Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USSOM017-C

Incident date

October 22, 2011

Location

Afmadow, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.514539, 42.074264 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

In this single-source claim, Somalia Report reported that at least 11 civilians died and more than 20 others were wounded after a possible US drone attacked Afmadow town in Lower Juba region.

An eye witness, Mohamud Abdirahman, told Somalia Report: “I have seen 11 bodies and we believe that it was a US airstrike.”

Locals said they had sighted what they believed to be US drones loitering above the area in the previous few days. Al Shabaab had reportedloy been the target of the attack.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    11
  • Civilians reported injured
    20
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Archived claim via Wayback

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the alleged strike took place in Afmadoow, for which the coordinates are: 0.514539, 42.074264. 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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    11
  • Civilians reported injured
    20
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM016-C

Incident date

October 13, 2011

Location

10 km east of Taabta, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.305181, 41.440288 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

In this single-source allegation, civilians were reported as possibly harmed following attacks on an al Shabaab base near Taabta village, Lower Juba, Somalia Report reported. It was not clear who was behind the actions.

Somalia Report reported that drones had targeted an al-Shabaab base used to train new fighters. Its source cited TFG military official Mohamed Hassan Bule as saying: “We are aware of the operations. It completes today’s operation on the group by the Somali National Forces. The airstrikes were carried out by drones from a friendly nation and destroyed a very important and large base ten kilometres east of Taabta. They used the base to train a misguided generation.”

Casualty numbers were unknown, though with some local sources reportedly saying that civilians were also “affected.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Original report archived via Wayback

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted an Al Shabab training camp 10 kilometers east of Taabta. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the strike. The coordinates for Taabta are: 0.305181, 41.440288.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 2
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM015-C

Incident date

October 6, 2011

Location

Dolbiyow, 35 kilometers east of Dhobley, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.411441, 41.327456 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Subdistrict level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Subdistrict

Airwars assessment

Four Somali farmers were reported to have been killed in a possible drone strike in Dolbiyow Village, 35km east of Dhobley according to Somalia Report, while one was reportedly injured.

The farmers and their camels were killed moments after al-Shabaab fighters fled the area in vehicles, witnesses said. However, a TFG official told Somalia Report that Al-Shabaab had instead mortared the village.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Archived Somalia Report claim via Wayback

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in the town Dolbiyow, 35 kilometers east of Dhobley (0.411429, 41.008691). Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location of Dolbiyow. The coordinates for the area 35 kilometers east of Dhobley are: 0.411441, 41.327456.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM014

Incident date

September 25, 2011

Location

Kismayo, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

-0.355651, 42.545703 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

City

Airwars assessment

The United States launched a series of drone attacks on al-Shabaab in Kismayo, according to residents, who reported strikes on three locations.

The BBC reported that “At least three targets were hit around Kismayo, the southern port which is under the control of the militants. One reconnaissance drone is reported to have crashed… al-Shabaab are patrolling the streets, preventing locals from using the hospital, which is treating their wounded.”

A large drone was also said to have crashed. Al Shahbaab official Sheikh Ibrahim Guled told Reuters: “This plane was a spy for the American government and by the will of Allah, it crashed near the airport. We did not target it but it fell down.”

Antiwar.com noted that no deaths were reported but several explosions were noted.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–6

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted three areas around Kismayo. A drone crashed near the Kismayo airport and was taken to the police station. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the strike. The generic coordinates for the city Kismayo are: -0.355651, 42.545703.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–6

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM013-C

Incident date

September 15, 2011

Location

Kismayo, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

-0.355651, 42.545703 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

City

Airwars assessment

A single source reported that nine civilians died in alleged US drone strikes on Kismayo.

According to the source Antiwar.com, “Eyewitnesses in the southern Somali port city of Kismayo have reported a number of missile strikes, apparently fired by US drones in and around the city. Terrified residents say that several loud explosions were heard in the area.

“The militant faction al-Shabaab, which is in control of the area, says the drones hit on the outskirts of the town and killed at least nine civilians, including women and children. 30 others were reported wounded in the strikes.”

AFP reported that residents of Kismayo heard “the sound of aircraft and heavy explosions… We heard planes flying over Kismayo and minutes later there were at least three explosions,” resident Mohamed Ali told AFP by phone. “The aircraft fired heavy missiles into a jungle area where the Shebab established training camps, but we don’t know more,” Abdikarim Samow, another resident, told AFP.

Armed drones were operating from Mahe in the Seychelles (along with those used purely for surveillance), the Washington Post reported: “In the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean…a small fleet of ‘hunter-killer’ drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.”

