Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM307-C

Incident date

April 10, 2020

Location

Kamsuuma, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.249699, 42.780173 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

One elderly civilian, claimed by al Shabaab to be a tribal elder, was allegedly killed by a US airstrike in Kamsuuma. The US later pushed back heavily against the claim, insisting the victim was a terrorist.

AFRICOM initially described the action – which it said killed one al Shabaab fighter – as a response to US and partner forces coming under fire on the ground, noting “a collective self-defense strike against al-Shabaab terrorists who engaged U.S. partner forces, Somali National Army Danab, and Jubaland Security Force.”

Local media – some with pro Shabaab leanings – claimed the victim of the strike was a civilian. Halgan Media reported: “Confirmed reports reaching the Halgan Media service desk reveal suspected US drones bombed the Al Shabaab controlled town of Kabsumma in the Lower Jubba province of Somalia. Local media reports surfacing from Somalia’s Jubba Valley reveal unmanned drones fired a series of missiles on the town, which fatally struck a motorist. It’s being revealed the motorist died instantly in the drone strike. The victim has been identified as a local clan elder named Abbas Mohamed Haji. It’s not clear at the moment whether there are any more victims from the strike.”

Morad News said: “Reports of US drone strike in the outskirt of Kabsuuma town in Somalia’s Lower Jubba region. Prominent clan elder, Suldaan Abaas Mahamed Haji, Suldan of Jareerwene clan killed while riding on his motorbike”

AFRICOM itself declared two strikes in the area on April 9th and 10th: “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike against al-Shabaab terrorists who engaged U.S. partner forces, Somali National Army Danab, and Jubaland Security Force, near Kobon, Somalia, Apr. 9. The command also conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab terrorists in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, Apr. 10. The command’s initial assessment concluded the Apr. 9 airstrike killed ten (10) terrorists and that the Apr. 10 airstrike killed one (1) terrorist. U.S. Africa Command currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes.”

The press release of the Somali Ministry of Information revealed more on the location of the April 9th strike, which it said was conducted “in the vicinity of Koban between Jammaamme and Jilib Districts.” Kamsuuma is located between those two.

AFRICOM later overtly refuted claims of civilian harm in a detailed statement issued five days after the attack: “Immediately prior to the airstrike, this al-Shabaab terrorist displayed the murdered bodies of Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers in a village. Following this act of coercion and intimidation, the al-Shabaab terrorist departed the village. Once isolated in a remote and secluded area, the terrorist was killed by an airstrike executed by the command in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia.

“‘This was no innocent civilian. This was a purposeful and heinous act. It was a war crime by an al-Shabaab terrorist who desecrated bodies to scare and intimidate innocent Somalis into submission,’ said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. ‘This terrorist posed with al-Shabaab flags prominently displayed in the background as Somalis of all ages were exposed to his gruesome public display.’

“One of the two outlets falsely reporting civilian casualties is al-Shabaab associated news affiliate SomaliMemo. Weakened by sustained military operations led by the SNA and AMISOM forces, al-Shabaab is increasingly relying on lies and propaganda, including releasing gruesome pictures of unverified civilian casualties, in an effort to grab media attention, as well as deceive the Somali public.”

