Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM211-C

Incident date

April 4, 2019

Location

Ukunji, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.87348, 44.72262 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

A ground operation struck a minibus carrying civilians, killing one woman and injuring up to six others, local media reported. While one source claimed that the attack was conducted by drone, others said it was a ground operation, involving Somali and possibly also US troops.

AFRICOM later denied responsibility for civilian harm on the grounds that “no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.” However it failed to clarify whether US troops were present on the ground as widely reported – or whether they had been involved in the confirmed civilian harm event,

The Somali Ministry of Information admitted that four civilians were injured during the event, tweeting that “During the night of 3 April SFG security forces captured a very senior al-Shabaab during a capture operation in Ugunji village in lower shabelle. Unfortunately, 4 locals were shot and injured during this raid. The 4 were in a car and failed to stop after repeated warnings. In fact, they actually sped up towards the force… The security force rendered medical aid to the vehicle occupants and released them.”

According to Garowe, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) thought to be American dropped a munition in al Shabaab controlled Ukunji, around 100km southwest of Mogadishu.

“The attack happened during a joint U.S.-Somali forces’ military operation against the Al-Qaeda-linked extremist group, Al-Shabab in the area, according to a resident, speaking to Garowe Online by phone. Other reports said residential houses and shops were also hit during the bombing. Graphic Pictures taken at the scene after the strike and seen by Garowe Online showed a bullet-riddled Nissan Homy packed with vegetables and chicken on the top as well as destroyed shopping centers,” asserted Garowe.

The alleged strike happened during a joint operation between US and Somali forces, claimed a source that Garowe interviewed.The newspaper also published 13 images it said were taken at the scene of the strike.

However other sources said the attack was a ground operation only. Action for Women and Children Concern for example tweeted that “Suspected US forces & SNAs [Somali National Army] opened fire on minibus carrying vegetables,last night. A female passenger was killed and 6 other passengers were injured,4 of them in critical condition.The incident took place in #Ungunji town,#LowerShabelle,#Somalia”.

US Africa Command is yet to comment on the allegation of civilian harm, or publicly to report any strike for this location and date. In autumn 2019, US investigative journalist Nick Turse obtained via FOIA a declassified document listing recent locally-alleged civilian harm from US actions, which AFRICOM was reviewing.

The fourth entry notes for the date April 4th 2019 that “[redacted source] published an article alleging that a drone strike killed a woman traveling to Mogadishu and wounded six others in the vicinity of Farsooley.” The outcome of AFRICOM’s assessment was entirely redacted.

On April 27th 2020, AFRICOM publicly denied responsibility for civilian harm in the event, noting: “April 4, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming one (1) civilian was killed and six (6) civilians injured as a result of a U.S. military operation and airstrike in the vicinity of Ugunji, Somalia on April 3, 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 on the alleged date or location.”

In followup questions from Airwars, AFRICOM confirmed that “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.”

An official also provided the following responses:

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 incident occured around dawn.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground), Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    4–6
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Known attacker
    Somalia Military Forces
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (3) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (18) [ collapse]

  • The minibus that reportedly was struck by a US strike, Ukunji, Lower Shabelle, April 4th, 2019 (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)
  • Scene of an alleged US airstrike on April 4th 2019 at Ukunji, which was said to have killed a woman and have injured six other civilians (via Garowe Online)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in the village Ukunji (or Ugunji), 100 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu. The coordinates for Ukunji are: 1.87348, 44.72262. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Somalia Military Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    Somalia Military Forces
  • Somalia Military Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

Somalia Military Forces

The Somali Ministry of Information admitted that four civilians were injured during the event, tweeting that "During the night of 3 April SFG security forces captured a very senior al-Shabaab during a capture operation in Ugunji village in lower shabelle. Unfortunately, 4 locals were shot and injured during this raid. The 4 were in a car and failed to stop after repeated warnings. In fact, they actually sped up towards the force... The security force rendered medical aid to the vehicle occupants and released them."

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible
    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
  • May 6, 2020
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • April 4, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming one (1) civilian was killed and six (6) civilians injured as a result of a U.S. military operation and airstrike in the vicinity of Ugunji, Somalia on April 3, 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 on the alleged date or location.

  • [In response to Airwars queries]: 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. 4. April 4, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming one (1) civilian was killed and six (6) civilians injured as a result of a U.S. military operation and airstrike in the vicinity of Ugunji, Somalia on April 3, 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 on the alleged date or location. 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), Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    4–6
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Known attacker
    Somalia Military Forces
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (3) [ collapse]