Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM204-C

Incident date

March 7–8, 2019

Location

Gamboole, Middle Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

3.084048, 45.181788 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

According to local reports a US airstrike, carried out as part of a land and air operation, was conducted in the Gambole area killing up to eight alleged Al-Shabaab fighters on March 8th. Two civilians were also reportedly killed in the strike and four more injured, Voice of America said.

According to Mareeg: “U.S. forces have launched a new air and ground operation to oust Al Shabaab militia from towns in south of Somalia. Somali especial forces were also involved in the operation carried out in Gambole area, some 50km away from Jowhar town. Jowhar, a town lies some 91km north of Somali capital Mogadishu.

“The operation triggered a brief gun battle between the coalition forces and Al Shabaab, according to a witness, who asked to be anonymous. Somali regional officials said at least 8 militants were killed in air strike after ground offensive.”

According to Halgan Media: “#US Special Forces conducted a Night raid overnight targeting Gambole village in Southern #Somalia. Fierce clashes erupted between Militants & #US Special Forces. The Americans retreated under the cover of unmarked Helicopters & the village was hit with Drone Strike shortly after”.

However Voice of America Somali reported that two civilians were killed and four injured in the raid: “Residents told VOA that the shelling targeted a building occupied by al-Shabaab militants, offices and judicial and training centers. The attack, which resulted in heavy casualties among Al-Shabaab militias, is said to have been carried out by Somali and US forces although this has not been confirmed.

A senior official of said that at least eight Al-Shabaab militants were killed in the operation. Two civilians were also killed and four others injured. Al-Shabaab officials said they had lost about three members, including Gambole County chief of operations, and the deputy chief of finance for al-Shabaab. Gamboole is al-Shabaab’s largest base in the Middle Shabelle region. There have been no reports from al-Shabaab and Somali government forces so far.”

Garowe Online also reported two civilian deaths in the raid.

Soomaaliweyn published what it said were munitions left behind after the raid. And Gedo Times said that “Residents said that they first heard the sound of a helicopter flying in at low altitude area and then heard a loud crash in the area, followed by foreign and Somali troops inside Gamboole, an al-Shabaab stronghold, to carry out various actions. No one has been able to confirm the casualties caused by the shelling but the Gamboole area is an important area for al-Shabaab.”

In April 2020 AFRICOM denied responsibility, noting in its first quarterly civilian harm report: “January 21, 2020, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming two (2) civilians were killed and four (4) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Gambole, Somalia, on March 8, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date and location.”

However, since the allegation clearly refers to a joint US-Somali ground operation as well as a possible airstrike, Airwars reached out for further clarification. On May 6th 2020, an AFRICOM official stated the following:

“The term ‘strike’ is defined as U.S. munitions of any type employed by U.S. military forces under the authority of U.S. Africa Command. This includes both air and ground operations.

1) Were US ground forces present as alleged?

USAFRICOM forces were not in the vicinity of where the alleged civilian harm occurred.

2) Did US ground forces engage in kinetic actions?

USAFRICOM did not execute a kinetic strike on the alleged date.

3) Are any US kinetic ground actions believed to have contributed to civilian harm?

USAFRICOM ground forces did not contribute to the alleged civilian harm.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • Civilians reported injured
    4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–8

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (10) [ collapse]

  • Reported image from a Somali_US raid on an al Shabaab base at Gambole, March 7th-8th in which two civilians were among those reported killed (Image via Caasimada)
  • Reported image from a Somali_US raid on an al Shabaab base at Gambole, March 7th-8th in which two civilians were among those reported killed (Image via Caasimada)
  • Reported image from a Somali_US raid on an al Shabaab base at Gambole, March 7th-8th in which two civilians were among those reported killed (Image via Caasimada)
  • Reported image from a Somali_US raid on an al Shabaab base at Gambole, March 7th-8th in which two civilians were among those reported killed (Image via Caasimada)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted an Al Shabaab camp in the village of Gamboole in South Somalia, some 50 kilometers from of the town Jowhar. The coordinates for the village Gamboole are: 3.084048, 45.181788. 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.
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • May 6, 2020
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • January 21, 2020, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming two (2) civilians were killed and four (4) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Gambole, Somalia, on March 8, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date and location.

  • For the Civilian Casualty Quarterly Assessment report the term "strike" is defined as U.S. munitions of any type employed by U.S. military forces under the authority of U.S. Africa Command. This includes both air and ground operations. We have answered the questions separately under each numbered incident. 1) Were US ground forces present as alleged? USAFRICOM forces were not in the vicinity of where the alleged civilian harm occurred. 2) Did US ground forces engage in kinetic actions? USAFRICOM did not execute a kinetic strike on the alleged date. 3) Are any US kinetic ground actions believed to have contributed to civilian harm? USAFRICOM ground forces did not contribute to the alleged civilian harm.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • Civilians reported injured
    4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–8

Sources (10) [ collapse]