Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM101-C

Incident date

November 12, 2017

Location

Southeast of Darusalaam, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.9072, 44.7978 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Exact location (via Airwars) level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Exact location (via Airwars)

Airwars assessment

A US strike on al Shabaab fighters in the Lower Shabelle region also killed three civilians, Amnesty International later reported.

Two US strikes took place in Somalia on November 12th, with one targeting al Shabaab and the other hitting Islamic State fighters, according to US Africa Command. The strikes killed “several fighters”, it said.

The first attack hit at around 0300 local time killing “several terrorists” according to AFRICOM, while the second action is included in a separate report for this date.

SomaliMemo published graphic photographs later that day which it said were of three farmers (though Amnesty later said the bodies had been moved and staged by al Shabaab.)

In a March 2019 investigation into civilian harm in Somalia by Amnesty International, it was reported that three local farmers, Ibrahim Siid Wehelow (20 years old), Hassan Meyow Abkey (40 years old) and Ahmed Jeylani Sheekhow (26 years old) were killed when a strike targeted them as they were sleeping under a tree.

The men reportedly finished work at 2am, were too tired to walk and were waiting underneath the tree for a ferry the next morning to take them back from their farm to their homes on the other side of the Shabelle river.

Amnesty notes: “As the three men camped out at the side of the road, without warning a single air strike was launched at them at around 3am. A detonation shook the area, killing the three men and sending farmers to cover. Residents of both Mubarak and Darusalaam told Amnesty International that they were woken by the explosion. “I saw the heavy splashing light and then the big noise came, and I fell down,” said Liban, a farmer who was working nearby.

“I was frightened and then I tried to gather what happened and I tried to call [Ibrahim, Ahmed and Hassan] and it said “unavailable”…Then, in the morning the people went to see what happened and to our surprise we found they had died. The noise of the plane was louder than before,” Liban continued,

“The weeks before it used to come and leave, only that night it was not leaving. It was coming and coming and coming… when the noise [of an airstrike] happened everything ceased…I was so frightened. I couldn’t keep watch on the farm at all. I went under the shelter of the tree and hid…These three young men were not expecting to be killed by a plane, and we did not expect the world to be silent.”

Witnesses described to Amnesty how al Shabaab came the next morning and rearranged the bodies, staging them for photos that they published online. The photos meant that Amnesty could geolocate the strike to a farm road 2 km southeast of Darusalaam.

Hassan Meyow Abkey was a local expert in fixing smartphones according to locals that Amnesty witnessed, leading some to believe that they were targeted because he was fixing an al Shabaab phone and the US were using signals intelligence (SIGINT).

From all of their available information, Amnesty assessed that all three of the men were civilians. In response to Amnesty International’s allegations, US Africa Command replied that the three men were instead members of al Shabaab:

“AFRICOM conducted a precision-guided strike that corresponds to the time and location alleged, targeting al-Shabaab fighters. The Shahada News Agency, an al-Shabaab media outlet, alleged CIVCAS shortly after the event and supported the claim using staged photos. AFRCOM conducted a CIVCAS allegation assessment and determined that the three men described in the allegation were not sleeping at the time of the strike and were members of al-Shabaab.”

The incident occured at approximately 3:00 am local time.

  • Ibrahim Siid Wehelow 20 years old male Farmer killed
  • Hassan Meyow Abkey 40 years old male Farmer killed
  • Ahmed Jeylani Sheekhow 26 years old male Farmer killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 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
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–3

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (11) [ collapse]

  • Via Amnesty: Scrap from the GBU-69/B, including the distinctive mesh tail fins in the crater. © SOMALIMEMO
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Staged body of a reported civilian farmer killed by a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Staged body of a reported civilian farmer killed by a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • Munition fragments from a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • Munition fragment from a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Staged bodies of reported civilian farmers killed by a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Staged bodies of reported civilian farmers killed by a US strike on November 12th 2017 (via SomaliMemo)
  • CGTN Africa Live report of November 13th 2017 on recent US strikes in Somalia
  • Cartoonist Mike Dawson featured the November 12th event in a graphic novella for Amnesty International
  • Cartoonist Mike Dawson featured the November 12th event in a graphic novella for Amnesty International
  • Cartoonist Mike Dawson featured the November 12th event in a graphic novella for Amnesty International

Geolocation notes (2) [ collapse]

Field investigation by Amnesty points to the exact location of the strike at these coordinates: 1.907188, 44.797862. From Amnesty International: “At first light, villagers from Darusalaam and Mubarak reached the bodies. Witnesses described to Amnesty International the horrific injuries they were confronted with, and said they covered the bodies in white shrouds, in preparation for burial. Soon after, Al-Shabaab fighters arrived, removed the shrouds, and rearranged the bodies, staging them for photographs, that they later posted on social media and on SomaliMemo, a pro-Al-Shabaab website. While in these photographs the bodies appear to have been moved and as such the images do not present an accurate depiction of the scene immediately after the blast, they do confirm several important factors. First, they reveal the location of the air strike. Using digital verification techniques, Amnesty International researchers were able to use indicators from the landscape to precisely geolocate the crater to 1.9072 North, 44.7978 East, a farm road 2 km southeast of Darusalaam. This location also aligns with witness testimony.

  • Geolocation of strike by Amnesty International, march 2019

  • Geolocation of strike by Amnesty International, march 2019

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
    Other
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Mar 1, 2019
  • AFRICOM conducted a precision-guided strike that corresponds to the time and location alleged, targeting al-Shabaab fighters. The Shahada News Agency, an al-Shabaab media outlet, alleged CIVCAS shortly after the event and supported the claim using staged photos. AFRCOM conducted a CIVCAS allegation assessment and determined that the three men described in the allegation were not sleeping at the time of the strike and were members of al-Shabaab.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

Via email:
"U.S. forces conducted two separate airstrikes against al-Shabaab and ISIS, in Somalia on Nov. 12, killing several terrorists. The first strike occurred at approximately 3 a.m. local Somalia time against al-Shabaab in the Lower Shabelle Region about 40 miles west of the capital Mogadishu.
The second separate strike occurred at approximately 9 a.m. local Somalia time against ISIS in Puntland."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3
  • (3 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
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–3

Sources (6) [ collapse]