March 7, 2016

Written by

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

The US flattened an al Shabaab training camp in central Somalia and killed around 150 people, the Pentagon said today, making it the highest death toll in a US counter-terrorism strike yet recorded anywhere by the Bureau.

The strike hit approximately 100 miles north of Mogadishu and killed al Shabaab terrorists who posed an imminent threat to the US and African Union peacekeepers, the Pentagon said.

US forces had had the camp under observation for several weeks and believed there were as many as 200 al Shabaab operatives based there.

The US struck after it appeared the terrorists were about to start their operation, Captain Jeff Davis said at the Pentagon.

Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abdusalam Omer told Reuters the Somalia intelligence agencies had been involved in the formative stages of the attack. “There has to be intelligence on the ground for this to happen. Our intelligence had helped,” Omer said.

Reported US drone strikes, Somalia 2001-2016
Strikes: 19-23
Total killed: 188-276
Civilians killed: 0-7
Children killed: 0-2
Injured: 2-8

Download our complete Somalia data here

“Manned and unmanned aircraft” were used to carry out the strike, which hit on Saturday March 5. The last US strike in Somalia was December 22 last year. That was the last of 10 attacks to hit the country in that year – an unprecedented frequency of strikes.

The US military said it was continuing to “assess the results of the operation” but “initial assessments are that 150 fighters were eliminated”.

Drones have been striking terrorists in Yemen since 2001, Pakistan since 2004 and Somalia since 2007 but never has the body count been as high as this.

Previously the highest tally recorded by the Bureau was 81 killed in a single CIA drone strike in Pakistan in October 2006. In Somalia, the biggest body count was in April 2011 when as many as 36 people were killed in an airstrike.

The attack last weekend hit Raso Camp, “a training facility of al Shabaab,” the Pentagon said in a statement. It killed “fighters who were scheduled to depart the camp [and] posed an imminent threat to US and African Union Mission in Somalia forces in Somalia.”

Pentagon spokespeople would not be drawn on exactly what kind of aircraft were used, beyond saying some were manned and some were drones.

The US has used several kinds of aircraft in Somalia besides drones. It has conducted strikes with jets and helicopters. It has also deployed AC-130 gunships – large propeller driven aircraft.