Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM048-C

Incident date

April 1, 2016

Location

Buufow, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.75095, 44.74449 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

At least four and up to 23 al Shabaab fighters were reported killed in a US airstrike at Buufow, near Janaaale. However more than three years later, one civilian fatality was also alleged.

Two US actions on April 1st and April 2nd were later said to be “self-defence air strikes against al Shabaab fighters who posed imminent threats to US and partner nation forces in Somalia,” Department of Defense spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Michelle Baldanza told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism via email.

She continued: “Our forces are working closely with partners to combat al Shabaab. Al Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda; and is dedicated to creating safe havens for terrorist operations and is planning on conducting external attacks in and from Africa. We continue to assess the results of the strikes and will provide additional information as and when appropriate.”

The attacks hit on the same days that ground operations by AMISOM and Somali forces killed several al Shabaab fighters. It was not clear if the US strikes were in support of these ground operations or if they were separate incidents.

According to Voice of America, four al Shabaab militants including the  local commander for Janaale died: “Another suspected U.S. airstrike Friday [April 1st] was reported to have killed a commander known as ‘Qorilow,’ the head of al-Shabab forces in Jannaale town, and three other militants.”

However AMISOM reported up to 23 militant deaths from air and ground operations. According to Xinhua, “AMISOM’s Sector One Commander Brigadier General Sam Okiding confirmed on Saturday that Al-Shabaab commander for the region of Janaale Abdirashir Buqdube, together with 22 others, was killed following air strikes and ground operations against the insurgents’ hideout along the Buufow road. ‘Al-Shabaab cannot hide and we shall continue to work hard to deny them safe haven until the people have been liberated from Al-Shabaab terror,’ Okiding said in a statement issued in Mogadishu.”

In December 2019, US investigative reporter Amanda Sperber reported civilian harm in association with this event: “Nurto Mohamed Nor Issak, 59, doesn’t want to talk about the coconut trees she lost after the U.S. air strike three years ago. She wants to talk about her son who was killed. Who cares about her trees?  Based on Issak’s recollections, the strike was likely one of two carried out April 1 and April 2, 2016, near where Issak lives, in Janale—about 60 miles southwest of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

“The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates as many as 29 people were killed by the air attacks. The Pentagon claims the April 2016 strikes were self-defense against fighters with the militant Islamist group al-Shabab who “posed imminent threats to U.S. and partner nation forces in Somalia.” Issak is adamant that her son was not with the militants and that she told him “not to mix with al-Shabab.”

“The reason I’m speaking with Issak, though, is that—regardless of her son’s alleged association with al-Shabab—her coconut trees are still decapitated and her income depleted, three years hence. Issak says the strike hit her sugarcane and coconut tree plantation, which stretched about 7 acres. Al-Shabab bans smartphones in the villages it controls, but Issak managed to use one to take photos of the damage. “The coconut trees lost their heads,” she says. In the pictures, the tree trunks are stark against the blue sky, masts without sails.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

  • Son of Nurto Mohamed Nor Issak Adult male Unclear if civilian non combatant or combatant killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected attackers
    Amisom Military Forces, Somalia Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–23

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • Illustration by Matt Rota depicting destroyed coconut trees reportedly damaged in this event.

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the raid took place near the village of Buufow, near Janaale. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the raid. The coordinates for the village Buufow are: 1.75095, 44.74449.

  • The village Buufow near Janaale

    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

"On April 1 and April 2, US forces conducted two self-defense air strikes against Al Shabaab fighters who posed imminent threats to U.S. and partner nation forces in Somalia. Our forces are working closely with partners to combat Al Shabaab. Al Shabaab has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda; and is dedicated to creating safe havens for terrorist operations and is planning on conducting external attacks in and from Africa. We continue to assess the results of the strikes and will provide additional information as and when appropriate."
Via email from Pentagon spokesperson, however original email has not been retreived

Amisom Military Forces Assessment:

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

Somalia Military Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected attackers
    Amisom Military Forces, Somalia Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–23

Sources (6) [ collapse]