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

USSOM349

Incident date

August 9, 2022

Location

near Beledweyne, Hiiraan, Somalia

Geolocation

4.741004, 45.201998 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Four Al-Shabaab members were killed by three declared US airstrikes near Beledweyne on August 9, 2022.

Somalia state media was the first to report on August 9th that “at the request of Somali Government, #US launched a strike in support of Somali National Army forces conducting counterterrorism operations in #Hiran region. There were no civilians harmed in this incident and the US said it will continue to support #Somalia.”

On the day of the strike, August 9th, local source Morad News reported that a US drone strike was reported in the Hiiraan region and local journalist @HarunMaruf also tweeted that the US strikes had occurred “at the request of the federal government of Somalia.”

The following day, August 10th, US AFRICOM released a statement that “In coordination with and in support of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted three airstrikes against al-Shabaab terrorists who attacked Somali National Army Forces near Beledweyne, Somalia, August 9, 2022. The command’s initial assessment is that the strikes killed four al-Shabaab terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed. U.S. forces are authorized to conduct strikes in defense of designated partner forces.”

A tweet from @wesleysmorgan pointed out that strikes in Somalia continue to be justified as collective self defense of Somalia or African Union partner forces, not counterterrorism HVT strikes.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention strikes in the vicinity of the city of Beledweyne, for which the generic coordinates are: 4.741004, 45.201998. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

In coordination with and in support of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted three airstrikes against al-Shabaab terrorists who attacked Somali National Army Forces near Beledweyne, Somalia, August 9, 2022.
The command’s initial assessment is that the strikes killed four al-Shabaab terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed. U.S. forces are authorized to conduct strikes in defense of designated partner forces.
The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. These efforts contrast with the indiscriminate attacks that al-Shabaab regularly conducts against the civilian population.
The Federal Government of Somalia and the U.S. remain committed to fighting al-Shabaab to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians.
Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to Somali, regional and U.S. interests.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4

Sources (12) [ 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.

  • 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

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

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.

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]

Incident Code

USSOM237a-C

Incident date

July 11, 2019

Location

جيليب, Jilib, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.7928186, 43.3841839 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Al Shabaab members or civilians were allegedly killed in US strikes near Jilib and Basra. AFRICOM later denied conducting strikes in the area.

Harun Maruf reported: “Overnight airstrikes killed dozens of Al-Shabaab militants in Jilib, Cmdr of AS’s Hisba police station in the town, Hassan Dhere, his deputy and a 3rd official among the dead, per sources. Most casualties occurred at a militia camp and at an explosives training facility.”

Jeff Seldin tweeted afterwards that AFRICOM “says it was not them who targeted #AlShabaab — no strikes in #Somalia in the past 24 hours.”

Caasimada said: “The shelling occurred at midnight last night and is reported to have been targeted at four al-Shabaab bases.

The bombings include a district headquarters, a base, a suicide bombing station and another location where fighters reportedly were preparing to attack the positions of the Jubbaland and AMISOM forces in Banaranguuni, Lower Juba region.

About 20 fighters have been killed in targeted attacks on the district headquarters, online sources have confirmed.”

Abdullahi Ali Warsame wrote: “Jubbaland administration says the US DRONES destroyed four locations belonging to Al-Shabaab, at Jilib district . Hundred fighters who under training feared dead. High ranking included Xasan Dheere, iyo mo,alin ali and Husain Ali who was trainer,5 prisoners there killed.”

AFRICOM later responded to an apparent civilian casualty allegation in its first quarterly report: “AFRICOM received two allegations from two social media accounts claiming five (5) civilians were killed as a result of U.S. airstrikes in the vicinity of Jilib and Basra, Somalia. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or locations.”

The allegations cannot be found at the moment.

