Somalia: Reported US actions 2019

The timeline below contains information on all US drone strikes and covert operations in Somalia recorded by the Bureau in 2019. 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 2018 timeline for Somalia can be found here, and 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 air and drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total strikes 63
Total people killed 326-338
Civilians reported killed 0-29
Children reported killed 0-1
People reported injured 0-2

Strikes Page 2

SOM137 link

11 February 2019

  • 12-13 reported killed
  • 0-13 civilians reported killed

The US military carried out two strikes in Somalia on February 11, according to a press release from US Africa Command. Both strikes hit in the vicinity of Janaale, in the Lower Shabelle Region.

"The airstrikes on February 11 were executed as Somali forces were leading an operation in an area where al Shabaab conducts terrorist activities, as well as exploits the local populace for illegal taxes," it said.

The first airstrike killed eight militants and the second airstrike killed four militants, the press release stated. Africa Command said that they assessed no civilians were injured or killed in either strike.

However, al Shabaab has reportedly claimed a strike in the area hit civilian homes. They did not say whether any civilians were killed.

We have reached out to Africa Command for comment on this.

A later report by TRT World Research Centre found evidence of possible 13 civilian casualties in this incident.

TRT spoke to Fatima, a 48-year-old mother of 10 whose home and property in Tuwaareey, a farming vicinity near Jannaale in the southeastern Lower Shebelle, was destroyed in a US drone strike.

“I was at home and preparing breakfast for my children at 7:00 am on a Monday morning. The attack caused huge damage to the area.” At the time of speaking with Fatima, the witness said “my daughter and her two kids are still missing since that day. I do not know if they are alive or not. My daughter was living in the small village next to mine, which are both in the same vicinity. My farmland was destroyed, including my harvested grain”.

At the time of investigating the incident for this report, it was not possible to verify what happened to Fatima’s daughter or two grandchildren. Fatima told TRT World Research Centre that she fled the village following the attack, and traveled to an IDP camp.

In a separate interview in June 2019, Fatima reiterated that she is still not in touch with her daughter and two grandchildren. It is possible that they may have been killed in the attack or fled the area to a different IDP camp. Fatima estimated that some 10 civilians were killed in the airstrikes – among them were Fatima’s younger sister and two of her cousins (one male and one female).

Local news outlet, Goobjoog News reported a lethal attack in the vicinity of Janaale on this day. “The attack took place at midnight as Somali army officials confirmed to us. The report added that military planes first conducted airstrikes on an Al Shabaab base, followed by a direct gun-fight between Al Shabaab fighters and Somali soldiers who landed after the strike.

US Africa Command maintain that no civilians were harmed in the strike.

SOM136 link

8 February 2019

  • 8 reported killed

The US military carried out a strike "targeting al Shabaab in the vicinity of Kobon" on February 8, US Africa Command said in a press release.

"This precision airstrike was executed to degrade al-Shabaab capabilities, reduce the threat against Somali partners, and prevent al-Shabaab from plotting terror attacks throughout the region," the press release read.

US Africa Command stated that they currently do not assess there to have been any civilian harm.

AP have reported that the strike "killed eight al-Shabab extremists", however this is not in the press release from the US military. They did however later confirm this in an email to the Bureau.


SOM135 link

7 February 2019

  • 4 reported killed

The US announced two strikes in a press release. The first is recorded below. This entry records the second.

US Africa Command stated that the strike had killed four militants and that they currently assessed that no civilian harm had occurred.

The press release stated:

This precision airstrike was executed after our Somali partners were engaged by al-Shabaab militants as they conducted an operation to disrupt al-Shabaab efforts to illegally tax and intimidate civilians in the area.

SOM134 link

6 February 2019

  • 11 reported killed

The US announced two strikes in a press release. The first hit on February 6.

US Africa Command said that the strike killed 11 militants and "at this time, it was assessed no civilians were injured or killed".

"Precision airstrikes such as these support Somali security forces efforts to protect the Somali people from terrorism while creating opportunities for increased governance to take hold," the press release stated.


SOM133 link

5 February 2019

  • Unknown casualties

The US announced two strikes in a press release. The first is recorded in the entry below. The second hit on February 5. No casualty estimate was given.

"These precision airstrikes support Somali partners’ ongoing efforts to reduce al Shabaab safe havens, degrade the terrorists’ infrastructure, and destroy terrorist equipment," the press release stated.

SOM132 link

3 February 2019

  • Unknown casualties

The US announced two strikes in a press release. The first hit on February 3. No casualty estimate was given.

The strike hit Gandarshe, the location of a strike just two days earlier.

