Three civilians were reportedly killed in a US strike in Gobanle village, according to Amnesty International – though US Africa Command claimed that only four “terrorists” were killed.
However an AFRICOM declassified assessment of the event published in July 2019 indicated that the US itself was unaware of the identities of those in the vehicle – most likely having used pattern of life before attacking.
A BBC Somalia report on the same day as the strike said locals had said civilians were among those killed in the targeted vehicle. Mogadishu Update tweeted the following: “BREAKING: At least three civilians including well-known businessman identified as Abdi Samad Hassan and one of #Hormuud telecommunication company Engineers killed in an Air strike carried out suspected #US drones near Goobaale village in #Somalia’s L/Shabelle region.”
In March 2019 Amnesty International released a report on civilian harm in Somalia that detailed this event.
The three civilians were driving in a rural area 1km outside of Gonable village when the strike hit their vehicle. Some of the eyewitnesses that Amnesty spoke to said that there was one al Shabaab member in the vehicle that may have been the target of the strike. Amnesty identified the three civilian fatalities by name and age, as listed below.
A senior Lower Shabelle official also confirmed to Amnesty that three civilians were killed in an air strike near Gobanle. “I don’t know why they were hit, but maybe it was a mistake. The US are making a lot of mistakes in this region,” he said.
One witness eyewitness, Ibrahim, described the strike to Amnesty: “When they were away from us we saw a plane circling over them and they went under a tree” Ibrahim, a witness said. The aircraft disappeared from sight but returned shortly afterwards. The vehicle was then hit by an air strike, destroying it completely. “When the plane left they drove away in the vehicle, but the plane came back and hit them when they were in the open. We went there and took them. The four of them died there,”
In a statement, US Africa Command said that they conducted a strike on this day 74 miles northwest of Mogadishu, that killed four “terrorists”. They assessed that no civilian casualties had resulted from the strike.
Witnesses to the attack told Amnesty International that the three civilian victims were not armed and were not members of Al-Shabaab. “They had a shovel and a hammer but no weapons,” one witness said.
In response to Amnesty’s allegations of civilian harm, US Africa Command said:
“AFRICOM conducted a precision-guided strike that corresponds to the time and location alleged, targeting individuals who were members of al-Shabaab. The pro-al-Shabaab media outlet, Somaliamemo.net alleged CIVCAS shortly after the event. AFRICOM conducted a CIVCAS allegation assessment and determined that the allegation was not credible based on the unreliability of the source and the fact that the individuals targeted were members of al-Shabaab.”
Separately, US investigative reporter Nick Turse obtained a declassified AFRICOM assessment of the event, also published in July 2019. This strongly indicated that the US did not in fact know the identities of three of those killed in the vehicle, noting only that “Several circumstantial factors indicate that the three adult males in the vehicle were associated with al-Shabaab: The three individuals alleged to be civilians were located in a known al-Shabaab stronghold and accompanying a known al-Shabaab leader and no well digging activity or equipment was observed during target development.”
In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM confirmed it had struck on this date what it says was an “al Shabaab named objective”, in the vicinity of Gobanle, Somalia.
The incident occured in the afternoon.
- Abdisamad Sheikh Issack Mohamed 35 years old male worked for Hormuud Telecommunications Company killed
- Adan Hassan Yarow (aka “Adan Dubbe”) 58 years old male married, father of nine killed
- Abdi Nurow Adan 58 years old male father of nine killed
Sources (7) [ collapse]
Amnesty investigation reports that the strike targeted a vehicle at 1 kilometer east of the village of Gobanle (or Gobaale). The coordinates for the village of Gobanle are: 3.12222, 44.76507; and the coordinates for the area 1 kilometer east of the village are: 3.123005, 44.775008.
United States Armed Forces Assessment:
Civilian casualty statements
Aug 28, 2018
The initial allegation of CIVCAS was identified in a pro al- Shabaab news website, Somaliamemo.net. The allegation indicated that the three adult males in the vehicle with the objective were civilians. Further, it identified these individuals by name alleging that one was a noted local businessman with the Hormuud Telecom Company. The online article indicated that the other two adult males were well diggers and were engaged in digging a well. NOT/NOT CREDIBLE: Intelligence sources identified two of the four adult males in the vehicle were assessed as armed. The lethal strike was conducted in open, low collateral damage terrain while the four adult males were traveling in a vehicle. None of the individuals observed during target development were observed digging a well as reported by Somaliamemo.net. Several circumstantial factors indicate that the three adult males in the vehicle were associated with al-Shabaab: The three individuals alleged to be civilians were located in a known ai-Shabaab stronghold and accompanying a known al-Shabaab leader and no well digging activity or equipment was observed during target development.
Original strike reports
In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab militants approximately 74 miles northwest of Mogadishu, Somalia, on August 2, killing four (4) terrorists.
We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike.
U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect U.S. citizens and to disable terrorist threats. This includes partnering with AMISOM and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF) in combined counterterrorism operations and targeting terrorists, their training camps, and their safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.