The incident occured during the night.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    12–24

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports mention strikes on a militia camp, explosives training facility and district headquarters in the vicinity of Jilib (جيليب) town, for which the generic coordinates are: 0.7928186, 43.3841839. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected 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
    No Coalition strikes were conducted in the geographical area
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • AFRICOM received two allegations from two social media accounts claiming five (5) civilians were killed as a result of U.S. airstrikes in the vicinity of Jilib and Basra, Somalia. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or locations.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    12–24

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Incident Code

SOM016a-1

Incident date

January 12, 2013

Location

Bulo Marer, Somalia

Airwars assessment

French commandos failed to a rescue a French spy held hostage by al Shabaab since 2009. Paris claimed the militants executed the captured secret service agent, known by his alias Denis Allex, during an assault by 50 Special Forces troops. However al Shabaab’s media wing said the hostage survived.

Seventeen alleged militants were reportedly killed and eight civilians died, including a child and both his parents. Four civilians were killed when they were woken by helicopters landing. They were reportedly shot when they turned on flashlights. Survivors allegedly warned the militants of the advancing French force.

AFP gave the most detail regarding the civilian casualties: “‘Four civilians, including three from one family, are among the dead. They were all killed outside Bulomarer, where the French commandos landed before entering the city,’ resident Adan Derow said by telephone. The victims were a couple, their son and another man, other residents said. ‘We don’t know why those civilians were killed’ outside Bulomarer, where the raid took place, added another resident, Ali Moalim Hassan.

“‘Four other civilians were also caught in the crossfire and died in the town of Bulomarer” during a pitched battle between French commandos and Islamist fighters. The four included a woman, her child and a local market guard, according to residents.”

Al Shabaab claimed they had moved Allex to a new location before the attack although French and Somali government sources said he was killed by his captors during the attack. The militant commander Shiekh Ahmed was reportedly killed in the gunfight. One French commando was killed and another was wounded. The injured soldier was taken by al Shabaab who said he subsequently died of his wounds.

At least five helicopters ferried the commandos from the amphibious assault ship Mistral to Bulo Marer. The French force underestimated the resistance they would face, reported AFP. An anonymous Somali aid worker told the agency: “We were told there were about 40 of them against more than 100 heavily armed Shebab fighters. Their mission was impossible and not very professional.”

The US provided “limited technical support” to the French operation. US Air Force strike fighters entered Somali air space but did not fire their weapons. The operation was reportedly timed to coincide with a French air and ground offensive in Mali. Paris denied the two African operations were connected.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

The victims were named as:

Family members (3)

  • Unnamed man Adult male Killed outside Bulomarer killed
  • Unnamed woman Adult female Wife of above killed
  • Unnamed child Child Child of above killed

Family members (2)

  • Unnamed woman Adult female Killed in crossfire in Bulomarer killed
  • Child Child killed
  • Unnamed man Adult male Killed outside Bulomarer killed
  • Unnamed man Adult male Local market guard killed in crossfire killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    8
  • (2 children2 women3 men)
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    French Military
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    17

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Denis Allex (Via al Shabaab propaganda video)

French Military Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    French Military
  • French Military position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    8
  • (2 children2 women3 men)
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    French Military
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    17

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM340

Incident date

July 25, 2021

Location

Between Qaycad town and Xarardheere district, Galmudug, Somalia

Geolocation

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

Airwars assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

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

Geolocation notes

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

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM088-C

Incident date

August 25, 2017

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

The US military and the Somali government announced they were investigating reports that ten civilians, including three children, were killed during an operation on a farm in Bariire, in Somalia’s southern Lower Shabelle region.

However, on November 28th 2017, the US published a press release concluding that only “armed enemy combatants” were killed.

Earlier that day, the Daily Beast had published a lengthy investigation into the raid. The investigation presented evidence that American soldiers were involved directly in the deaths of the ten civilians reported killed, which included eye witness accounts and the examination of bullet casings. Eyewitnesses “Abdullahi and Goomey saw their fellow farmers’ bodies sprawled across the ground. The small pot that one of them had been using to make tea still stood upright near the corpses. And they also saw what they later estimated to be around 20 American soldiers standing around the bodies. A Somali National Army soldier who was at the scene estimated 10 to 12 Americans were there.”