Seychelles foreign minister Jean-Paul Adam denied the drones were armed. However, a 2009 diplomatic cable stated the US “would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions … to gain approval’ to arm the Reapers in the Seychelles ‘should the desire to do so ever arise”.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    9
  • (2 children2 women)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–30
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, Unknown
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–30

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a jungle or the outskirts of Kismayo. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the precise location of the strike. The generic coordinates for the city Kismayo are: -0.355651, 42.545703.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Unknown Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Unknown
  • Unknown position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    9
  • (2 children2 women)
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–30
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attackers
    United States Armed Forces, Unknown
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–30

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Published

August 10, 2011

Written by

Iain Overton
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In a recent edition of The Times a correspondent writes: ‘In a war in which information and perception play as important a role as tanks and jets, the images of wooden coffins on the shoulders of grieving men will make uncomfortable viewing in London and Paris.’

The journalist, Deborah Haynes, is reporting from a frontline town in Libya. But she could, if you ignore the comment about wooden coffins, be writing about any recent war the West has embroiled itself in. Bosnia, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan. All subject to fierce media scrutiny.

This scrutiny is a problem for any developed nation pursuing war. Keeping the public on the government’s side is as important, in many respects, as supplying the troops on the ground. To this end, governments maintain powerful PR operations during wartime and beyond.

Wars today are won and lost as much in the battle for information as they are in numbers killed. The drone war is largely secretive and our study shows that there are some serious questions to be asked. Numbers have to be collated in such an age.

Journalists are embedded and vetted. Press conferences carefully regulated. There are very few photos of US body bags coming home. War is presented, where possible, as one where the enemy is quickly routed and ‘our’ troops are kept alive, healthy and well-fed.

So ideal is this image that warfare itself is being molded to adhere to it. And drone warfare has rapidly become the poster child for this type of fighting.

Drone strikes are largely not televised, as they happen in areas no film crew given western ‘credibility’ operates. No US soldiers are killed. It is ‘clean, precise and targeted’. And, compared to having actual soldiers on the ground, it is comparatively cheap too. Ideal, really.

So ideal that the President of the US can even use drones in a joke about defending the honour of his daughter.

But it is too easy to accept this idealised image. The Bureau’s research, the result of many months of persistent analysis, lays bare the reality of the drone war.

Drone strikes are not discriminating. They kill children. They injure civilians. And they are on the increase.

White House correspondent’s dinner 2010/Flickr-US State Department 

This warfare is not clean. It is not precise. 

Naturally, the evidence we have gathered will attract criticism as well as coverage. The PR machine of government might dismiss it or ignore it completely. When detractors engage, they will likely say one of three things. That our facts are reported elsewhere; they aren’t ‘new’. That our methodology is flawed. And that we act as biased apologists for militants in Pakistan.

In one sense, this data is not new. It is taken from a wide range of credible and existing sources. What is new is that we have taken it from a much wider range than some of the existing organisations that seek to cover this area. And we have done it with considerable resources.  We have followed up stories to see if figures rise or fall over time. We have recorded also civilians amongst the numbers.  And we have listed the numbers of injured. The other two major organisations that look at drone attacks have failed to do these things.

No US soldiers are killed. It is ‘clean, precise and targeted’. And, compared to having actual soldiers on the ground, it is comparatively cheap too. Ideal, really.

Our transparent methodological approach, open to peer review, is based on the same used by the widely-quoted organization Iraq Body Count. To dismiss ours is to dismiss the approach of many others.

Finally, any criticism that we are somehow working ‘for the other side’ does not bear up to scrutiny. On occasion we have been more conservative on the number of civilian dead in single attacks, despite the international press reporting otherwise. We have also identified individuals previously reported as being civilians as actually having been militants.  And we have offered an open invitation to the US security forces to engage with us if they see something significantly wrong in our study. If they satisfactorily prove their case, we will amend our data.

Pakistani villagers at funeral of drone victim – December 29 2010- AP

Most of all, though, we may well get the quotidian response – ‘Didn’t we know this already?’

This sort of reaction to our story is dangerous. Wars today are won and lost as much in the battle for information as they are in numbers killed. The drone war is largely secretive and our study shows unequivocally that there are some serious questions to be asked. Numbers have to be collated in such an age.

Clearly civilians and children are being killed. As such, one has to ask whether these drone attacks are radicalising those who have lost loved ones as much as they are ‘taking out’ militants.

We show that they are not discriminating. As such, those forces involved in their use may well be in breach of the Geneva Conventions.

And, importantly, we are providing an unbiased, independent and journalistic examination of a war.  A war that has hitherto been manipulated by governments, spun by thinktanks and often ignored by a media that– without pictures – finds it hard to report on the horrors of what is really unfolding in Pakistan.

Addendum: Since publishing our data, an online survey found that 100% of those who responded said that the drone war in Pakistan by the CIA is not working. 

