The US confirmed it had accompanied Somali troops in a mission that rescued 30 to 32 boys from an al Shabaab indoctrination centre in the Lower Shabelle region. However, during the rescue attempt, fire reportedly from Somali forces reportedly killed four or five children, and a teacher. A later US government FOIA response indicated that civilians had died in the raid.
Those killed had been firing at the Somali soldiers leading them to respond, according to US Africa Command in its earlier responses, with an AFRICOM statement noting that “The Somali forces returned fire in self-defense. In the ensuing firefight, five enemy combatants were killed and six were wounded. Some of those killed in the engagement appear to have been under the age of 18. US personnel were in an advisory capacity, and did not fire their weapons.”
A team of US Special Operations Forces had advised local Somali troops during the raid on the camp in the Middle Shabelle region of Somalia, a US military official told CNN. A Somali intelligence official told AP it took place in the region’s Jame’o [or Jameeco Jilyaale] village. A local commander was among the dead, he said. All Africa identified him as Al Shabaab’s local emir of Jame’a Jilay near Beled ul Amin, Lower Shabelle.”
BREAKING: Somali national army commandos have killed Al-Shabab's local emir of Jame'a Jilay near Beled ul Amin, Lower Shabelle in a special operation overnight; troops have also freed six children thought to be held there, possibly to be trained as fighters: security source.
— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) January 19, 2018
However, a declassified AFRICOM civilian harm assessment obtained by US journalist Nick Turse in 2019, showing that civilian casualties had indeed resulted from the joint operation – with assessors declaring the event to be Credible, with “Classified evidence leading to an assessment that the civilian casualties were the result of al-Shabaab employing human shields.”
This appeared closer to al Shabaab’s own report of events as cited by Reuters: “Al Shabaab said government forces, accompanied by drones, had attacked the school in Middle Shabelle region. It said four children and a teacher were killed.”
On this same date, US forces also launched a strike in the Lower Shabelle region at Beer Xani which killed four al Shabaab members, according to US Africa Command. There were no reports of civilian harm.
The incident occured during the night.
Sources (9) [ collapse]
from sources (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention that the raid targeted a camp in or near Jame’o (or Jameeco Jilyaale) village. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location of the camp. The coordinates for Jameeco Jilyaale are: 2.84889, 45.13846 (UN mapping also points to a second village called Jameeco Jilyaale: 2.59068, 45.31577, however, this does not show up in other mapping sources and on satellite imagery there is no settlement at these coordinates).
United States Armed Forces Assessment:
Civilian casualty statements
Aug 1, 2019
Credible: Classified evidence leading to an assessment that the civilian casualties were the result of al-Shabaab employing human shields.
Original strike reports
U.S. Support to Somali National Security Forces results in recovery of children
On Jan. 18, U.S. forces accompanied Somali National Security Forces on a mission in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia resulting in the recovery of 30 male children from an al-Shabaab indoctrination center. We support the Federal Government of Somalia and UNICEF efforts to reunite these children with their families.
During the mission, the Somali National Security Forces received hostile fire. The Somali forces returned fire in self-defense. In the ensuing firefight, five enemy combatants were killed and six were wounded. Some of those killed in the engagement appear to have been under the age of 18. U.S. personnel were in an advisory capacity, and did not fire their weapons.