Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM166-C

Incident date

December 8–9, 2018

Location

Baladul Rahma, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

2.296128, 45.264368 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

One civilian was reportedly killed and another injured in a confirmed US airstrike in Baladul Rahma near Basra, Somalia according to a field investigation by Amnesty International – though US Africa Command continues to deny that any civilians were harmed.

In a press release from AFRICOM issued at the time, it had said it carried out a collective self-defence strike targeting al Shabaab.

“The US airstrike was conducted against militants after partner forces came under attack. We currently assess this airstrike killed four (4) militants with no civilians involved,” the statement read.

However in March 2019, Amnesty International released a report on civilian harm in Somalia that detailed this strike. Following an on-the-ground investigation, Amnesty reported that the strikes took place in the early hours of December 9th. The victim, Dahir Abdi Qoriyow, a 47 year old farmer had been irrigating his fields throughout the night when the strike hit his farm. Omar Abdi Sheikh, who had brought food for Dahir, was also injured in the strike.

Amnesty reported: “At that moment, approximately 2am on the morning of 9 December, as Ali made his way back to the pump, an air strike hit Dahir’s farm, just steps from where he and Rambow stood. Several residents of the area told Amnesty International that they heard at least one more strike in the distance the same night, which
may have targeted Al-Shabaab fighters hiding in the farms outside of the twin villages.

“Ali ran away and returned to the village to tell Dahir’s family what had happened. In the morning, when the families of the men went to the farm to retrieve the bodies, they saw a crater, approximately a meter wide, containing scraps of metal with writing on it. Dahir had been torn to pieces and his flesh scattered about and round the crater. “We went to the farm, but it was very shocking – we didn’t see his body completely, there were some pieces around,” said Sahra a resident of the village. “There is his head there, a leg there, a shoulder there. I cannot talk about it.”

Rambow was discovered by a relative badly injured, but alive approximately 20 metres away. His right shoulder was torn open and bleeding, his left hand was broken, and an ordnance fragment was in his right temple. Rambow had been too injured to move all night, and residents of the village told Amnesty International they had been too scared to venture out until daylight.

“Rambow’s family took him immediately to the Bayan Hospital, in the Elasha area of Mogadishu, for treatment. There, another person said that a doctor had removed three ordnance fragments from Rambow’s shoulder, hand, and head.Amnesty International reviewed a video showing the pieces immediately after removal in the hospital, and examined the three fragments in detail later. All are machined light aluminium, scored from high heat, and with a jagged razor edge consistent with fragments produced from military ordnance containing an explosive with high brisance – that is, a high blast pressure that produces a shattering effect.”

Amnesty spoke to both men’s families who insisted that they were not members of al Shabaab.

In response to Amnesty International’s allegations, the US military command stated: “AFRICOM conducted a precision guided strike that corresponds to the time and location alleged, targeting individuals attacking partner forces.” AFRICOM did not however confirm whether anyone was killed or injured in the air strike, and if so, whether it had assessed that any were civilians.

In December 2019, US investigative reporter Amanda Sperber again referenced this event, noting another civilian man who was injured that day: “Dahir Abdi Qoriyow, 47, operated the generator on 51-year-old Dr. Tahiil’s (name changed for security) farm in Basra, a community about 20 miles outside of Mogadishu. Qoriyow was killed in a U.S. air strike that hit the farm Dec. 8, 2018. After the attack, Africom released a statement and international media covered the strike. Amnesty International also investigated, interviewing 18 people who knew Qoriyow, concluding he was not a combatant. Africom has denied the entirety of Amnesty’s findings.

“Shrapnel struck Dr. Tahiil in the head and hand, and he spent the following three months in a hospital. Today, he lives in a small place in Mogadishu, near the hospital. He says he can’t go home, even though he wants to. Dr. Tahiil says he was the only doctor in his village, but he is worried that al-Shabab considers him a spy because he left. He used to see four to five patients per day, seven days a week. ‘Many people left. … The people are afraid,’ he says. ‘They expect a war. These people are not fighting people; they are peaceful people.’

“Since the increase in air strikes exacerbated the conflict, people are abandoning productive farms in al-Shabab-controlled areas, such as the fertile territory of Lower Shabelle, where Issak and Dr. Tahiil are from.”

In a 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 encampment”, in the vicinity of Basra.

The incident occured at approximately 2:00 am local time.

  • Dahir Abdi Qoriyow, 47 years old male Farmer killed
  • Omar Abdi Sheikh Adult male Farmer injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • 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
    3–4

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • Via Amnesty: Three ordnance fragments removed from the body of Omar Abdi Sheikh (‘Rambow’). ©
  • Cartoonist Mike Dawson featured the December 9th event in his graphic novella for Amnesty International

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention that a farm was hit in or near the village Baladul-Rahma. The coordinates for the village Baladul-Rahma are: 2.296128, 45.264368. The man killed was reported to have been irrigating his fields around 500 meters west of the village, however the strike took place at his farm, of which the location is unclear at this time. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • Fields at 500 meters west of Baladul-Rahma (marked in red)

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

Al-Shabaab Forces degraded by U.S., Federal Government of Somalia

To support the Federal Government of Somalia’s continued efforts to degrade al-Shabaab, U.S. forces conducted a collective self-defense airstrike targeting al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Basra, Somalia on December 08, 2018.

To support the Federal Government of Somalia’s continued efforts to degrade al-Shabaab, U.S. forces conducted a collective self-defense airstrike targeting al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Basra, Somalia on December 08, 2018.

The U.S. airstrike was conducted against militants after partner forces came under attack. We currently assess this airstrike killed four (4) militants with no civilians involved.

Alongside our Somali and international partners, we are committed to preventing al-Shabaab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia. In particular, the group uses portions of southern and central Somalia to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, extort the local populace to fund its operations, and shelter radical terrorists.

The desired end state in East Africa is one in which terrorist organizations cannot destabilize Somalia and its neighboring states, nor threaten the interests of the U.S. and its international allies in the region.

U.S. Africa Command will continue to work with its partners to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in Somalia from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) to the Federal Government of Somalia and its Member States, and U.S. forces will use all effective and appropriate methods to protect the Somali people, including partnered military counter-terror operations with the Federal Government of Somalia, AMISOM and Somali National Army forces.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • 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
    3–4

Sources (7) [ collapse]