Between five and seven civilians, including two children, were killed when a vehicle carrying suspected al Shabaab fighters exploded in their village, after being hit by what is thought to have been a US airstrike – though US Africa Command deny any strikes in the area on this date.
The explosion reportedly injured a further two civilians, including an 18 month old girl. Reuters reported an eyewitness as saying that all seven casualties were in fact killed.
In a Guardian article published in January 2018, there were reports of civilian casualties from a strike on December 6th. It reported that a five-year-old girl, a 17-year-old girl and three men were killed.
Mohamed Abdullahi, a resident of Illimey village, which is about 80 miles south-west of Mogadishu, told the Guardian: “Farmers had gathered at a tea shop … when the drone begun to fly over … Some of the victims were passing on the road while some were inside drinking their afternoon tea. Five died on the spot. They are not killing al-Shabaab. They are killing civilians,” he said.
Two additional casualties were confirmed by hospital officials according to the newspaper. They said an 18-month-old girl and a 23-year-old man had been brought with shrapnel injuries.
According to Amnesty International’s research, whilst al Shabaab controlled the area of Illimey, they did not have much of a presence in the area and didn’t tend to visit very often. The NGO spoke to five eyewitnesses about an unfamiliar truck, thought potentially to be driven by al Shabaab fighters, being present in the town on that day and which was later blown up.
One witness told Amnesty the men wanted water in order to take ablution (wash) before praying. Another said that a suspected Al-Shabaab fighter got out of the truck and put a gun to the head of Osman Hussein Osman, a 45-year-old camel herder from the village. “They stopped him with a gun and made him put his water in the cooler of the car.” Jibril, a farmer who was in the village told Amnesty International. Then, moments later, a projectile hit the truck, witnesses explained. “There was dust everywhere and smoke and bodies of humans and animals,” said Jibril.
The explosion destroyed the vehicle and killed all of the suspected al Shabaab fightters inside of it, Amnesty reported.
Despite having looked at satellite imagery and conduction on the ground investigations, Amnesty said it could not be 100% sure that a US air strike had caused the explosion – though said that it is the most plausible answer.
US Africa Command deny conducting a strike on this day. Their response to Amnesty’s allegation of civilian harm read as follows: “AFRICOM did not conduct a strike at this location. Additional information provided by […] Amnesty International indicated that the strike in question involved secondary explosions. On 11 December 2017, one week after the alleged incident, AFRICOM did strike a VBIED approximately 35 miles from this location but no secondary explosions were observed.”
Despite AFRICOM’s statement, local officials insisted a strike had in fact taken place – indicating either a possible Kenyan or CIA action. A local government official said that a strike had hit a car being used by al Shabaab fighters to “transport supplies to a squad preparing bomb” in Ilimey village, about 130 km (80 miles) southwest of Mogadishu.”
“The strike hit the car … but we do not know details of casualties,” Ali Nur, deputy governor of Somalia’s lower Shabelle region, told Reuters – which also said it was not clear who had carried out the strike. The Kenyan military had conducted multiple strikes in Somalia, but these had tended to be closer to the Somali-Kenyan border.
— Shabbir Hussain Turi (@ShabbirTuri) December 7, 2017
The incident occured in the afternoon.
The victims were named as:
Family members (3)
- Osman Hussein Osman 45 years old male Camel herder, father killed
- Fadumo Osman Hussein 7 years old female Daughter killed
- Fartun Osman Hussein 1 years old female Daughter. Struck in head by shrapnel injured
Family members (2)
- Maalim Abdow Fillow Mudey 45 years old male Teacher, father killed
- Amina Abdow Fillow Mudey 17 years old female Daughter killed
- Abdow Mohamed Aliyow Boor 30 years old male camel herder killed
- Mohamed Hussein Abdi 36 years old male Struck by debris, causing him to lose all sight in one eye injured
Sources (6) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (2) [ collapse]
Amnesty research points to the exact location of this incident at Illimey village: 2.0702, 44.4207.
US Forces Assessment:
Civilian casualty statements
Mar 11, 2019
AFRICOM did not conduct a strike at this location. Additional information provided by […] Amnesty International indicated that the strike in question involved secondary explosions. On 11 December 2017, one week after the alleged incident, AFRICOM did strike a VBIED approximately 35 miles from this location but no secondary explosions were observed.