurred in Taabta village in the Afmadow District of Lower Juba.” The report indicated that the target was al Shabaab.

“AFRICOM does have terrorism in its list of applications and as of June JSOC’s hunter killers have been quietly tucked up inside the brass bloated command. On April 6th [2011] shortly after the exploitation of data from captured al qaeda cel phones and laptops, three dozen al shabaab members were killed. On June 24th, helos from Camp Simba took out a Shabaab convoy 4 days later another attack occurred in Taabta village in the Afmadow District of Lower Juba.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in the village of Taabta, for which the coordinates are: 0.305181, 41.440288. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (2) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM010

Incident date

June 21–23, 2011

Location

Kismayo, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

-0.404956, 42.498817 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

In the first known lethal drone strike in Somalia, Predators struck a militant training camp 10km south of Kismayo. Further missiles reportedly hit a second target near the airport. At least one member of Al-Shabaab was killed – possibly “many” – and up to three were wounded, according to local and international media. There were no reports of civilian harm.

Several sources reported at least one militant’s death while other pointed to “many”. Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, Somalia’s deputy defence minister, told AP the strike killed “many” foreign fighters. “I have their names, but I don’t want to release them,” he claimed.

Ibrahim al Afghani, also known as Ibrahim Haji Jama Mead, a senior leader in al Shabaab, was reportedly wounded or killed, although Strategic Forecasting claimed on August 11th 2011 that Afghani was alive and had replaced Ahmed Abdi Godane as the emir of al Shabaab.

Al Shabaab did not respond to either report, though Afghani has not appeared in public since. Somali Report, however, cited an al Shabaab official who claimed that no militants were killed.

Meanwhile, between one and three militants were wounded, according to reports. A local al Shabaab leader, Sheik Hassan Yaqub, reported two wounded while resident Mohammed Aden reported seeing three wounded militants. Among them was British citizen Bilal al Berjawi, killed in a subsequent US drone strike in January 2012.

There was no public announcement of the strike by the US. However, an anonymous  “senior U.S. military official familiar with the operation” told the Washington Post “a U.S. drone aircraft fired on two leaders of a militant Somali organization tied to al-Qaeda, apparently wounding them”.

The Washington Post added: “Both of the al-Shabab leaders targeted in the attack had ‘direct ties’ to American-born cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, the military official said.” However, the Post reported that “The White House declined” to respond to questions about the attack.

US helicopters reportedly landed after the strike, with troops retrieving some dead and injured. The strike was the first joint mission conducted by JSOC and the CIA, CNN claimed.

In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM said it had conducted a strike on what it says was an “al-Shabaab name objective”, in Ras Matooni, Somalia on June 21st 2011. This is the closest match we have for this strike.

It remains possible that there were other US actions – perhaps covert – around this time. The Long War Journal said that a “Predator” strike occurred on June 25th. And Somalia Report flagged an incident the previous day, asserting that “On June 24th, helos from Camp Simba took out a Shabaab convoy.”

The incident occured between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–5
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1–3

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a convoy near a training camp 10 kilometers south of Kismayo. A subsequent FOIA response pointed to the vicinity of the area Ras Matooni (-0.46484, 42.47665). The coordinates for the area 10 kilometers south of Kismayo are: -0.404956, 42.498817. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

On June 30th 2011, the Washington Post reported:

A U.S. drone aircraft fired on two leaders of a militant Somali organization tied to al-Qaeda, apparently wounding them, a senior U.S. military official familiar with the operation said Wednesday.

The strike last week against senior members of al-Shabab comes amid growing concern within the U.S. government that some leaders of the Islamist group are collaborating more closely with al-Qaeda to strike targets beyond Somalia, the military official said.

The action was publicly confirmed in a DoD FOIA response in 2019.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–5
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1–3

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM009

Incident date

April 3, 2011

Location

Dhoobley, Gedo, Somalia

Geolocation

0.411429, 41.008691 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

At least one militant and as many as “three dozen” were killed in an alleged US-waged airstrike in Dhobley, Jubaland, international and regional media reported. The attack marked the beginning of a concerted campaign in Somalia against al Shabaab by the Obama administration.

After a reporting gap of 18 months, US air attacks appear to have resumed. Reports of intense fighting for control of the town of Dhobley between al Shabaab and Somali forces mentioned an airstrike, which Shabelle reported had killed several militants. Somalia Report stated: “On April 6, shortly after the exploitation of data from captured al-Qaeda cell phones and laptops, three dozen al Shabab members were killed”, although later reports say only one commander was killed. Jabreel Malik Muhammed was killed in the strike, according to the Observer (Uganda).

The Long War Journal reported: “A recent report in Shabelle on the fighting in the border town of Dhobley in southern Somalia and the death of a Shabaab commander includes speculation that airpower is being employed against Shabaab fighters and commanders…Some reports suggested that during the battle, aerial strikes targeted Al Shabaab officials, killing number of Al Shabaab military officers.The Somali government and the African Union forces backing them do not possess aircraft needed to carry out airstrikes, but Ethiopia, Kenya, and the US do.”

In what may be a linked incident, All Africa reported two days after the attack that “Dozens of injured Al shabaab fighters from Dholey town, where fighting between Somali forces and Al shabaab took place one day ago, were brought to Kismayo town, about 500 KM south of Mogadishu. Sources confirmed Shabelle Media Network that the wounded Al shabaab fighters were admitted medical facilities at the center of Kismayo town.”

Somalia Report also asserted that “On April 6th shortly after the exploitation of data from captured al qaeda cel phones and laptops, three dozen al shabaab members were killed.” This may indicate a separate event several days later.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, Ethiopian Military Forces, Kenyan Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–36

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in the border town Dhoobley, for which the coordinates are: 0.411429, 41.008691. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed 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

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
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, Ethiopian Military Forces, Kenyan Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–36

Sources (7) [ collapse]