Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

CS1992

Incident date

May 3, 2023

Location

قورقانيا, Qurqaniya, Idlib, Syria

Geolocation

36.133082, 36.623254 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Exact location (other) level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

A 60 year old male civilian was killed by a declared US drone strike on the outskirts of Qurqaniya just before noon on May 3, 2023. At the time of the strike, US Central Command released a statement that they had targeted a senior Al Qaeda leader without any additional details. On May 2, 2024, the US military admitted that “a civilian, Mr. Lufti Hasan Masto (Masto), was struck and killed instead.”

The Syrian Civil Defense (@SyriaCivilDefe) tweeted that a civilian named Lutfi Hassan Masto (Abu Hassan), age 60, was killed by an unidentified drone while grazing sheep on the outskirts of Qurqaniya. The drone strike also resulted in the death of sheep.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) released a statement on May 3rd that “at 1142am local Syrian time on 3 May, US Central Command forces conducted a unilateral strike in Northwest Syria targeting a senior Al Qaeda leader. We will provide more information as operation details become available.”

However, the information provided by CENTCOM has been disputed by local sources. A tweet from Syrian journalist @pressrahhal stated that while “US Central Command claimed targeting a leader it said was prominent in the “Al-Qaeda” organization…the target is the martyr uncle “Lutfi Hassan Masto” at the age of 60, and he is a civilian who has no connection with any organization, neither now nor previously.”

Xeber24 News was the only source that referred to “the leader of one of the terrorist organizations” as being killed in the drone strike but did not clarify if it was the same person as the elderly man killed. However, multiple terrorism experts that spoke with the Washington Post pointed out that “it would be very unusual for al-Qaeda — particularly a senior leader — to operate in any meaningful way near the area, which is controlled by a rival group (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham) that split from the organization years ago and now considers al-Qaeda an adversary.” Other terrorist analysts pointed out that there were no announcements or celebrations of martyrdom among any terrorist organizations. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a militant group that controls Idlib province, told The Post the victim was a civilian.

A Washington Post investigation into the victim identified him as “a father of 10 tending to his sheep when he was slain by an American missile” and “a former bricklayer who lived quietly in this town in northwest Syria” according to interviews with his brother, son and six others who knew him. Those that knew him described a kind, hard-working man whose “whole life was spent poor.”

Multiple local sources referred to the location of the strike as being on a poultry farm, specifically in the vicinity of “Abu Khalouf poultry farm.”

Aramme News attributed the strike to a MQ9 reconnaissance aircraft.

On May 9th, AP quoted Maj. John Moore, a CENTCOM spokesperson, who said Tuesday that U.S. forces “are in the process of confirming the identity of the individual killed in the strike….We are aware of the allegations of a civilian casualty and the outcome of the confirmation process will inform if further investigation is necessary and how it should proceed.” On May 18th, the Washington Post quoted two U.S. defense officials, one who said “We are no longer confident we killed a senior AQ official,” while the other official said  “though we believe the strike did not kill the original target, we believe the person to be al-Qaeda.”

The victim’s brother, Mohamed Masto, told AP that reports that his brother was involved in al-Qaida were “absolute lies” and that his killing was “an injustice and an aggression…He had nothing to do with the revolution. … He had nothing to do with the Al-Nusra Front or with the Islamic State” or any of the other armed groups involved in Syria’s 12-year-old uprising-turned-civil-war, Masto said.

A neighbor named Fayad Jamil Raji told AP he had known Lufti Masto — or “Abu Hassan,” a nickname meaning “father of Hassan” — for many years. “The man was a civilian. He had a farm with poultry, cows and sheep,” he said.

According to the Washington Post, on the day of the strike, his son Hassan said that Masto had gathered with his family about 7:30 a.m that morning. “We had breakfast that morning like there was nothing wrong. We had breakfast and everything was fine, and then he went to herd his sheep,” the son recalled. Masto then took a break after a few hours outside near his home to have tea with his brother, and they parted ways around 11:30 a.m., and he returned to his animals as they grazed. An MQ-9 Predator drone soared overhead and struck him close to where he had just had tea with his brother 20 minutes ago. Neighbors pointed out that aircraft had been surveilling the area for nearly two weeks.

