Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM032

Incident date

September 1, 2014

Location

Sablaale, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.251506, 43.807038 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

In this strike in Barawe, Lower Shabelle, up to six al Shabaab militants were killed, including the the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane (aka Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr or Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed), international and local media reported. There were no reports of civilian harm.

The strike was the first known US attack in Somalia for some months, and involved both US drones and conventional air craft, flown by Special Forces operatives from JSOC, who targeted an encampment and vehicles in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia. At least six people were reportedly killed in the attack, multiple sources said.

It remained unclear for days after the strike if the US had indeed killed Godane. Initially the US government, Somali government officials and al Shabaab were cagey about his apparent demise. The day after the attack, al Shabaab spokesperson Abu Mohammed confirmed Godane, above, was in the convoy when the attack hit. And a US official told Reuters: “We don’t know that he’s dead. But he was the target.”

Godane’s death was eventually confirmed on September 5th. He was the specific target, according to a Pentagon spokesperson, though the attack reportedly also killed a group of senior al Shabaab figures.

Godane, 37, trained as an accountant and worked for an airline before turning to violence, according to the Daily Telegraph. He took control of the al Shabaab group in 2008 when his predecessor Aden Hashi Ayro was killed in a cruise missile strike. He sidelined or killed more moderate rivals in his rise to the top of the terrorist organisation. The US government had put a $7m reward for information on his whereabouts.

Al Shabaab named a successor two days after the US government confirmed Godane was dead. Ahmed Umar was elected unanimously, according to a video message sent to al Jazeera. The Somali government subsequently put a $3m reward out for Umar.

While Godane’s fate was unclear for almost a week after the strike, the Pentagon was uncharacteristically transparent about the attack, with spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby making several statements, and answering questions from the press. Kirby said of the strike: “The U.S. military undertook operations against Godane on Sept. 1, which led to his death… Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss” to al-Shabab… The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations.”

Somali National Security Ministry spokesperson Mohamed Yusuf additionally told journalists: “His death is great news for the Somali people, because he was responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent people in his so-called holy war.”

Godane was in overall command of the murderous terrorist attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, in 2013. The president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta thanked the US for killing Godane: “We owe the United States and its soldiers our heartfelt thanks for bringing an end to Godane’s career of death and destruction and finally allowing us to begin our healing process.”

A possible, and surprising, element of this strike emerged on September 12th 2014. A French publication, Le Point, reported that France’s intelligence service the DGSE had given the US the precise whereabouts of Godane, under direct orders from President Francois Hollande. The article claimed that Paris had been hunting Godane to exact revenge for the kidnapping of two DGSE officers on July 14th 2009, and the death of one of them and two commandos sent to rescue him on January 12th 2013. President Hollande had ordered his intelligence services to do everything they could to find and kill Godane.

In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM again confirmed it had carried out a strike on what it says was an  “al Shabaab named objective”, in the vicinity of Baraawe, Somalia on this date.

The incident occured at 5:30 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–6

Sources (21) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Ahmed Abdi aw-Mohamed, alias Ahmed Godane (via Voice of America)

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention various locations, most of them pointing to Sablaale district and a forest area near the village Sablaale, around 105 miles south of Mogadishu. The coordinates for the village Sablaale are: 1.251506, 43.807038. One source mentions that explosions were seen and heard from the nearby village Haway (1.1682, 43.71413) and another one reports that the target had been at a meeting at Dhaytubako (0.478243, 42.92698), but doesn’t state if the meeting itself had been targeted or if it occurred afterwards elsewhere. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • The village of Sablaale, slightly further than 105 miles south of Mogadishu (radius marked in red), close to the village Haway, from where the explosions were seen

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

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

Ahmed Abdi al-Muhammad, also known Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of the al-Shabab jihadist group, was killed Sept. 1 in a U.S. airstrike in Somalia, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby confirmed today.
“The U.S. military undertook operations against Godane on Sept. 1, which led to his death,” Kirby said in a statement. “Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss” to al-Shabab,” Kirby said in a statement. “The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations."
At a Sept. 2 Pentagon news conference, Kirby said manned and unmanned aircraft operated by U.S. special operations forces participated in an airstrike that destroyed an al-Shabab encampment and a vehicle located at that camp. Kirby added that the operation was a direct strike against the al-Shabab network, and specifically against Godane.
The operation was carried out after actionable intelligence was obtained that suggested that Godane was present at the camp, located south of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, the press secretary said at the news conference, noting that it was too early to tell whether the strike had killed him.
The aircraft fired several Hellfire missiles and laser-guided munitions, and no U.S. forces were present on the ground, either before or after the attack, he added.
Al-Shabab is a jihadist group based in Somalia. It has claimed responsibility for last year’s attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which resulted in more than 70 deaths and 200 injured. The group is also believed to be responsible for many bombings, including suicide attacks in Mogadishu and in central and northern Somalia, Kirby said Sept. 2.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–6

Sources (21) [ collapse]