Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM051-C

Incident date

April 11, 2016

Location

1.2 km east of Yontoy, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

-0.117661, 42.575190 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Three civilians were reportedly killed in a US drone strike in Lower Juba.

The attack began late on April 11 and continued into the small hour of April 12, Lt Col Michelle Baldanza of AFRICOM later said in a statement. The camp “posed an imminent threat to US personnel,” she said.

Somali officials allege the village was being used as a staging post for al Shabaab attacks. One unnamed “high-ranking security official” told Voice of America the al Shabaab fighters were seen making “some movements” before the drone attack started.

There were however reports of civilian casualties, with both a local Somali journalist and Voice of America’s Somali service reporting that the attacks killed eight people. Five of the dead were al Shabaab and three were civilians, according to witnesses and Somali officials. They said the strike hit the al Shabaab-controlled village of Yontyo in Lower Juba, 24km north of Kismayo.

There were reports in the week following the attack that civilians were “fleeing towards the countryside and other towns in lower Jubba region of southern Somalia for their safety, leaving behind their herds of goats dead in the airstrikes”.

In an email to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in 2016, Lt Col Baldanza denied civilians were killed: “We have no reports of civilian casualties from these strikes. We have significant mitigation measures in place during the conduct of operations to reduce the potential risks of collateral damage and civilian casualties.”

However, a declassified AFRICOM civilian harm review for Somalia, obtained by US investigative reporter Nick Turse in July 2019, found that the US military command was both alerted to the event and had assessed for civilian harm in July 2018. This insisted that “The targeted group was in an open area. displaying weapons, and not otherwise located in a place or group that would include civilians.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (1 woman)
  • 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
    5–15

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • Tweet reporting on the incident
  • The same source reporting civilian harm

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that the strikes targeted the area 1.2 kilometers east of the village of Yontoy, north of Kismayo. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The coordinates for the area 1.2 kilometers east of the village Yontoy are: -0.117661, 42.575190.

  • 1.2 kilometers area around the village Yontoy, marked in red

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed 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
    Insufficient evidence of civilian harm
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Jul 16, 2018
  • [Statement obtained via FOIA by Nick Turse in July 2019] On 25JUN18, New America reporter, David Sterman, contacted USAFRICOM PAO to inquire about a CIVCAS allegation concerning a strike IVO Yoontoy, Somalia on 11APR16. The allegation was featured in a Voice of America (VOA) news report on 12APR16 and in Chinese media reporting on 13APR16. Voice of America ("VOA") stated that "Witnesses and officials told VOA's Somali service that five militants and three civilians were killed in the airstrikes, which hit the al- Shabaab controlled village of Yontoy in Somalia's Lower Juba region." Xinhua (Chinese Media) claimed that recent U.S. airstrikes near Kismayo, Somalia resulted in the deaths of eight people. Their source, an unnamed local resident, said the death toll included five al-Shabaab militants and three civilians, one of whom was claimed to be a woman. N0T/NOT CREDIBLE: This incident occurred prior to the USAFRICOM CIVCAS SOP implementation; however, (USAFRICOM CCDR) was aware of the CIVCAS allegation and no further action was recommended or directed. 15 persons were observed at a known al-Shabaab bed-down location, during the day of the operation. The engagements occurred over 1.2 km to the east of the closest town and on the opposite side of a river. The targeted group was in an open area, displaying weapons, and not otherwise located in a place or group that would include civilians. The strike occurred in the context of an assisted partner force operation in the area, where partner forces came under fire from hostile forces.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In the late evening of 11 April and early morning of April 12 the US conducted self-defense fires against an al Shabaab camp in southern‎ Somalia which posed an imminent threat to US personnel.US forces are working closely with partner forces to combat al‎ Shabaab in Somalia. Al Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and continues to use its safe havens throughout Somalia to plot attacks against US citizens and interests in East Africa, as well as against our international partners in the region.The US is committed to supporting Somali and [Amisom] forces as they combat al Shabaab and work to bring stability to the region.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (1 woman)
  • 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
    5–15

Sources (8) [ collapse]