In a civilian casualty assessment released on November 30th 2023, the US-led Coalition has indicated that the credibility of this civilian harm allegation is in the process of being assessed.

On May 2, 2024, the CENTCOM released the findings of their investigation that “the investigation determined U.S. forces misidentified the intended Al Qaeda target and that a civilian, Mr. Lufti Hasan Masto (Masto), was struck and killed instead. Many of the facts and other findings of the investigation involve classified information and cannot be shared publicly. What we can share is the investigation concluded the strike was conducted in compliance with the law of armed conflict as well as Department of Defense and CENTCOM policies. However, the investigation revealed several issues that could be improved. We are committed to learning from this incident and improving our targeting processes to mitigate potential civilian harm.”

The incident occured at 11:42:00 local time.

The victims were named as:

Lutfi Hassan Masto لطفي حسن مسطو
60 years old male killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Agriculture
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (32) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (12) [ collapse]

  • Remnants of the missile from a US drone that killed a civilian in Qurqaniya, Syria on May 3, 2023. (Image posted by @anasanas84)
  • Sheep killed by a US drone that also killed a civilian in Qurqaniya, Syria on May 3, 2023. (Image posted by @anasanas84)
  • Remnants of the missile from a US drone that killed a civilian in Qurqaniya, Syria on May 3, 2023. (Image posted by @anasanas84)
  • Remnants of the missile from a US drone that killed a civilian in Qurqaniya, Syria on May 3, 2023. (Image posted by @anasanas84)
  • A raid by the armed coalition warplanes targeted a poultry farm near the town of Qorqanya, north of Idlib
  • White Helmet volunteers at the site of a declared US drone strike that killed a civilian in Qurqaniya, Syria on May 3, 2023. (Image posted by @SyriaCivilDefe)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The civilian "Lutfi Hassan Masto" (60 years old) was killed by a missile strike from a drone that targeted him while he was working in herding sheep on the outskirts of the town of "Qorqanya", north of Idlib.
  • Image of Lutfi Hassan Masto, age 60, killed by a declared US drone strike in Qurqaniya, Syria on May 3, 2023. (Image posted by @khaleedalkhteb)
  • Mohammed Hassan Masto sits next to the grave of his brother Lutfi, who was killed on Wednesday, May 3, in a U.S. military strike, in the village of Qorqanya, a rural area in northern Idlib province, Syria, Sunday, May 7, 2023. Maj. John Moore, a CENTCOM spokesperson, said Tuesday, May 9, that U.S. forces are investigating reports that they killed a civilian in the recent strike in northwest Syria that meant to target a senior al-Qaida leader. (AP Photo/Omar Albam)
  • An undated image of Lotfi Hassan Misto, who was killed on May 3 by a U.S. drone strike in Syria. (Courtesy of the Misto family)
  • Location of strike: Satellite image © 2023 Maxar Technologies via Google Earth

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the town of Qurqaniya (قورقانيا). Reporting from the Washington Post places the strike at the following exact coordinates: 36.133082, 36.623254.

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US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • May 2, 2024
  • Nov 30, 2023
  • May 03, 2023, near Qurqanya, Syria, via White Helmets report. 3334/CS1992/37S BA 86128 01283

