Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM261-C

Incident date

December 29, 2019

Location

Vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia

Airwars assessment

In retaliatory actions against al Al Shabaab for a mass casualty bombing in Mogadishu a day earlier, the United States said that it had conducted three strikes against al Shbaab commanders, killing four people in total.This entry relates to one of two strikes in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow in Lower Shabelle.

Al Shabaab itself claimed that the strike in fact killed at least one civilian non combatant it named as local businessman Kusow Haji Mohammed Yusuf – with locals also reporting that a herd of 11 camels was slain in the attack. However in April 2020 AFRICOM refuted this, insisting that “It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.”

According to an AFRICOM press release issued on the same day as the event, “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted three (3) airstrikes in two (2) locations targeting al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Qunyo Barrow and Caliyoow Barrow, Somalia, respectively, Dec. 29.”

“Initial assessment concluded two airstrikes killed two (2) terrorists and destroyed two (2) vehicles in Qunyo Barrow; and one airstrike killed two (2) terrorists in Caliyoow Barrow. We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes. We comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict during the course of our operations to ensure the safety of civilians.”

It added that “These precision airstrikes targeted al-Shabaab militants responsible for terrorist acts against innocent Somali citizens and coordinating with al-Qaeda.”

In what may be a separate or related incident, according to one local source, Somalia Terror Updates, two strikes took place “in the vicinity of Moqokori in Hiiraan region.” Since this is not in Lower Shabelle this would appear to be a different event.

The alleged al Shabaab suicide bombing on December 28th 2019 caused the largest single loss of civilian life of the year – with at least 81 people slain.

However there was later some doubt over whether al Shabaab was solely responsible, with VOA reporter Harun Maruf tweeting on December 30th that “Somalia’s intelligence agency says it has submitted a preliminary report indicating that a foreign country ‘planned’ Saturday’s bombing in Mogadishu. NISA didn’t publicly release the evidence pointing towards the involvement of a foreign country.”

Also on December 30th, reports emerged via al Shabaab that at least one adult civilian male had died in one of the Kunyo Barrow attacks, along with a herd of camels. According to Morad News, Horn News and others – which published images of the aftermath of the attack and the funeral of the victim – “local businessman” Kusow Haji Mohammed Yusuf was in fact killed when his 4-wheel drive was targeted. A nearby herd of 11 or 12 camels also died.

Horn News was alone in reporting that “several civilians” were killed – though offered no further details.

In April 2020, AFRICOM explicitly denied causing civilian harm in this event: “After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. On December 29, 2019 two airstrikes were executed against two individuals (one individual per strike) which U.S. intelligence confirmed were affiliated with al-Shabaab. Intelligence identified the individuals’ affiliation with the organization which was further corroborated during post-strike assessment. Strike video confirmed that the effects were limited to the two individuals. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

  • Kusow Haji Mohammed Yusuf Adult male Described by al Shabaab as a local businessman killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (25) [ collapse]

  • 'We submitted to the national authorities, an initial report indicating that the massacre of the Somali people in Mogadishu, 28 Dec-2019, was planned by a foreign country. In the ongoing investigation, we will work with some of the world's intelligence agencies.'
  • A camel reportedly slain in a US airstrike which al Shabaab insisted also killed a civilian businessman on December 29th 2019 (via Morad News)
  • A camel reportedly slain in a US airstrike which al Shabaab insisted also killed a civilian businessman on December 29th 2019 (via Morad News)
  • A camel herder describes the death of his herd, reportedly slain in a US airstrike which al Shabaab insisted also killed a civilian businessman on December 29th 2019 (via Morad News)
  • A munition fragment - most likely from a Hellfire missile indicating a drone strike - at the scene of a US action which al Shabaab insisted also killed a civilian businessman on December 29th 2019 (via Morad News)
  • The body of Kusow Haji Mohammed Yusuf, reportedly a civilian killed in a US strike near Kunyo barrow on December 29th 2019 (via Morad News)
  • The burial of Kusow Haji Mohammed Yusuf, reportedly a civilian killed in a US strike near Kunyo Barrow on December 29th 2019 (via Morad News)
  • ADN TV
  • Aftermath of a US strike near Kunyo Barrow on December 29th 2019 which reportedly killed a civilian
  • Aftermath of a US strike near Kunyo Barrow on December 29th 2019 which reportedly killed a civilian
  • Aftermath of a US strike near Kunyo Barrow on December 29th 2019 which reportedly killed a civilian
  • Aftermath of a US strike near Kunyo Barrow on December 29th 2019 which reportedly killed a civilian (via Morad News)

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.
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Apr 27, 2020
  • December 30, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia, on December 29, 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. On December 29, 2019 two airstrikes were executed against two individuals (one individual per strike) which U.S. intelligence confirmed were affiliated with al-Shabaab. Intelligence identified the individuals’ affiliation with the organization which was further corroborated during post-strike assessment. Strike video confirmed that the effects were limited to the two individuals. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Discounted
    Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (14) [ collapse]