Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM198-C

Incident date

February 23, 2019

Location

Qoryoley near Janaale, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.788087, 44.529002 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

An adult woman was reported killed by an alleged US attack on Qoryole, according to the Turkish news organisation TRT – an event it dated to before midnight on February 23rd 2019. Despite conducting four strikes in the near region that day. AFRICOM later insisted that “no U.S. military strike took place at the alleged time and location.”

A sequence of US airstrikes on the night of February 23rd had led to several claims of civilian harm. Four strikes took place in different locations in the Lower Shabelle region, AFRICOM later confirmed – with an attack at Kunyo Barrow town also reportedly killing a father and child that night.

While the US did not report a strike on Qoryoley itself that night, it did declare an action in the vicinity of nearby Janaale.

In an investigation into civilian harm in Somalia from recent US actions, published in September 2019, TRT World Research Centre stated the following:

“In the middle of the night on 23 February 2019, the US military conducted an air strike in the town of Qoryoley in the Shabeelaha Hoose (Lower Shabelle) region. The attack took place just before midnight. ‘It was just before midnight, about 11:00 pm. We heard
the diyaarad [drones] coming. At first, we ran towards the bushes to hide from the attack but my sister was killed by the strike. We returned back, and found her
body. We managed to bury her the next morning, and we left the area. My sister was newly married and a young woman with a promising future in a good family.

‘We lost our property, belongings and animals [farm livestock]. Now, we are displaced people inside our own country. I’m not sure who to blame for the killings, but I can say
that the attack was conducted by a Diyaarad – maybe it was the US or Somali government. They did not discriminate between civilians and combatants. There were no Al-Shabaab or militia near us. All those killed or injured were not fighters. The attackers were looking for Al Shabaab, but they did not discriminate civilians from the combatants. To my knowledge, there were no Al Shabaab near to us. However, we heard rumors that Al Shabaab were hiding in the bushes, which is not far. Everyone in the area were civilians.'”

“In an email exchange with AFRICOM, they replied: “All U.S. Africa Command airstrikes conducted in February 2019 are detailed, with locations, on our public website – please see our press release section.” AFRICOM published a press release on 24 February regarding two airstrikes executed on 23 February in the “vicinity of Kunyow Barrow”. However, according to testimony documented by TRT World Research Centre, the strikes took place in Qoryoley which is some 167.08 kilometers from the vicinity of Kunyow Barrow as put forward by AFRICOM.

“A local media station, Gundhig reported in the morning of the attack on 24 February that the “air strike, which happened at midnight last night, targeted al-Shabaab operated areas, including Kuunya Barrow, Awdheegle, and the Dacaaraha village, which is near to Qoryoley and Janaale.”

“TRT World Research Centre’s investigative research finds evidence contradicting AFRICOM’s publically [sic] reported strikes. The above interview establishes that there was one confirmed civilian killed, with the full extent of the civilian casualties unknown. The fact that one civilian was killed by a lethal strike suggests that a strike took place, in addition to on-the-ground witness testimony. AFRICOM needs to come clean over the mission conducted in this case, and undergo an independent and impartial investigation to assess civilian casualties. If there was more than one attack, it should ensure full transparency by providing public information on all of them.”

In April 2020 AFRICOM denied responsibility for civilian harm in this event, noting: “After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place at the alleged time and location.”

The incident occured at approximately 11:00 pm local time.

  • Sadia Adult female killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 woman)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (3) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that several strikes targeted Al Shabaab operated areas: Kunya Barrow (0.7928186, 43.3841839), Awdheegle (1.977202, 44.833162) and Dacaraha (1.55556, 44.13643), and Qoryoley (1.788087, 44.529002). The attack in the town Qoryoley allegedly caused the killing of a civilian woman. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected 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
    No Coalition strikes were conducted in the geographical area
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • September 23, 2019, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Qoryooley, Somalia, on February 23, 2019. AFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place at the alleged time and location.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In support of the Federal Government of Somalia's increased efforts to degrade al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted four airstrikes on February 23, 2019.

"Somali-led operations continue to place pressure on the al-Shabaab network, creating conditions for enhanced stability and security," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. "In addition to creating enhanced security, airstrikes help to disrupt al-Shabaab operations and the network while preventing future attacks by this terrorist group."

Two airstrikes on February 23 occurred in the vicinity of Kunyow Barrow, Somalia, which is approximately 250 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu. One airstrike occurred in the vicinity of Awdeegle, Somalia, which is approximately 50 kilometers west of Mogadishu. One airstrike occurred in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia, which is approximately 75 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.

Airstrikes such as these complement our Somali partners’ successes against al-Shabaab, and are one component of our combined efforts to protect the Somali people from terrorism. Somali security forces continue to effectively target al-Shabaab forces in order to increase the span of governance of the Federal Government of Somalia.

These four airstrikes eliminated checkpoints and facilities used by al-Shabaab to collect illegal taxes to fund terrorist activities and to oppress the innocent people of Somalia.

"Degrading various facilities and checkpoints impacts al-Shabaab’s ability to finance operations, recruit, and execute operations," said Olson. "The Federal Government of Somalia continues to place persistent pressure on the network."

At this time, it is assessed these airstrikes killed two terrorists.

At this time, it is assessed no civilians were injured or killed in these airstrikes.

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 woman)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (13) [ collapse]