  • May 2, 2024 Release Number 20240502-01 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TAMPA, Fla. – On May 3, 2023, the United States conducted a unilateral counterterrorism air strike in Northwest Syria targeting a senior Al Qaeda leader. Soon after the air strike, reports surfaced the strike may have resulted in a civilian casualty. Following initial reviews by subordinate elements, General Michael Erik Kurilla, Commander, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), directed Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF - OIR) to conduct a joint investigation on 6 June 2023 in accordance with Army Regulation 15- 6. The investigation, which concluded on November 15, 2023, was conducted by Investigating Officer, Brigadier General John P. Cogbill, U.S. Army, and supported by a team of ten senior service members and civilian employees not directly involved with the strike with extensive subject matter expertise in intelligence, law of armed conflict, operations, and targeting matters. The investigative team received both cognitive bias training and red team training. The team conducted site visits in the United States, Iraq, and Jordan, and interviewed more than forty witnesses. The investigative team also sought information from non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The team reviewed classified and unclassified information held by DoD and other federal agencies. The investigation determined U.S. forces misidentified the intended Al Qaeda target and that a civilian, Mr. Lufti Hasan Masto (Masto), was struck and killed instead. Many of the facts and other findings of the investigation involve classified information and cannot be shared publicly. What we can share is the investigation concluded the strike was conducted in compliance with the law of armed conflict as well as Department of Defense and CENTCOM policies. However, the investigation revealed several issues that could be improved. We are committed to learning from this incident and improving our targeting processes to mitigate potential civilian harm. U.S. Central Command acknowledges and regrets the civilian harm that resulted from the airstrike. We take all reports of civilian harm caused by U.S. military operations seriously and continue to employ thorough and deliberate targeting and strike processes to minimize civilian harm. This process includes a thorough review and vetting of lawful targets prior to a strike and another review after each strike. CENTCOM is fully engaged in implementing the objectives in the Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan (CHMR-AP) and the DoD Instruction (DoDI) 3000.17, titled “Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response.”

Original strike reports

US Forces

At 1142am local Syrian time on 3 May, US Central Command forces conducted a unilateral strike in Northwest Syria targeting a senior Al Qaeda leader. We will provide more information as operation details become available.
"This operation reaffirms CENTCOM's steadfast commitment to the region and the enduring defeat of ISIS and Al Qaeda," said General Michael "Erik" Krill, CENTCOM Commander.

Media
from belligerent (1) [ collapse]

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Agriculture
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–1

Sources (32) [ collapse]

Incident Code

TS588

Incident date

February 22, 2023

Location

بويرة, Bouira, Al Hasaka, Syria

Geolocation

37.019566, 41.407089 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Exact location (via Airwars) level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

At least one civilian was reportedly killed on February 22nd 2023 as a result of reported Turkish drone action, hitting a car on the road between Qamishli and Al-Qahtaniya, north east of Al Hasakah, Syria.

كوردستان پوست Kurdistan reported on Facebook that the civilian killed was Khalil Munji. Local sources also reported that a commander of the Internal Security Forces was injured in the same attack.

Other sources, including Al Araby reported that two people were killed, and one of them was involved in the “Taksim bombing” in Istanbul last November. Sources from the Syrian Democratic Forces told Al Araby that Khalil Munji was mentioned in the leaks published about the investigation and that he is a civilian person who trades agricultural products. It is not clear that he is linked to the “SDF” or “Workers’ Party” militias, but they confirmed he worked with a group of smugglers. After the strike, “ambulances also transported the injured from the targeted area to the hospital” but it is unclear how many people were injured.

Al Araby also reported that the car attacked was a jeep that belonged to the Syrian Democratic Forces while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights referred to the vehicle as a “civilian car.”

Sputnik News Agency, a Russian state-run news agency quoted by SABA reported that “at least two militants from the “Qasd” forces loyal to the US army were killed by targeting a Turkish drone.” Al-Khabour Network quoted a private source who stated that two leaders of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), one of whom was leader in the Internal Security Forces, were killed and provided their names as Hussein Al-Khalil and Haval Akram, also accusing them of being involved in the Taksim bombing.

BasNews added that one of the suspects, Ammar Gerkes, confessed to the Turkish government that a person named “Khalil Munji,” residing in the Syrian city of Qamishlo, asked Gerkes to transfer Ahlam al-Bashir, who was responsible for the bombing. However, Rami Abdurrahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory said “the civilian who was killed in the strike was known to smuggle people to Turkey. The man had, however, denied accusations by Turkish authorities that he smuggled into Turkey Ahlam Albashir, a Syrian woman who is accused of carrying out the attack.”