The investigation also claimed that “a majority of bullet casings collected from the farm that was attacked, which were seen by The Daily Beast, were from American—not Somali National Army—weapons. This appears to confirm that the Special Operations team did not command SNA while remaining behind during the operation, as the AFRICOM statement would have the public believe, but rather were responsible themselves for firing upon and killing unarmed civilians.”

Sources had also claimed to the Beast that American diplomats had also “pressured the Somali government to bury the unfavorable findings of a Somali Federal Government-led investigation into the raid.”

Following the incident, the Somali Information ministry initially said that eight al Shabaab fighters had been killed, according to AP. However it later issued a statement acknowledging the reports of civilian casualties, while adding that there had been different security operations taking place in the area. VOA later said that the Somali army had admitted that its own forces, supported by US troops, had mistakenly shot dead 10 civilians, including three children.

“It was not a deliberate action. It was an accident and misunderstanding between the forces and local farmers in the area,” Somali army chief General Ahmed Jimale Irfid told VOA. “It was early Friday morning while it was dark, our forces mistook the local farmers as al Shabaab members; some farmers were armed; there was a shoot-out, we don’t know who started the shooting and that is how the incident started.”

Witnesses and local officials told the media that the civilians were killed by shots fired during a raid by Somali and US forces on the farm early morning on August 25th. The deputy governor of the region, Ali Nur Mohamed, said for example that the farmers were killed “one by one” after soldiers stormed the village. “These local farmers were attacked by foreign troops while looking after their crops,” Mohamed told reporters. “The troops could have arrested them because they were unarmed but instead shot them one by one mercilessly.”

Three children aged between 8 and 10 and a woman were also killed, he added. When Reuters visited a local hospital, they saw nine bodies including three children said to be aged 8, 9 and 10 years old. Medics said an elderly man later died which would bring the death toll to ten. At least one of the dead was a child, according to the Daily Beast investigation.

Garowe Online named the ten people allegedly killed, but listed them all as farmers. There was no mention of the children in its reporting.

A witness told Reuters: “It was this morning when white and Somali forces entered the farm. All the 10 people were asleep and I ran for my life.” A clan elder also said the victims were sleeping when US and Somali forces came onto the farm.

Lawmaker Dahir Amin Jesow told Reuters the raid was possibly the result of misleading intelligence. The area was reportedly the centre of a feud between two powerful clans and he said he believed one group may have tipped off security forces that the other side were insurgents. Those killed, he said, were simply farmers – armed to defend themselves against the rival group.

This was not the first such accusation. In September 2016, a US strike in in Galkayo killed between 10 and 22 members of a local militia from Galmudug region. Galmudug region’s Security Minister Osman Issa blamed intelligence forces in the Puntland region for giving the US incorrect information. The two regions had clashed on a number of occasions.

Clan elder Abukar Osman Sheikh told Reuters: “They were sleeping in their farm when US and Somali forces came into their farm and opened fire. Last year, the US killed my people in Galkayo in a deliberate strike. We shall not bury them. We shall no longer tolerate it.”

The bodies of the victims were taken to the capital, Mogadishu, and left on public display before burial, in a show of anger.

A year after its original investigation, in November 2018 the Daily Beast published an update in which it directly alleged that US soldiers had fired on the civilians: “According to the Somali National Army (SNA) soldier who was with the American special operators during the incident, the team approached the farm where the incident occurred with eight U.S. soldiers in front of the 20 Somali National Army soldiers and four U.S. operators behind them.

The Americans in the lead then fired on two unarmed people who were preparing tea, after which Somali National Army soldiers rushed forward and fired on three farmers in a nearby shed. The U.S. soldiers began firing at others in the farming village who came out of their homes.

The account by the SNA soldier, who spoke on condition that his name not be used, corroborated earlier Daily Beast reporting and contradicts a U.S. Africa Command press release issued 30 minutes after The Daily Beast published its months-long investigation into the incident.”

The Beast added that “None of the over two dozen Somali National Army members, clan elders, surviving farmers, or security and government officials interviewed in the course of The Daily Beast investigation were contacted by U.S. investigators, raising questions in Somalia as to whether any of the investigation’s sources included those outside the U.S. military.”

The incident occured at approximately 5:00 am local time.