If you would like to be kept informed on this issue click here to sign up to our newsletter.

Incident Code

USSOM012-C

Incident date

July 6, 2011

Location

Afmadow, Lower Juba, Somalia

Geolocation

0.514539, 42.074264 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Town

Airwars assessment

In this single-source allegation, an unknown number of people were reportedly killed or wounded in possible US strikes in Afmadow district, as reported by Somalia Report. The source did not mention whether the victims were combatants or civilians.

According to Somalia Report, US drones or planes reportedly hit three al Shabaab militant training camps in Afmadow. “‘Early in the morning and before the sunrise, we heard more than five heavy blasts not far from the town. We believe it was an airstrike,’ said a resident. ‘Minutes later, we saw three military vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed to Kismayo. We believe they were carrying victims of the attack.'”

However, then-Somalia Report editor Michael Logan told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism by email that it was simply not known if US drones were behind this attack. “This is one of those that cannot be confirmed as a drone. Lots of witnesses and a TFG official do confirm an attack, so some kind of strike took place (but as you know, there are a variety of actors capable of launching missiles),” he said.

Somali deputy defence minister Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig said at the time, while confirming that airstrikes had occurred, that: “The foreigners and senior officials of the terrorist group are afraid. They secretly hide amongst the civilians. The airstrikes will continue until we minimize the enemy from our country.” Dr. Omar Ahmed, an academic and Somali politician, told Somalia Report that such airstrikes would increase local support for al Shabaab: “There is no reason for the western countries to use airstrikes against al-Shabaab. It will only increase the generations supporting al Shabaab.”

The incident occured around dawn.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1–3

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Original Somalia Report copy via Wayback

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike took place in Afmadoow, for which the generic coordinates are: 0.514539, 42.074264. 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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1–3

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Published

June 30, 2011

Written by

Chris Woods
This page is archived from original Bureau of Investigative Journalism reporting on US military actions in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

US Special Forces can call on Navy assets in the region. Photo,US Department of Defense

A military drone operated by elite US Special Forces has targeted al Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia, killing several people. The attack marks the first confirmed hostile use of drones in the east African country.

Bureau research suggests unmanned surveillance craft have been used over Somalia for some time as part of a broader military campaign. In October 2009 a US drone was reportedly shot down over the south of the country. On previous occasions the US has allegedly flown combat missions against Somali targets from a base in eastern Ethiopia.

According to the Washington Post a drone has struck at two leaders of the al-Shabab militant group, declared a terrorist organisation by the US and others. The 23 June attack in Kismayo, southern Somalia – originally reported as a helicopter strike – also killed ‘many’ foreign fighters.

The unnamed leaders are said to have ‘direct ties’ to US-born militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Now based in Yemen, Awlaki has been linked to that country’s al Qaeda movement and to a number of terrorist plots against the US and its allies.

Recent US military actions in Somalia*

January 7 2007 – US gunship attacks militant convoy killing 10

January 22 2007 – Reported JSOC airstrike against militants

June 1 2007 – US cruise missile strike kills up to 10 alleged militants, including reportedly from Eritrea, Yemen, UK, Sweden and US

March 3 2008 – Cruise missile attack from US ships. Six die, though not apparent target.

May 2008 – US naval-launched cruise missiles kill Aden Hashi Ayro, head of Al Shabab

September 14 2009 – US Special Forces launch helicopter raid into Somalia, killing Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, wanted in connection with Mombassa attacks

October 19 2009 – US drone reported shot down over southern Somalia

April 6 2011 – Airstrike kills an al-Shabab commander

June 23 2011 – Drone strike kills “many”, wounds two al-Shabab leaders

* The Bureau’s analysis is based on credible reports. However, given the covert nature of US operations this should be viewed as a partial list.

JSOC campaign extends to Somalia

As in Yemen, US military operations against al-Shabab and other militant groups in Somalia are carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command. JSOC is made up of ultra-elite, so-called Tier One Special Forces units that were also responsible for the recent killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.

JSOC has its own helicopter and drone fleets. It also has access to US Navy assets in the region. Analysis by the Bureau shows that in recent years JSOC has employed cruise missiles, AC-130 gunships and helicopter assaults in Somalia against al-Qaeda linked targets.

In September 2009, for example, a helicopter-borne JSOC raid reportedly killed a senior militant. After a lull of 18 months JSOC activity appears again to be on the rise. In April an airstrike reportedly killed a local al-Shabab commander.

Last week’s strike is further indicator of a significant escalation in US actions in the region. The Bureau recently reported on a major surge in JSOC drone strikes against militants in Yemen. Somalia becomes the sixth recorded nation to be at the receiving end of US drone strikes – after Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan and Libya.