According to ANF, the strikes occurred on a road between Qamishlo – Tirbe Spih and was near the village of Bouira, east of the city of Qamishlo.

The majority of sources that reported on the incident attributed the strikes to Turkish forces. The official Anadolu Agency, Turkish state-run news, quoted security sources as saying that the Turkish intelligence managed, through an operation in northern Syria, to neutralize the mastermind behind the planning and implementation of the terrorist bombing on Istiklal Street – admitting that they carried out the strike.

The incident occured in the afternoon.

The victims were named as:

Khalil Munji خليل منجي
Age unknown male killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    Turkish Military
  • Known target
    YPG/SDF
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • Vehicle hit by alleged Turkish drone strikes east of the city of Qamishl on February 22, 2023. (Image posted by ANF)
  • Hussein Al-Khalil and Haval Akram, killed by Turkish drone strikes on February 22, 2023. (Image posted by Al Khabour News)
  • Vehicle hit by Turkish drone strikes east of the city of Qamishl on February 22, 2023. (Image posted by Arta Radio)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the road between Qamishli (ٱلْقَامِشْلِي) and Al-Qahtaniya (ٱلْقَحْطَانِيَّة) in the vicinity of the village of Bouira (بويرة). Analysing audio-visual material from sources, we have narrowed the location down to the following exact coordinates: 37.019566, 41.407089.

Turkish Military Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    Turkish Military
  • Turkish Military position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    Turkish Military
  • Known target
    YPG/SDF
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM377

Incident date

February 21, 2023

Location

Galmudug, Somalia

Geolocation

5.431001, 47.291339 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Province/governorate level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

At least seven alleged al-Shabaab militants were killed by declared US airstrikes near Galmudug, Somalia on February 21, 2023.

AFRICOM released a statement on February 22nd that “At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike on Feb 21, 2023. The strike occurred in a remote area near Galmudug, Somalia which is approximately 510 km northeast of Mogadishu. The initial assessment is the strike killed 7 al-Shabaab fighters. Given the remote location of the operation, the command assesses that no civilians were injured or killed.”

Garowe Online added that prior to the announcement by AFRICOM, Somali officials had hinted at the airstrikes and stated that they were against senior al-Shabaab officials. Islam Times News quoted Somali government officials who announced that the Somali military with support from Galmudug regional forces killed over 80 al-Shabaab militants in Shabeelow, Mudug region. It is unclear if this is the same operation AFRICOM is referencing due to their lack of a specific location.

Task and Purpose pointed out that no information was given in the statement as to whether the strike was carried out by a manned of unmanned aircraft, or what ordnance was used.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    7

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the state of Galmudug, for which the generic coordinates are: 5.431001, 47.291339. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

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US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike on Feb 21, 2023.

The strike occurred in a remote area near Galmudug, Somalia which is approximately 510 km northeast of Mogadishu.

The initial assessment is the strike killed 7 al-Shabaab fighters.

Given the remote location of the operation, the command assesses that no civilians were injured or killed.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has publicly stated that economic reform, social and political reconciliation, and religious tolerance are key pillars of his strategy to mobilize society against international terrorism. Military actions are just one part of the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts to comprehensively address their security challenges.

The U.S. is one of several countries providing humanitarian aid, stabilization efforts, economic development, and military assistance to the Federal Government of Somalia in their ongoing campaign.

U.S. Africa Command is the defense arm of the U.S. whole-of-government approach with African partners -- diplomacy, development and defense. This three-pronged, or “3D” approach brings together multiple agencies from within the U.S. government to increase cooperation and support for partner-led, U.S.-enabled solutions to shared security challenges, including violent extremism or terrorism.

Somalia remains central to stability and security in all of East Africa. U.S. Africa Command's forces train, advise, and assist partner forces to help give them the tools they need to defeat al-Shabaab, the largest and most deadly al-Qaeda network in the world.

