Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM205-C

Incident date

March 11, 2019

Location

دار السلام, Darusalaam, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.9230721, 44.7868291 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

The US conducted a confirmed airstrike on March 11th 2019 in the vicinity of Dara Salaam near Awdegle, Lower Shabelle Region, in “self-defense”.

AFRICOM stated at the time that the airstrike – which it said killed eight al Shabaab militants – “was conducted in support of Somali-led ground forces that came under attack from militants” and insisted that “At this time, it is assessed no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike.”

However it was later claimed based on witness testimony that up to seven non combatants died in the attack.

According to Mareeg Media’s report, Al-Shabaab claimed that Somali US-backed forces instigated the attack. Al-Shabaab also claimed that one US soldier was killed and two injured in the event.

However AFRICOM denied this and stated that “all US service members are accounted for and unharmed.”

Garowe Online said that according to an allegation by Al-Shabaab, six US-trained Somali soldiers were killed during the operation: “A resident, who asked to remain anonymous, told GO that U.S. and Somali special forces using helicopters swooped into the vicinity, before engaging in a heavy gunfight with the militants. The operation which took place on Monday night also claimed the lives of six U.S.-trained Somali soldiers from Bancroft [a private security company], according to Al-Shabab statement posted on its media outlets.”

The Long War Journal noted that “Monday’s strike in Dara Salaam is the latest in a series of operations designed to “degrade” Shabaab’s military capacity… Through its Shahada News Agency, Shabaab confirmed that it engaged US and Somali troops in Dara Salaam. But Shabaab claimed to have repelled the operation in Dara Salaam and said it killed a US commander and six Somali troops, and wounded two more soldiers.”

In September 2019, TRT World Research Cente published an investigation into the attack, saying that seven civilians were killed and one injured.

“At midnight, an unmanned aerial vehicle according to the Darusalam Village Commissioner operated by the United States attacked Abshiro’s village near the vicinity of Awdheegle in the Lower Shabelle region. One of Abshiro’s sons was killed in the strike, while a second son was severely injured. Following the strikes, the next night, a likely US-Somali raid attacked a neighboring village inflicting huge damage to the livestock and properties including farmland. However, testimony capture did not permit
factual gathering regarding what occurred on that night.

TRT World Research Centre interviewed Abshiro, who witnessed the attack and provided the following testimony: ‘We were sleeping when the drone strike hit – around
midnight. The drone fired strikes into the village. Three of my family members died: My son, my son-inlaw and my nephew. We lost all our properties and left the area after burying the dead. Now, we are in an IDP camp [Weydow]. We have lost everything. Seven died, among them were three of my relatives. The US conducted the attack against us. What were the Americans looking for? Al-Shabaab were not with us! Many of our people and farm animals were killed in the attack. I did not have enough time to at least release my animals from being attacked – they’re our livelihood.”…

‘“A long time ago, Al Shabaab was present in the area, I think the Americans were probably searching for them. But the white man’s [the Americans] plan was misguided.
The Al-Shabaab were not that far away from us. They control the whole area including Awdheegle and Barriire. However, our village was between a disputed area between the Somali government and Al Shabaab. It was normal that Somali soldiers used to come to our village on one day, and Al Shabaab the next day. We were between them. They killed us wrongfully.”

Based on Abshiro’s testimony with the TRT World Research Centre, it suggests that the US executed an attack unlawfully against non-combatant and civilians, in an area where al-Shabaab were not present or based. If the US believed that it was targeting Al-Shabaab, then this would indicate that proper precaution was not taken, constituting an unlawful lethal action under international law.”

“TRT World Research Centre’s investigation finds evidence contrary to that of AFRICOM’s assessment that no civilians were killed in the strike. The testimony of ABSHIRO presents that 7 civilians were killed and one injured. In response to TRT World Research Centre’s allegation, AFRICOM said in an email: “U.S. Africa Command
conducted a collective self-defense airstrike in the vicinity of Dara Salaam, Lower Shabelle Region, Somalia, on March 11, 2019, in support of the Federal Government of Somalia’s continued efforts to degrade al-Shabaab. At this time, it is assessed no
civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike.”

While the TRT report itself alleged that seven civilians killed, it also noted that a local senior dignitary only reported one death, that of a woman: “Local media in Somalia reported that a joint attack was executed in Darusalaam, approximately 7 kilometers from Awdheegle district in Lower Shabelle region. Daarusalaam Village Commissioner, Mohammed Aweys Abukar, claimed that one civilian woman died in the raid. Abukar went on to add that some 6 Al-Shabaab militants were killed in the attack. On 12 March, Radio Risaala quoted Abukar saying: ‘We should be frank and truthful about everything; three missiles fired from drones, which were taking part of the attack, hit village homes. One of them killed a woman and injured a man. We do not want to lie.'”

In its second quarterly civilian casualty assessment AFRICOM stated: “On March 11, 2019 an airstrike was executed on eight al-Shabaab members in two known al-Shabaab compounds who were attacking partner forces. Pre-strike observation of the attack, partner force reporting, and U.S. intelligence confirmed the presence of al-Shabaab and that the eight individuals targeted were al-Shabaab members. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.”

An OCCRP investigation later looked into the collection of ISR for strike: “On February 1 and 5, 2019, a contractor-owned Gulfstream jet flew repeatedly over a small area in Lower Shabelle, about 30 kilometers west of Mogadishu. It returned to the area on March 9. The plane had a particular flight pattern — near-perfect circles — and was likely collecting data with its specialized sensors, according to experts on the subject.

On February 6 and 11, and again on March 11, U.S. airstrikes hit areas the plane apparently surveyed.”

The incident occured at approximately 12:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (4)

  • Son 1 of Abshiro Age unknown male killed
  • Son 2 of Abshiro Age unknown male injured
  • Son in law of Abshiro Age unknown male killed
  • Nephew of Abshiro Age unknown male killed
  • Unnamed woman Adult female killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 7
  • (1 woman1–6 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • 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
    8
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–2

Sources (9) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (6) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in the vicinity of Darusalaam (دار السلام), near the town Awdheegle. The coordinates for Darusalaam (دار السلام) are: 1.9230721, 44.7868291. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known 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 reason given
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Jul 28, 2020
  • Sep 23, 2019
  • In response to a civilian harm query from TRT World Research Centre, AFRICOM again asserted that "“U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense airstrike in the vicinity of Dara Salaam, Lower Shabelle Region, Somalia, on March 11, 2019, in support of the Federal Government of Somalia’s continued efforts to degrade al-Shabaab. At this time, it is assessed no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike.”

  • USAFRICOM received an allegation from a foreign Non-Government Organization claiming seven (7) civilians were killed and one (1) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Awdheegle and Dara Salaam, Somalia, on March 11, 2019. USAFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign Non-Government Organization. After review, the allegations were assessed unsubstantiated. On March 11, 2019 an airstrike was executed on eight al-Shabaab members in two known al-Shabaab compounds who were attacking partner forces. Pre-strike observation of the attack, partner force reporting, and U.S. intelligence confirmed the presence of al-Shabaab and that the eight individuals targeted were al-Shabaab members. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

"U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense airstrike in the vicinity of Dara Salaam, Lower Shabelle Region, Somalia, on March 11, 2019, in support of the Federal Government of Somalia's continued efforts to degrade al-Shabaab.
The airstrike was conducted in support of Somali-led ground forces that came under attack from militants. U.S. service members were present during the ground operation in an advisory capacity."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 7
  • (1 woman1–6 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • 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
    8
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–2

Sources (9) [ collapse]