Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM008-C

Incident date

September 14, 2009

Location

مدينة ﺑﺮﺍﻭة, Baraawe, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.112554, 44.028921 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

Up to six people, including at least one possible civilian, were killed and at least two possible civilians were wounded, as a US-launched raid targeted and reportedly killed a high value al Qaeda/ al Shabab member, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, international media reported.

The attack marked the first known lethal operation by US forces in Somalia of the Obama administration.

In an operation codenamed ‘Celestial Balance’ US Special Forces launched a helicopter raid into Somalia, killing Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, wanted in connection with the Mombasa attacks. “We’d been tracking him for years,” a senior military official told Sean D. Naylor, in the Army Times. “We knew his travel route, we knew the vehicles he was using.” Three options were initially mooted to Obama and his senior advisers: to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from a warship off the Somali coast; a helicopter attack on the convoy, or a ‘snatch and grab operation attempting to take Nabhan alive. According to Klaidman “as everyone left the meeting that evening it was clear that the only viable plan was the lethal one.”

The US learned that Nabhan’s convoy would be setting off from Mogadishu to meet Islamic militants in the coastal town of Baraawe, the Daily Beast reported. As the convoy neared Baraawe, JSOC struck. A number of 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment AH-6 Little Bird helicopters flew from a Navy ship and attacked the militants as they were breakfasting, killing six, including Nabhan, according to news reports, including Army Times. However, NPR reported that SEAL commandos fired missiles into Nabhan’s car.

The Army Times and Daily Beast stated that one helicopter also landed, with operators jumping out to load the bodies of Nabhan and three others into the aircraft, in order to retrieve Nabhan’s DNA. Following this operation, a Pentagon official told the Daily Beast that the US Special Forces wanted to increase their use of Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE), not just to kill terror targets but to rummage through their belongings”, but that “the president was not supportive” and that this became a bone of contention between Special Ops and the Obama administration.

It was unclear among sources how many militants exactly were killed, and whether civilians were among the victims. While both the Guardian and Long War Journal said that two people were killed (Nabhan and another terrorist), Mareeg, which also reported two deaths, only noted that one of them was a belligerent, suggesting a civilian fatality.

The number of killed militants thus spans from two to six, as reported by Army Times, while one civilian death cannot be excluded.

Several sources reported that the attack also wounded two people, whose combatant status again remains unclear among reports.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Al-Shabaab, Al Qaeda in East Africa
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–6
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–2

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was wanted by the FBI in connection with two attacks in 2002. Image via Kenyan Police

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a vehicle as it travelled through a village near Baraawe, heading south from Mogadishu. The coordinates for the town of Baraawe are: 1.112554, 44.028921. 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

TIME, September 9th, 2009:

"The deadly drama of piracy, terrorism and humanitarian catastrophe that is Somalia took another twist on Sept. 14. A squad of U.S. special operations helicopter gunships, which were launched off a Navy vessel in the Indian Ocean, attacked and killed an alleged al-Qaeda leader in Somalia, U.S. officials told TIME. The dead man was believed to be Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a 28-year-old Kenyan wanted for attacks on a seaside hotel and an Israeli airliner in 2002 in Kenya."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Al-Shabaab, Al Qaeda in East Africa
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–6
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–2

Sources (12) [ collapse]