U.S. Africa Command and partner forces will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security.

The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command will continue to take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command's operations to promote greater security for all Africans.

To view the U.S. Africa Command Quarterly Civilian Casualty reports, visit: https://www.africom.mil/what-we-do/airstrikes/civilian-casualty-report

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    7

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM373

Incident date

February 15, 2023

Location

Bacadweyne, Mudug, Somalia

Geolocation

7.192943, 47.526123 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Between five and 70 alleged al-Shabaab militants were killed by declared US airstrikes and/or Somali government ground actions near Bacadweyne in the Mudug of central Galmudug state on February 15, 2023.

AFRICOM released a statement on February 16th that “At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike on Feb 15, 2023. The strike occurred in a remote area approximately near Bacadweyne, Somalia which is approximately 460 km northwest of Mogadishu. The initial assessment is the strike killed 5 al-Shabaab fighters. Given the remote location of the operation, the command assesses that no civilians were injured or killed.”

Voice of America (VOA) quoted Somalia’s Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf Adala who said that more than 70 militants were killed in three days of fighting in Mudug state. VOA also quoted Al-Shabab’s military operations spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Muscab spoke to the armed group’s mobile radio station, Al-furqan and said that “Our Mujahidin fighters carried out attacks on apostate soldiers and the backing militias in Lower Juba, Lower Shabelle, middle Shabelle and Hiran regions for the past 24 hours, killing more than 60 of the enemy [government soldiers] and over 40 were injured.” VOA added that it could not verify either claim.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–70

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the town of Bacadweyne, for which the generic coordinates are: 7.192943, 47.526123. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike on Feb 15, 2023.

The strike occurred in a remote area approximately near Bacadweyne, Somalia which is approximately 460 km northwest of Mogadishu.

The initial assessment is the strike killed 5 al-Shabaab fighters.

Given the remote location of the operation, the command assesses that no civilians were injured or killed.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has publicly stated that economic reform, social and political reconciliation, and religious tolerance are key pillars of his strategy to mobilize society against international terrorist. Military actions are just one part of the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts to comprehensively address their security challenges.

The U.S. is one of several countries providing humanitarian aid, stabilization efforts, economic development, and military assistance to the Federal Government of Somalia in their ongoing campaign.

U.S. Africa Command is the defense arm of the U.S. whole-of-government approach with African partners -- diplomacy, development and defense. This three-pronged, or “3D” approach brings together multiple agencies from within the U.S. government to increase cooperation and support for partner-led, U.S.-enabled solutions to shared security challenges, including violent extremism or terrorism.

Somalia remains central to stability and security in all of East Africa. U.S. Africa Command's forces train, advise, and assist partner forces to help give them the tools they need to defeat al-Shabaab, the largest and most deadly al-Qaeda network in the world.

U.S. Africa Command and partner forces will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security.

The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command will continue to take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command's operations to promote greater security for all Africans. To view the U.S. Africa Command Quarterly Civilian Casualty reports, visit: https://www.africom.mil/what-we-do/airstrikes/civilian-casualty-report

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–70

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM372

Incident date

February 10, 2023

Location

Donlaye, Mudug, Somalia

Geolocation

5.266021, 47.910851 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Between 12 and 117 alleged al-Shabaab militants were killed by declared AFRICOM airstrikes and/or Somali National Army operations in Donlaye, near Amara town, on February 10, 2023.

AFRICOM released a statement on February 12th that “At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike Feb 10, 2023. The strike occurred in a remote area approximately 45 km southwest of Hobyo, Somalia, and about 472 km northeast of Mogadishu. The initial assessment is the strike killed 12 al-Shabaab fighters. Given the remote location of the operation, the command assesses that no civilians were injured or killed.”

A tweet from Somali National News Agency (SONNA) released a statement from the Somali National Army’s Infantry chief, G. M. Tahalil, that “117 Alshabab terrorists were killed in a operation carried out by #Somali National Army and Galmudug regional forces with support of airstrike from Somalia’s international security partners in Donlaye, near Amara town.”