AFRICOM later reiterated the statement: “Immediately prior to the strike, the al-Shabaab member displayed the murdered bodies of SNA soldiers, posing with al-Shabaab flags prominently displayed in the background. This was in an area where al-Shabaab had previously conducted executions and displayed deceased SNA soldiers. The al-Shabaab member then departed the village and the strike was conducted in a remote area where the effects were confirmed to be limited to the individual. 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.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground), Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (8) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Suldaan Abaas Mahamed Haji, allegedly killed by a US strike on Kamsuuma on April 9th or 10th (via Morad News)
  • Funeral of Suldaan Abaas Mahamed Haji, allegedly killed by a US strike on Kamsuuma on April 9th or 10th (via Halgan Media)
  • Funeral of Suldaan Abaas Mahamed Haji, allegedly killed by a US strike on Kamsuuma on April 9th or 10th (via Halgan Media)
  • Funeral of Suldaan Abaas Mahamed Haji, allegedly killed by a US strike on Kamsuuma on April 9th or 10th (via Halgan Media)
  • Funeral of Suldaan Abaas Mahamed Haji, allegedly killed by a US strike on Kamsuuma on April 9th or 10th (via Morad News)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention strikes in the vicinity of Kamsuuma, for which the generic coordinates are: 0.249699, 42.780173. Due to limited satellite imagery and information 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
    Other
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Jul 28, 2020
  • Apr 15, 2020
  • U.S Africa Command is aware of two news affiliates alleging an innocent civilian was killed as a result of the command’s precision airstrike in the vicinity of Jamaame, Somalia, on Apr. 10, 2020. These allegations are based on al-Shabaab propaganda and are false. The terrorist that was killed in the Apr. 10 airstrike was an al-Shabaab member complicit in the murder of at least six innocent Somalis. Immediately prior to the airstrike, this al-Shabaab terrorist displayed the murdered bodies of Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers in a village. Following this act of coercion and intimidation, the al-Shabaab terrorist departed the village. Once isolated in a remote and secluded area, the terrorist was killed by an airstrike executed by the command in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia. “This was no innocent civilian. This was a purposeful and heinous act. It was a war crime by an al-Shabaab terrorist who desecrated bodies to scare and intimidate innocent Somalis into submission,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. "This terrorist posed with al-Shabaab flags prominently displayed in the background as Somalis of all ages were exposed to his gruesome public display.” One of the two outlets falsely reporting civilian casualties is al-Shabaab associated news affiliate SomaliMemo. Weakened by sustained military operations led by the SNA and AMISOM forces, al-Shabaab is increasingly relying on lies and propaganda, including releasing gruesome pictures of unverified civilian casualties, in an effort to grab media attention, as well as deceive the Somali public.

  • April 11, 2020 (Unsubstantiated) USAFRICOM received two allegations from an online media source and social media account claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Jamaame, Somalia, on April 10, 2020. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. On April 10, 2020 an airstrike was executed on an al-Shabaab member complicit in the murder of at least six Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers. Immediately prior to the strike, the al-Shabaab member displayed the murdered bodies of SNA soldiers, posing with al-Shabaab flags prominently displayed in the background. This was in an area where al-Shabaab had previously conducted executions and displayed deceased SNA soldiers. The al-Shabaab member then departed the village and the strike was conducted in a remote area where the effects were confirmed to be limited to the individual. 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

In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike against al-Shabaab terrorists who engaged U.S. partner forces, Somali National Army Danab, and Jubaland Security Force, near Kobon, Somalia, Apr. 9.
The command also conducted an airstrike targeting al-Shabaab terrorists in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, Apr. 10.
Somali security forces continue to lead operations alongside African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces to increase security and seize ground from al-Shabaab.
"Our assistance continues to build on the gains our partners are making," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Miguel Castellanos, deputy director of operations, U.S. Africa Command. "The SNA and African partners on the ground keep hitting al-Shabaab hard, and it's having an effect on the al-Shabaab terror network."
The command's initial assessment concluded the Apr. 9 airstrike killed ten (10) terrorists and that the Apr. 10 airstrike killed one (1) terrorist.
U.S. Africa Command currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes.
U.S. Africa Command and our international partners recognize that stability in Somalia will not be achieved through purely military means. It requires providing programs and opportunity for the Somali people.
In support of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces will use all effective and appropriate methods to assist in the protection of the Somali people, including partnered military counterterrorism operations with the Federal Government of Somalia and Somali National Army forces. Together with the partner and allied forces, U.S. Africa Command works on a daily basis to improve security conditions to enhance governance and economic development.
U.S. Africa Command continues to work with its Somali partners to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in Somalia to the Federal Government of Somalia and its Member States.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground), Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (14) [ collapse]