"These precision airstrikes support Somali partners’ ongoing efforts to reduce al Shabaab safe havens, degrade the terrorists’ infrastructure, and destroy terrorist equipment," the press release stated.

SOM131 link

1 February 2019

  • 13 reported killed

A US strike killed 13 al Shabaab fighters on February 1, according to a US Africa Command press release.

It was carried out in the vicinity of Gandarshe, Lower Shabelle Region.

The press release stated:

Al-Shabaab has previously used Gandarshe, 30 miles southwest of Mogadishu, as a staging area for attacks including vehicle borne improvised explosive devices that threaten the capital and its residents. On December 15 and 16, six U.S. airstrikes killed 62 al-Shabaab militants near Gandarshe, who were preparing for an attack on a Somali government military base in the region, and recently, a U.S. airstrike killed 24 militants in neighboring Hiran Region on January 30.

SOM130 link

30 January 2019

  • 24 reported killed

The US military carried out a strike near a "terrorist encampment location" in Somalia on January 30, US Africa Command said in a press release.

The strike killed 24 fighters, it said.

"The SNA [Somali National Army] and its partners will continue to effectively target terrorist training camps and assessed safe havens in order to deny al Shabaab the ability to build capacity and attack the people of Somalia," the press release read.

SOM129 link

23 January 2019

  • Unknown casualties

The US military carried out two strikes targeting al Shabaab militants near Jilib in the Middle Juba Region on January 23, according to a press release from US Africa Command.

While the command said no civilians were injured or killed in these strikes, they didn't include any details on other casualties. An Africom spokesperson told the Military Times those details are now up to Somalia’s government to share.

We asked Africom to explain this further. They responded with the following:

We constantly review our reporting practices to ensure we provide the most pertinent information available that resonates with US and international audiences. This review includes an analysis of what resonates with media in its coverage of US Africa Command through our press releases and interviews.
Because we are looking for better ways to communicate the strategic importance of our operations in support of our partners, we may not always lead with casualty numbers in our initial release. We also may be assessing the results of the strike and may not have complete information before we publish the press release. In those cases, we will provide casualty figures in response to query.

SOM128 link

19 January 2019

  • 52 reported killed

Over 50 al Shabaab fighters were killed in a US strike in Somalia on January 19, US Africa Command said in an email.

It said the strike was carried out in response to an attack by a large group of al Shabaab militants against Somali forces.

A Somali intelligence officer told the New York Times that the group had been amassing fighters for more than a week in attempts to launch a major attack against Somali and Kenyan forces and disrupt their planned offensive. The officer said some 400 militants, including foreign ones and suicide car bombers, had been prepared.

US Africa Command said it currently assessed that no civilians had been harmed in the strike.

SOM127 link

8 January 2019

  • 6 reported killed

The US military carried out a strike targeting an al Shabaab encampment on January 8th, a press release from US Africa Command read.

"The al Shabaab encampment served as a staging area for terrorists in the region," it stated.

Six members of the group were killed and a vehicle destroyed, with the command assessing no civilians were killed or injured in the strike.

SOM126 link

7 January 2019

  • 4 reported killed

The US military carried out two strikes targeting al Shabaab in Somalia on January 7, a press release from US Africa Command has said.

"The airstrikes were conducted in collective self-defense of our Somali partners after they were engaged by al Shabaab militants," it read.

Four fighters were killed, with the command saying that it currently assesses that no civilians were harmed in the strike.

It hit in the vicinity of Baqdaad, which Xinhua located in the Lower Juba region.

SOM125 link

6 January 2019

  • 6 reported killed

The US carried out a second strike in less than a week in the vicinity of Dheerow Sanle, in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region.

This strike hit on January 6, with US Africa Command saying it killed six militants and destroyed a vehicle.

"This airstrike was conducted to diminish al Shabaab’s freedom of movement and to increase pressure on the terrorist network in the area," Africom said.

“We remain fully committed to supporting the Federal Government of Somalia, its forces, and its partners in the fight against al Shabaab,” Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gregg P. Olson commented. “In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, US forces conduct precision airstrikes such as this to foil terrorist plans, eliminate al-Shabaab terrorists and reduce the enemy’s freedom of maneuver.”

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Vicinity of Dheerow Sanle
  • References: US Africa Command press release via email

SOM124 link

2 January 2019

  • 10 reported killed

US forces carried out a strike targeting al Shabaab on January 2, a US Africa Command press release stated.

They assess that the strike killed ten militants.

"This airstrike was conducted to diminish al Shabaab’s freedom of movement and to increase pressure on the terrorist network in the area," the press release stated.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Vicinity of Dheerow Sanle
  • References: US Africa Command press release via email