Saudi Gazette News added that the operation lasted eight hours long and resulted in security forces chasing the remnants of al-Shabaab members into the forest.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    12–117

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention Donlaye, allegedly in the vicinity of Amara. The generic coordinates for Amara are: 5.266021, 47.910851. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike Feb 10, 2023.

The strike occurred in a remote area approximately 45 km southwest of Hobyo, Somalia, and about 472 km northeast of Mogadishu.

The initial assessment is the strike killed 12 al-Shabaab fighters.

Given the remote location of the operation, the command assesses that no civilians were injured or killed.

Rooting out extremism requires intervention beyond traditional military means.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has publicly stated that economic reform, social and political reconciliation, and religious tolerance are key pillars of his strategy to mobilize society against international terrorist. Military actions are only a part of the Federal Government of Somalia’s efforts to comprehensively address their security challenges.

The U.S. is one of several countries providing humanitarian aid, stabilization efforts, economic development, and military assistance to the Federal Government of Somalia in their ongoing campaign.

U.S. Africa Command is the defense arm of the U.S. whole-of-government approach with African partners -- diplomacy, development and defense. This three-pronged, or “3D” approach brings together multiple agencies from within the U.S. government to increase cooperation and support for partner-led, U.S.-enabled solutions to shared security challenges, including violent extremism or terrorism.

“U.S. Africa Command provides support to the Somali government to address terrorist threats, but we are only part of the U.S. efforts there,” said Gen. Michael Langley, AFRICOM commander. “Our Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development colleagues have programs that help build resilience through education and training; develop agricultural diversity; improve markets and trade; and strengthen democracy and good governance.”

Somalia remains central to stability and security in all of East Africa. U.S. Africa Command's forces train, advise, and assist partner forces to help give them the tools they need to defeat al-Shabaab, the largest and most deadly al-Qaeda network in the world.

U.S. Africa Command will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security.

The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command will continue to take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command's operations to promote greater security for all Africans. To view the U.S. Africa Command Quarterly Civilian Casualty reports, visit: https://www.africom.mil/what-we-do/airstrikes/civilian-casualty-report.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Ground operation
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    12–117

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM368

Incident date

January 25, 2023

Location

Almiskad mountains, Bari, Somalia

Geolocation

10.219175, 50.049347 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Province/governorate level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

An ISIS leader and 10 of his associates were killed by a declared US counterterrorism operation in the Almiskad mountains of Bari region, Somalia on January 25, 2023. One US service member was injured during the operation when a dog bit him.

AFRICOM initially released a statement that “the U.S. military conducted a successful counterterrorism operation in Somalia.” The statement only included the assessment that no civilians were injured or killed, adding that “additional details will be provided in the coming days.”

The next day, the Department of Defense released a statement from Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III that “On January 25, on orders from the President, the U.S. military conducted an assault operation in northern Somalia that resulted in the death of a number of ISIS members, including Bilal-al-Sudani, an ISIS leader in Somalia and a key facilitator for ISIS’s global network. Al-Sudani was responsible for fostering the growing presence of ISIS in Africa and for funding the group’s operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan. This action leaves the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad. No civilians were harmed as a result of this operation.”

During a Q&A with two senior administration officials, one official provided details that the operation took place in a mountainous cave complex in northern Somalia and resulted in the killing of 10 ISIS associates in addition to al-Sudani. According to the official, American forces were prepared to capture al-Sudani but “the hostile forces’ response to the operation resulted in his death”. The operation had been planned for months, including extensive rehearsals at sites “specifically built to recreate the terrain where the operation ultimately needed to take place” but mentioned that the Somalia government was “notified” of the operation, indicating that they were not involved and that they may not have been forewarned. Somali government security adviser Hussein Sheikh Ali stated that the death of al-Sudani was “very positive and welcoming,” adding that Islamic State was not as big a threat as al-Shabab in Somalia, but that al-Sudani was “dangerous”.

