Somalia: Reported US actions 2018

The timeline below contains information on all US drone strikes and covert operations in Somalia recorded by the Bureau in 2018. The Bureau derives its data from open sources – predominantly media reports and, latterly, the US headquarters responsible for the war in Somalia, Africa Command or Africom. 

Please note that our data changes according to our current understanding of particular strikes. The information below represents our present best estimate.

The Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has carrying out air strikes and ground raids in Somalia for ten years, though it has been conducting clandestine operations against al Qaeda in East Africa, and its local ally al Shabaab, since the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

JSOC are routinely deployed on the ground for surveillance, reconnaissance, and assault and capture operations. Air attacks began in 2007 with helicopters and AC-130 gunships – vast ground attack aircraft that bristle with weapons. In June 2011, the US began carrying out drone strikes in Somalia.

The US has been chasing leaders of al Shabaab, a local Somali insurgent groups, who had ties to al Qaeda. This therefore made them targets under the 2001 Authorisation for the Use of Military Force Act, a hastily drafted law giving the US president the right to target and kill al Qaeda and its associates wherever he might find them.

Al Shabaab as a whole has not been specifically targeted, the US says, despite, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri announcing on February 9 2012 that al Shabaab had formally become a franchise of al Qaeda. In 2014 the frequency of US attacks in Somalia increased as the US started giving African peace keepers air support, targeting al Shabaab fighters who threatened the African troops and their US advisors. 

The Bureau publishes a narrative timeline of US strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen each year. The 2017 timeline for Pakistan will be below. Links for all other timelines can be found here.

We also publish spreadsheets detailing casualty numbers in each country. You can download the entire Somalia sheet here.

US operations in Somalia, 2018
US air and drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total strikes 5 1
Total people killed 15-16 0-5
Civilians reported killed 0-2 0
Children reported killed 0 0-5
People reported injured 1 0-6


SOM086 link

26 February 2018

  • 2 reported killed
  • 1 reported injured

US forces carried out a strike against al Shabaab fighters in Jilib, killing two members of the group and injuring one other, according to a US Africa Command press release.

Shabelle Media Network had reported a strike carried out by unknown forces, but said this occurred the day before the strike confirmed by Africom. Sources told them it hit an al Shabaab controlled town. One resident said a militant camp was targeted in the district of Jilib, described as an al Shabaab strong-hold in the Middle Shabelle region. Jilib appears to be both a district and a town.

Jilib was the site of another US strike on February 19.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strikes
  • Location: Jilib, Middle Juba Region 
  • References: US Africa Command press release via email, Shabelle Media Network 

SOM085 link

21 February 2018

  • 4-5 reported killed, including 0-2 civilians

A US strike on al Shabaab killed four members of the group, according to a US Africa Command press release. The strike hit in the vicinity of Jamaame, in Somalia's Lower Juba region. 

"I can tell you that the airstrike hit a rickshaw and that five militants were killed. It was carried out by US drone, helping our intelligence forces on the ground," a Somali government official told VOA Somali. 

Some sources said two of those killed in the rickshaw were civilians travelling with three militants. US Africa Command has said they assessed no civilians killed in the strike. We have recorded 0-2 civilians in our casualty range to reflect the possibility of civilian casualties. 

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Jamaame, Lower Juba region
  • References: US Africa Command press release via email, VOA

SOM084 link

19 February 2018

  • 3 reported killed

Three members of Al Shabaab were killed in a US strike, US Africa Command has said.

The strike took place in in the vicinity of Jilib, a town in Somalia's Middle Juba Region.  

Africom said it has assessed that no civilians were killed in the strike. 

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strikes
  • Location: Jilib, Middle Juba Region 
  • References: US Africa Command press release via email

SOM083 link

18 January 2018

  • 0-5 reported killed, including children
  • 0-6 reported injured

The US confirmed it accompanied Somali troops in a mission that rescued 30 boys from an al Shabaab indoctrination centre in the Lower Shabelle region. However, during the rescue attempt, fire from Somali forces killed some people believed to under the age of 18. Those killed had been firing at the Somali soldiers leading them to respond, according to US Africa Command. 

"US personnel were in an advisory capacity, and did not fire their weapons," an Africom statement said.  

A team of US Special Operations Forces advised local Somali troops during the raid on the camp in the Middle Shabelle region of Somalia, a US military official told CNN. A Somali intelligence official told AP it took place in the region's Jame’o village. A local commander was among the dead, he said. 

On the same day, US forces launched a strike which killed four al Shabaab members, according to US Africa Command. The strike is recorded in the entry below. 

We have added the raid into our database, which records US operations in Somalia. From the US account, the deaths that occurred in this raid resulted from Somali fire. We have therefor recorded at 0-5 deaths, reflecting the US line but also reflecting other possibilities.

  • Type of strike: Ground operation - Somali-led or joint operation
  • Location: Lower Shabelle region
  • References: AP, CNN, Somalia Update, US Africa Command via email 

SOM082 link

18 January 2018

  • 4 reported killed

US forces carried out a strike against al Shabaab, killing four members of the group, according to a press release from US Africa Command.

The strike occurred 50 kilometres northwest of Kismayo. No civilians were killed in the strike, it said. 

No additional details were provided.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: 50 kilometres northwest of Kismayo
  • References: US Africa Command press release via email 

SOM081 link

2 January 2018

  • 2 reported killed

A US strike killed two al Shabaab fighters and destroyed a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), according to a US Africa Command press release, "preventing it from being used against the people in Mogadishu".

The strike, which took place in the early hours of the morning, hit approximately 50 kilometers west of the capital.

This is the second strike in a week that Africa Command has said hit a VBIED. 

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: 50 kilometers west of Mogadishu 
  • References: US Africa Command press release via email