Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM030-C

Incident date

January 26, 2014

Location

Haway, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.1682, 43.71413 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Two civilian children were reported killed and their father severely injured when a US military drone strike attack seemingly directed at nine al Shabaab members struck Hawai, Lower Shabelle, international and local media reported. The strike was said to have targeted and failed to kill Ahmed Abdi Godane.

While there initially were no reports of civilian harm, two Somali herders launched a legal case more than a year later, in November 2015, claiming they had been caught up in this strike. The men brought a war crimes suit against the Dutch government, saying the Netherlands’ spies had provided the US with the intelligence to prosecute this strike. Both men said their cattle herds were largely wiped out in the strike.  Omar Mahamud Ali – named by De Volkskrant – said the attack had killed two of his daughters. He also lost a leg. The news organisation conducted a detailed interview:

“The blow is deafening and the earth is shaking. The second blow comes right after it. He didn’t even have time to look up. The drone’s Hellfire rockets hit the land cruisers, which set them on fire. The men from the wagons are later found mutilated beyond recognition, a witness tells press agency AP. He also tells that masked men of Al Shabaab come to the place that night in the dark, screaming that God is great, to scrape the remains out of the burnt-out wagons, put them in bags, and tear them away. International media also show that the intended target Ahmed Godane will not be hit that day. He is not in the affected pick-ups. However, another leader of Al Shabaab dies: Sahal Iskuduq.

Daddy’, screams Nimo. ‘Papá.’ Immediately there is the pain. It felt like a stone was going through my leg,’ says Omar. And something had happened to my head. I couldn’t see anything anymore.’

There is smoke everywhere, there are big clouds of sand everywhere. It is the last thing he sees, before it turns black. The hard blow has just been, as Nuur runs to the place where he sees black smoke and high flames. The place where his cattle stood. He sees off-road vehicles burning.

Suddenly he sees Omar lying there.

Less than two hours ago they were talking under the big tree. They are nomads of the same clan. And now Omar lies here unconscious on the goat path. In his head are shards, and his leg is open. There is blood everywhere. Further on there are dead sheep, goats and cows. Then he sees two girls between the carcasses. Omar’s daughters.

Saharo’s body is badly damaged. Nimo has been hit in her belly, but she is still alive. Around them, the people of their tribe come running to help. Everyone has heard the blow. But the men of Al Shabaab chase them away. They don’t want any prying eyes. The nomads have to remove their dead and wounded quickly.

Nure Saharo gently lifts up Omar’s favourite daughter. She is dead. For half an hour he carries the corpse, on his way to her mother, who doesn’t know anything yet. He runs. I was scared’, Nuur later says, ‘that there would be a second attack’.

With the girl in his arms he stands before her.

‘Sabr’, he says. Be strong.

Her mother screams when she sees her daughter. But there is not much time. She washes her daughter’s body. Together they look for a white cloth, which they wrap around the girl. In the cemetery they dig a hole, but they don’t hold a ceremony. The men of Al Shabaab disapprove of that. They don’t want to put branches on the grave, Nuur says. They call out ‘Get out’.

It is unclear how much time it takes, but he only opens his eyes again in a hospital bed in Merca. There he sees his wife and Nuur together at his bedside, he says. Around them it is white. He feels a stabbing pain in his head and leg. Everything is blurred. For a moment he thinks he is home.

What is this here?’, he asks. When did I come here?

His wife is crying. Sabr’, she says to him now. Be strong. It came from above, as an act of God. He has written this. That’s how it goes in this world.’ It is her way of warning him of the story that is to come.

Saharo is dead.

And so is Nimo.”

These civilian casualty claims were not mentioned in any of the initial reports, which said the strike hit a vehicle and killed an al Shabaab commander and others about 200 miles south of Mogadishu. It emerged after the attack that Godane was near the site of the strike but escaped alive. He was killed on September 1st the same year.

The slain al Shabaab commander was named as Sahal Iskudhuq (aka Ahmed Abdulkadir). Voice of America reported Iskudhuq was one of Godane’s senior aides. Locals told RBC Radio he was a “senior figure” in Amniyat, the militant group’s intelligence unit, adding that he was a Somali who had trained abroad and “fought along with senior foreign fighters in Somalia”.

Voice of America reported Iskudhuq and Godane may have been meeting before the attack and “Godane was supposed to travel in the car that night”. The agency also reported claims “al Shabaab has since detained several people in Barawe on suspicion of spying”.

Al Shabaab commander Abu Mohamed told Associated Press Iskudhuq “had previously been in charge of kidnappings of foreigners and ransom deals for the group but recently turned to working with its intelligence unit”. Voice of America reporter Harun Maruf tweeted further details about Iskudhuq:

An anonymous US official told the VOA news agency that the target was a senior member of al Shabaab. Another said the US had “been tracking this guy for years”. Unnamed US officials also confirmed it was a US strike to Associated Press and Reuters. Somali intelligence confirmed an attack on a “dangerous” militant and added that a driver had also been killed.

Dhanaan reported the highest number of militant fatalities as it cited an unnamed eye witness who said that nine al Shabaab members were killed while adding that their car  was left completely destroyed.

Al Shabaab reportedly abducted 17 people, including four al Shabaab members, in apparent retaliation for this strike. They told an elder they were searching for people working for the US.

The incident occured in the evening.

The victims were named as:

Family members (3)

  • Omar Mahamud Ali Adult male Lost leg in action injured
  • Saharo 8 years old female killed
  • Nimo 9 years old female killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (2 children)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • 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
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–9

Sources (22) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Omar Mahamud Ali (image montage by De Volkskrant)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place on the plains around the village Haway. The coordinates for Haway are: 1.1682, 43.71413. 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

The Sand Diego Union-Triune/AP, January 27th, 2014:

"Two U.S. military officials confirmed that there was a missile strike against a senior al-Shabab leader in Somalia on Sunday. The officials wouldn't identify the target of the strike, and one of them said U.S. intelligence is still "assessing the effectiveness of the strike.""

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (2 children)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • 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
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–9

Sources (22) [ collapse]