The same official reiterated that there were no injuries among civilians and that the only injury was to a US service member who was bit by their own canine. A reporter later pointed out that this senior official was the Homeland Security Advisor, questioning whether the operation target was a direct threat to the US homeland.

Another senior administration official described al-Sudani as supporting ISIS’s expansion and activities in Africa and beyond, including providing funding to ISIS around the world, specifically the ISIS Khorasan branch in Afghanistan. al-Sudani had been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2012 for his role in al-Shabaab before joining ISIS. Security researcher Dino Mahtani told BBC that al-Sudani was “an important figure in the attempt by this faction of Islamic State to build a trans-national network straddling Central Africa and East Africa and now with links down to Mozambique” and that his groups were also involved in weapon-smuggling. Analysts told BBC that the fact that US troops were sent rather than a less risky drone strike indicates the importance of al-Sudani.

All Africa News reported that “airstrikes” had taken place in the Almiskad mountains, which is an area where ISIS affiliates have training and hideout camps. This was likely reported prior to the US announcing their involvement. US officials declined to provide details on the service members that were involved in the raid. However, the New York Times reported that US Special Operations commandos carried out the operation, pointing out that the US troops stationed in Somalia were only there to provide training to Somali forces.

BBC pointed out that the raid came just a week after ISIS published a rare propaganda video from Somalia showing footage of clashing with Somali government forces in the mountainous radian in north-eastern Bari, the same area the raid took place.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Small arms and light weapons
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    ISIS - Somalia
  • Belligerents reported killed
    11
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (16) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the mountains in the north of the Bari administrative region. The generic coordinates for this region are: 10.219175, 50.049347. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

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US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

Statement by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III
On January 25, on orders from the President, the U.S. military conducted an assault operation in northern Somalia that resulted in the death of a number of ISIS members, including Bilal-al-Sudani, an ISIS leader in Somalia and a key facilitator for ISIS’s global network. Al-Sudani was responsible for fostering the growing presence of ISIS in Africa and for funding the group’s operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan. This action leaves the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad. No civilians were harmed as a result of this operation. We are grateful to our extraordinary service members as well as our intelligence community and other interagency partners for their support to this successful counterterrorism operation.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Small arms and light weapons
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    ISIS - Somalia
  • Belligerents reported killed
    11
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (16) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM369

Incident date

January 25, 2023

Location

Xaradheere, Mudug, Somalia

Geolocation

4.654622, 47.855728 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Four al-Shabaab militants were killed by declared AFRICOM strikes near Xaradheere on January 25, 2023.

AFRICOM released a statement on January 30th that “At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike on Jan. 25, 2023. The strike consisted of two separate engagements in a remote area near Xaradheere, Somalia, approximately 396 km northeast of Mogadishu where Somali forces were conducting operations and when they were engaged by al Shabaab fighters. The initial assessment is the strike killed four al-Shabaab terrorists. Given the remote location of the operation, the command assesses that no civilians were injured or killed.”

Antiwar.com reported on the US strike, providing information found in the press release, as well as pointing out the difficulty in confirming information from AFRICOM due to the strict rules for media in Somalia.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4

Sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the town of Xaradheere, for which the generic coordinates are: 4.654622, 47.855728. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike on Jan. 25, 2023.

The strike consisted of two separate engagements in a remote area near Xaradheere, Somalia, approximately 396 km northeast of Mogadishu where Somali forces were conducting operations and when they were engaged by al Shabaab fighters.

The initial assessment is the strike killed four al-Shabaab terrorists.

Given the remote location of the operation, the command assesses that no civilians were injured or killed.

The U.S. is one of several countries providing support to the Federal Government of Somalia in its ongoing campaign to disrupt, degrade and defeat terrorist groups. Rooting out extremism ultimately requires intervention beyond traditional military means, leveraging U.S. and partner efforts to support effective governance, promote stabilization and economic development, and resolve ongoing conflicts.