  • Ali Aden Ahmed Adult male Farmer killed
  • Abdifitah Yusuf Abdi Adult male Farmer killed
  • Juruum Mohamed Jusuf Adult male Farmer killed
  • Saney Jame Warsame Adult male Farmer killed
  • Ali Abdi Ibrahim Adult male Farmer killed
  • Abdelkadir Abdullahi Dirie Adult male Farmer killed
  • Isack Ali Harun Adult male Farmer killed
  • Mohamud Talasow Abdi Adult male Farmer killed
  • Hussein Khamis Moalim Abdi Adult male Farmer killed
  • Mohamud Mohamed Abdi Adult male Farmer killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    10
  • (3 children1 woman6–10 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Small arms and light weapons
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Somali Military Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–6

Sources (16) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (8) [ collapse]

  • AFRICOM statement on the incident
  • Civilian casualty photos from the Daily Beast article of 29/11/2017
  • Civilian casualty photo from the Daily Beast article of 29/11/2017
  • A relative mourns a victim of a US/ Somali operation which killed 10 civilians in August 2017 (via AP)
  • The bodies of civilians killed in a US/ Somali raid in August 2017 (via AP)
  • The bodies of some of the civilian victims of a US/ Somali raid in August 2017 (via Radio Kulmiye)
  • Families conduct burial rites for victims of Bariire attack August 2017. Photo: Goobjoog News

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a farm belonging to a local farmer named Hussein Tabliq, near the village Bariire. People reportedly fled to a nearby forest of banana trees during the attack. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the attack. The coordinates for the village Bariire are: 2.04707, 44.89832.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected 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
    No Coalition strikes were conducted in the geographical area
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • Nov 29, 2017
  • "After a thorough assessment of the Somali National Army-led operation near Bariire, Somalia, on Aug. 25, 2017 and the associated allegations of civilian casualties, U.S. Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAF) has concluded that the only casualties were those of armed enemy combatants. Before conducting operations with partner forces, SOCAF conducts detailed planning and coordination to reduce the likelihood of civilian casualties and to ensure compliance with the Law of Armed Conflict. U.S. Africa Command and the Department of Defense take allegations of civilian casualties very seriously."

Original strike reports

US Forces

We are aware of the civilian casualty allegations near Bariire, Somalia. We take any allegations of civilian casualties seriously, and per standard, we are conducting an assessment into the situation to determine the facts on the ground.

We can confirm that the Somali National Army was conducting an operation in the area with U.S. forces in a supporting role.

U.S. forces are in Somalia at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and are committed to helping Somali forces neutralize al-Shabaab and bring stability to the region.

Somali Military Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    10
  • (3 children1 woman6–10 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Small arms and light weapons
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Somali Military Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–6

Sources (16) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM222a-C

Incident date

May 9–10, 2019

Location

Farsooley, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

2.08436, 44.54515 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

“Multiple civilians” were alleged killed in a claimed US airstrike on Farsooley, according to reports which appeared to have originated with al Shabaab. AFRICOM publicly rejected the claim a year later.

Hussein Mohamed, a local journalist stringing for the New York Times and others, tweeted on May 10th that “Al Shabab media reported that US airstrikes kill multiple civilians in Farsooley town in Lower Shabelle region. No word from @USAfricaCommand yet.”

The source for that claim was SomaliMemo, a pro al Shabaab media site, which first referenced a possible event in an early morning tweet on May 10th.

A SomaliMemo article published later that day asserted the following [translated from Somali]: “US drone strikes have killed at least 13 people and injured at least three people in the area. Reports from the area of ​​Farsooley under the control of Qoryooley district say that American planes bombed parts of the area last night. At least 3 civilians have been injured in US drone strikes in Farsooley. In addition, US-trained Bancroft troops entered the area in Farsooley, committing acts of insecurity. Three farmers have been confirmed to have been escorted away by Bancroft forces, with their whereabouts until now unknown.”

A tweet by Somalia’s national intelligence agency NISA made clear that there were military actions on the town on May 10th, though made no mention of US participation: “A security operation in the village of Farsooley has captured AS militants. The operation contributes to the liberation of the hard-hit people of Farsooley village. Security forces will continue operations against al-Shabaab members. # NISA”.

