Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM087-C

Incident date

August 16–17, 2017

Location

Sheikh Ahmed Yare, 15 miles from Jilib, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.494527, 42.777868 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

Seven civilians from the same family including a wife and husband died in US airstrikes which reportedly hit civilian homes near Jilib, according to two reports. The victims are named below.

The US announced it carried out a series of attacks between August 16th and 17th, allegedly killing up to seven al Shabaab fighters. However according to local sources seven civilians also died.

Initially this was reported as three strikes by AFRICOM. However, it later changed the way it recorded air operations, it told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

From October 2017, AFRICOM moved from counting each individual attack on a target as a strike, to recording as a strike whenever they have had the desired effect on the target, regardless of the number of attacks that may take.

A US defence official told CNN that pro-government Somali troops, accompanied by US military advisers, came under direct attack from a group of al Shabaab fighters in the early hours of August 17th. They had been approaching the objective of a planned counter-terrorism raid at the time. The US launched a self-defence strike after returning fire from US-Somali ground forces did not stop the attack, CNN reported.

This strike was conducted under authorities approved by US President Donald Trump in March 2017. CNN said the intended target was members of al Shabaab’s intelligence network.

The Somali government separately announced that Somali security forces, in coordination with international partners, had conducted an operation in Jillib. It said seven al Shabaab members were killed, including a senior leader responsible for multiple bombings in the capital.

However, reports emerged on August 18th that a strike a day earlier by “unidentified foreign warplanes” approximately 10km from Jillib had killed seven civilians, all from the same family and including small children. Locals suspected it was an American attack.

According to All Africa, “The foreign military warplanes fired several missiles on the area, some struck civilian houses, killing seven people from same family, including women and children.” The Guardian also later said that small children died in the attack.

US Africa Command acknowledged at the time that it was aware of the allegation of civilian casualties, saying: “As with any allegation we receive, we will review any information we have about the incident, including information provided by third parties, such as the proximity of the location to the authorised airstrikes, and any other relevant information presented.”

The Guardian published an article in January 2018 detailing strikes in Somalia that had led to allegations of civilian casualties. Included in this were the explosions in Ahmed Yare village, about 15 miles outside the town of Jillib.

In a phone interview from Kismayo, Halima Sheikh Yare said her cousin Sheikh Mohamed, a “renowned cleric”, was killed along with his wife and five male relatives. She told the Guardian that her cousin was a farmer as well as a religious teacher and local imam, and that he was not a leader of al Shabaab.

Hassan Muhumed, a resident of Jillib who visited Ahmed Yare shortly after the strike, said al Shabaab fighters had visited to address locals a day before the attack – but had left shortly afterwards. He also stated that all those killed were civilians.

A spokesperson for the US military told the Guardian that an internal investigation had found allegations of civilian casualties near Jillib at this time were “not credible”.

In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM again confirmed it had struck what it says was an “al-Shabaab Named Objective” (an “AS Leader”), in the vicinity of Jilib.

The incident occured during the night.

The victims were named as:

Family members (7)

  • Sheikh Mohamed Adult male killed
  • Wife of Sheikh Mohamed Adult female killed
  • Male relative of Sheikh Mohamed Child male killed
  • Male relative of Sheikh Mohamed Child male killed
  • Male relative of Sheikh Mohamed Age unknown male killed
  • Male relative of Sheikh Mohamed Age unknown male killed
  • Male relative of Sheikh Mohamed Age unknown male killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    7
  • (2 children1 woman4–6 men)
  • 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
    7

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in the vicinity of the town Jilib (جيليب), for which the coordinates are: 0.494527, 42.777868. Two sources mention that the strike targeted a village 10 kilometers or 15 miles away from Jilib called Bulu Sheikh/Ahmed Yare/Sheikh Ahmed Yare, but due to limited information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location of this village.

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
    No reason given
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Jan 23, 2018
  • The Guardian article states: "A spokesperson for the US military said an internal investigation had found allegations of civilian casualties near Jilib at this time were “not credible”.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

Between August 16-17, the Department of Defense conducted a series of three (3) precision airstrikes against al-Shabaab militants, killing seven (7) fighters. The operation occurred in Jilib, Somalia, about 200 miles southwest of Mogadishu. The U.S. conducted this operation in coordination with Somali forces.

U.S. forces work closely with Somali military forces against al-Shabaab in Somalia to degrade the al-Qaeda affiliate's ability to recruit, train, and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in the United States.

Al-Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and is dedicated to providing safe haven for terrorists. Al-Shabaab has publicly committed to planning and conducting attacks against the U.S. and our allies. We continue to work in coordination with our Somali partners and allies to systematically dismantle al-Shabaab and help achieve stability and security throughout the region.

We will continue to assess the results of the operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operational security.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    7
  • (2 children1 woman4–6 men)
  • 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
    7

Sources (10) [ collapse]