U.S. Africa Command is the defense arm of the U.S. whole-of-government approach with African partners -- diplomacy, development and defense. This three-pronged, or “3D” approach aims to increase cooperation and support for “partner-led, U.S.-enabled” solutions to shared security challenges, including violent extremism or terrorism.

Somalia remains central to stability and security in all of East Africa. U.S. Africa Command's forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to help give them the tools they need to defeat al-Shabaab, the largest and most deadly al-Qaeda network in the world.

U.S. Africa Command will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security.

The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command's operations to promote greater security for all Africans. To view the U.S. Africa Command Quarterly Civilian Casualty reports, visit: https://www.africom.mil/what-we-do/airstrikes/civilian-casualty-report

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4

Sources (2) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM367

Incident date

January 23, 2023

Location

Xaradheere, Mudug, Somalia

Geolocation

4.655025, 47.856184 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Between two and 47 alleged al-Shabaab militants were killed by declared US airstrikes or drone strikes near Xaradheere, Somalia approximately 396 km northeast of Mogadishu on January 23, 2023. There are no known reports of civilian casualties.

US AFRICOM released a statement that “at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike on Jan. 23, 2023. The strike occurred in a remote area near Xaradheere, Somalia, approximately 396 km northeast of Mogadishu where Somali forces were conducting operations. The initial assessment is the strike killed two al-Shabaab terrorists. Given the remote location of the operation, the initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed.”

Somaliland News quoted the federal government of Somalia who reported that at least 40 Alshabab members were killed in an airstrike at Beer Faarah Village, but did not specify “which partner has helped them with the airstrikes”. A tweet from @hormaar quoted General of Somalia’s Ground Forces, Gen. Mohamed Tahlil Bihi who said that operations in western Xaradheere resulted in the death of 47 al-Shabaab militants over a two day period.

Shabelle Media News reported that a second airstrike happened around Amara town to assist Somali National Army ground operations. The commander who told Shabelle about the second airstrike confirmed that there were casualties among al-Shabaab but could not determine how many yet.

According to Shabelle Media News, al-Shabaab ordered a local telecom company to turn off the phone network to prevent any more airstrikes from “foreign warplanes” (likely US).

AllAfrica News referred to the strike as being carried out by a “drone”, pointing out that the strike was part of the battle against al-Shabaab in Beer Faarah near Xaradheere, which was recently retaken by government forces.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–47

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the vicinity of the town of Xaradheere, for which the generic coordinates are: 4.655025, 47.856184. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the request of the Federal Government of Somalia and in support of Somali National Army engagements against al-Shabaab, U.S. Africa Command conducted a collective self-defense strike on Jan. 23, 2023.

The strike occurred in a remote area near Xaradheere, Somalia, approximately 396 km northeast of Mogadishu where Somali forces were conducting operations.

The initial assessment is the strike killed two al-Shabaab terrorists.


Given the remote location of the operation, the initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed.

The U.S. is one of several countries providing support to the Federal Government of Somalia in its ongoing campaign to disrupt, degrade and defeat terrorist groups. Rooting out extremism ultimately requires intervention beyond traditional military means, leveraging U.S. and partner efforts to support effective governance, promote stabilization and economic development, and resolve ongoing conflicts

U.S. Africa Command is the defense arm of the U.S. whole-of-government approach with African partners -- diplomacy, development and defense. This three-pronged, or “3D” approach aims to increase cooperation and support for “partner-led, U.S.-enabled” solutions to shared security challenges, including violent extremism or terrorism. All kinetic operations conducted and supported by U.S. Africa Command are done in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia.

Somalia remains central to stability and security in all of East Africa. U.S. Africa Command's forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to help give them the tools they need to defeat al-Shabaab, the largest and most deadly al-Qaeda network in the world.

U.S. Africa Command will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security.

The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command's operations to promote greater security for all Africans. To view the U.S. Africa Command Quarterly Civilian Casualty reports, visit: https://www.africom.mil/what-we-do/airstrikes/civilian-casualty-report

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–47

Sources (13) [ collapse]