In autumn 2019, 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 fifth entry notes for the date May 10th 2019 that “[redacted source] alleged that a U.S. airstrike injured three civilians in Farsooley, Somalia… Outcome PENDING.”

In April 2020, in its first quarterly civilian harm report, AFRICOM rejected the allegation: “May 10, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming three (3) civilians were injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Farsooley, Somalia, on May 9, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.”

The incident occured during the night.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    13
  • Civilians reported injured
    3
  • 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 (2) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • 'US drone strike on civilians in Lower Shabelle region #Somalia'

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention strikes in the area of Farsooley village, for which the coordinates are: 2.08436, 44.54515

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected 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
    No Coalition strikes were conducted in the geographical area
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • May 10, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming three (3) civilians were injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Farsooley, Somalia, on May 9, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    13
  • Civilians reported injured
    3
  • 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 (2) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM350

Incident date

August 14, 2022

Location

Beledweyne, Hiran, Somalia

Geolocation

4.741004, 45.201998 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

On August 14th 2022 there were reports that a US airstrike killed 13 to 14 members of Al Shabaab in the town of Beledweyne, in Hiran region of central Somalia, as reported by a state-owned national television.  US AFRICOM confirmed this strike on August 17th in a statement which said that “US forces engage insurgents in support of the Federal Government of Somalia.”

There were no reports of civilian harm.

Garowe Online reported that initial reports in the media said that the airstrike left two militants dead and several hideouts destroyed, but it was later confirmed by Somalia state media that “over 13 militants were killed”, and that the attack happened at 2pm. Garowe Online reported:

“Today around 2 PM local time, two Al Shabaab terrorists were killed and their hideouts were destroyed in US airstrike to support the Somali National Army’s counterterrorism operations in Hiiraan region,” state media noted in a tweet without many details.

“The death toll of Al Shabaab terrorists who were killed in Sunday’s airstrike in Hiran region has reached 13 terrorists, officials have confirmed to State Media, ” the Somali National TV further reported, in one of the greatest crackdowns against the militants this year.”

@HBonline and the local news outlet, Somaliland, were the only sources to report that 14 Al Shabaab militants were killed in this attack, rather than 13.

It was noted in local and international media that there was no immediate US AFRICOM statement on this reported strike in its aftermath.

This strike is the second US AFRICOM incident in a week, with the last declared incident on August 9th (see USSOM349).

The incident occured at approximately 2:00 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    13–14

Sources (18) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (3) [ collapse]

  • "Somalia’s troops say they have killed 14 #Alshabab members including their leader Mohamed Wasuge in an offensive operation near Mahas district, on Sunday. Earlier, the State Media had reported US airstrike in the region to support Somali Army’s counterterrorism operations." @HBNonline / Twitter
  • "Somalia’s troops say they have killed 14 #Alshabab members including their leader Mohamed Wasuge in an offensive operation near Mahas district, on Sunday. Earlier, the State Media had reported US airstrike in the region to support Somali Army’s counterterrorism operations." @HBNonline / Twitter
  • "Somalia’s troops say they have killed 14 #Alshabab members including their leader Mohamed Wasuge in an offensive operation near Mahas district, on Sunday. Earlier, the State Media had reported US airstrike in the region to support Somali Army’s counterterrorism operations." @HBNonline / Twitter

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the city of Beledweyne, for which the generic coordinates are: 4.741004, 45.201998. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike against al-Shabaab terrorists that were actively attacking Somali National Army forces in a remote location near Teedaan, Somalia, Aug. 14.
The command’s initial assessment is that the strikes killed 13 al-Shabaab terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed. U.S. forces are authorized to conduct strikes in defense of designated partner forces.
The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. These efforts contrast with the indiscriminate attacks that al-Shabaab regularly conducts against the civilian population.
The Federal Government of Somalia and the U.S. remain committed to fighting al-Shabaab to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians.
Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to Somali, regional and U.S. interests.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    13–14

Sources (18) [ collapse]