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

USSOM018

Incident date

October 23, 2011

Location

Kismayo, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

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

Airwars assessment

At least one al Shabaab militant was reportedly killed as Shabaab positions in Kismayo, Jubaland, were subject to aerial shelling, international and local media reported. There was disagreement about whether the US, France or Kenya were to blame

A local resident told Reuters: “A jet bombarded an al Shabaab base near the port. It dropped a huge shell, flew past, came and then dropped another shell…The whole town shook. We’ve never heard anything like it. Everyone ran away.”

The strikes in Kismayo were said to have killed at least one al Shabaab militan, according to some sources including Bloomberg. Meanwhile the terror group denied any casualties. “There were no casualties,” an al Shabaab source in southern Somalia told Reuters. “We fired at the plane after the second bombardment and it has not come back.” No civilians were reportedly harmed.

Kenyan military spokesperson Major Emanuel Chirchir said the strike was in support of a Kenyan Defence Force advance in southern Somalia, while attributing blame to either the US or France.  The spokesperson told the New York Times “everybody is in theatre… they are complementary.” Kenya also said in a statement cited by the New York Times that the French Navy had also shelled rebel positions from the sea.

Chirchir would not however identify who had carried out the airstrikes, while noting that: “Everyone knows who is fighting the terrorists, they are the same partners who are always fighting al Qaeda.”

Two senior American officials in Washington told the New York Times that the US had not carried out the attacks. The French also denied they carried out the strikes or were responsible for a naval bombardment in the preceding days.

Finally, several sources, including Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Farah Dahir, a Somali army spokesperson, said Kenyan jets were responsible for the attack that killed an al Shabaab commander. Al Shabaab also said a Kenyan jet launched the strike.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Geolocation notes

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, French Military, Kenyan Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (8) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

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

French Military Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    French Military
  • French Military 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, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, French Military, Kenyan Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM017-C

Incident date

October 22, 2011

Location

Afmadow, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

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

Airwars assessment

In this single-source claim, Somalia Report reported that at least 11 civilians died and more than 20 others were wounded after a possible US drone attacked Afmadow town in Lower Juba region.

An eye witness, Mohamud Abdirahman, told Somalia Report: “I have seen 11 bodies and we believe that it was a US airstrike.”

Locals said they had sighted what they believed to be US drones loitering above the area in the previous few days. Al Shabaab had reportedloy been the target of the attack.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Geolocation notes

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    11
  • Civilians reported injured
    20
  • 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

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Archived claim via Wayback

US Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    11
  • Civilians reported injured
    20
  • 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

Sources (1) [ collapse]

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

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.

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.

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
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Original report archived via Wayback

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US 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
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

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

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.

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.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • 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

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Archived Somalia Report claim via Wayback

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
    4
  • 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

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

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.

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.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–6

Sources (11) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US 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

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.

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.

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
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Unknown
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–30

Sources (4) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US 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
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Unknown
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • 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

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.

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.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • 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
    0–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1–3

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Original Somalia Report copy via Wayback

US Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • 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
    0–2
  • 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

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.

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.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (2) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (2) [ collapse]