Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM210

Incident date

March 22, 2019

Location

Bu'aale, Middle Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

1.251778, 42.575959 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

A reported precision airstrike by an unidentified aircraft at Buaale, Middle Juba was said to have killed up to 50 fighters with local Al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab – along with a named senior leader.

The event was first reported by Kenyan media – though reports did not identify which nation had conducted the alleged attack.

According to Nairobi News, “Security sources have revealed that Ahmed Iman Ali aka Abu Zinara, a fugitive who belongs to the terror group, is suspected to be among 40 members of Mijahideen, the Al-Qaeda group in the region, who were killed by an airstrike in Buaale town, Somalia on March 22, 2019.

A security brief seen by Nairobi News, states that an unidentified aircraft, which was targeting a ‘building complex in Buaale town in Middle Juba, may have killed the Kenyan born terrorist and group top commander.'”

Tuko, another Kenyan outlet, also reported the attack, noting that “Intelligence reports seen by TUKO.co.ke on Thursday, March 28, indicated Ali who was also referred to as Abu Zinira was murdered on March 22 in an ambush attack by an air strike from an unknown aircraft. However, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) could not immediately confirm or deny the killing of the Kenyan-born al-Shabaab commander.”

Blamed for a number of major terrorist attacks in Kenya, Abu Zinara was a key leader in Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen according to Security Intelligence, a fringe national security site. HSM is the more formal name given by some to al Shabaab.

Claiming to be citing ‘assets’, Security Intelligence asserted that “A Damage assessment on the Friday 22nd March 2019 drone airstrike by a unknown air force, shows that approximately 50 members of the Somali terror group Harakat Shabaab Mujahideen (HSM) were killed while an estimated 80-100 others sustained injuries during a strategy meeting in Bu’aale township of Middle Juba prefecture, Somalia. A High Value Target (HVT) identified as Kenya born jihadist, Ahmed Iman Ali who is also a senior commander of the terror group was among those killed.”

The East African was skeptical, claiming that this was now the fifth time that Abu Zinara had been reported killed. On March 27th, Kenyan outlet Hivisasa noted that “KDF Spokesman Bogita Ongeri also declined to confirm whether Mr Iman Ali was killed in the strike by Kenyan troops or through ally forces. Information on such operations are highly guarded but intelligence forces insist that he was indeed killed.”

Al Shabaab later reportedly executed five people including a woman for ‘spying’ – possibly in relation to this event, noted Standard Media: “According to an intelligence report by Kenyan security forces, Al Shabaab executed five people. The five, who included one Kenyan woman believed to be from the Coast and two men from Wajir were executed by a firing squad in public after they were reportedly found guilty by the local militant leader of spying in a what was described as a hurriedly constituted hearing held in front of residents. The other two were youth of Somali origin. The executions follow recent precision attacks that were carried out by US drones in Bu’aale, Middle Juba in which more than 40 Al Shabaab commanders were killed.”

Asked whether it had been responsible for this event, in February 2020 a senior AFRICOM official told Airwars that this was not the case. However, this may not preclude actions by the CIA which conducts its own undeclared strikes in Somalia.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, Kenyan Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    40–50
  • Belligerents reported injured
    80–100

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a building complex in the town of Bu’aale, in the Middle Juba region. The coordinates for Bu’aale are: 1.251778, 42.575959. 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
    Not yet assessed

Kenyan Military Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Kenyan Military Forces
  • Kenyan Military Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, Kenyan Military Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    40–50
  • Belligerents reported injured
    80–100

Sources (8) [ collapse]