Somalia: Reported US covert actions 2001-2016

US and UK covert operations in Somalia

The Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is the lead agency in the covert ‘war on terror’ in Somalia, although the CIA also has a strong regional presence.

The US has been carrying out extensive covert military operations inside Somalia since 2001, as a major six-part investigation by the US Army Times recently revealed.

Elite troops from the Pentagon’s JSOC are routinely deployed on the ground for surveillance, reconnaissance, and assault and capture operations. In June 2011, the US began carrying out drone strikes in Somalia. JSOC has its own fleet of armed Reaper drones, which are flown from various bases in the region.

The CIA also operates a secret base at Mogadishu airport, according to a detailed investigation by Jeremy Scahill at The Nation. Unarmed US surveillance drones also regularly fly from the airport, according to a well-informed Bureau source. While some of these are part of the US ‘war on terror’, many provide support for peacekeeping operations in the region.

The US’s primary target is currently al Shabaab, the militant group which controls much of the country’s south. On February 9 2012, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri announced that al Shabaab had formally become a franchise of al Qaeda.

In recent years, both Kenya and Ethiopia have invaded parts of Somalia, the latter allegedly with the military aid of the US. JSOC forces are reported to have taken advantage of these events to carry out more intensive operations against militants, often using helicopters, airstrikes, AC-130 gunships and “boots on the ground”.

Key reports of operations in Somalia

The Bureau has collated credible reports of known covert operations and other events in Somalia relating to the ‘war on terror’. These are drawn from major international news media and agencies, political and military memoirs and papers, and academic research. All sources are transparently presented.

Given the nature of covert operations and the difficulties in reporting from Somalia, the Bureau understands that this is an incomplete record. We welcome corrections and additions.

Covert US operations, Somalia 2001-2016
US drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total reported strikes: 32-36 9-13
Total reported killed: 242-418 59-166
Civilians reported killed: 3-12 7-47
Children reported killed: 0-2 0-2
Total reported injured: 5-24 11-21

2001 – 2005 

In 2001, the Bush administration reportedly considered military strikes against Somalia, accusing it of having ties to al Qaeda. Action was abandoned because of insufficient intelligence. ‘Somalia has been a place that has harboured al Qaeda and, to my knowledge, still is’, then-defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2001. Military flights in P-3 aircraft conducted surveillance while an increased numbers of US ships and submarines patrolled the Somali coastline. Reportedly about 100 US Special Forces operated in the country, similar to early incursions into Afghanistan. On December 2, 2001, the UK Daily Telegraph reported that the US had asked the UK for assistance in planning strikes on ‘terror bases’ in Somalia.

LocationSomalia various
References: Menkhaus 2004The GuardianAfrica ConfidentialThe TelegraphThe Telegraph

November 2001

Washington placed Hassan Dahir Aweys (pictured) on its terrorist list. Aweys was the head of the 90-member shura council of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) of Somalia and was viewed as one of its more radical leaders. The US also declared the suspected terrorist Fazul Abdullah Mohamed was operating within Somali borders. Sanctions on individuals soon expanded to groups. On November 7 2001, the US Treasury blocked the assets of the largest Somali telecommunications and remittance network, al-Barakaat. According to a November 2001 press release by the White House, al-Barakaat offices ‘raise, manage and distribute funds for al-Qaeda; provide terrorist supporters with Internet service and secure telephone communications; and arrange for the shipment of weapons’.

LocationWashington DC, Mogadishu
ReferencesDe Waal & Salam 2004International Crisis GroupHarper 2007Menkhaus 2004George W Bush Archive

Late 2001, early 2002
A major investigation by the US Army Times has revealed that in the first years following the September 11 attacks, there were rumours of potential al Qaeda training camps in Ras Kamboni, a coastal town about two miles from the Kenyan border. ‘We were throwing people at Ras Kamboni … in late ‘01, early ‘02,’ an intelligence source with long experience in the Horn of Africa told reporter Sean D. Naylor. Looking specifically at JSOC, an intelligence source told Naylor that ‘between 2001 and 2004, JSOC never had more than three people at a time in Somalia’.

Location: Ras Kamboni
References: Army TimesArmy TimesDe Waal & Salam 2004

Between 2001 and 2004, JSOC never had more than three people at a time in Somalia’ – US intelligence source 

March 19 2003
A team possibly including US commandos reportedly snatched alleged al Qaeda member Suleiman Abdallah from a hospital in Mogadishu and transported him out of the country for questioning, according to one claim. Staff at the Kaysaney Red Cross Hospital said a six-man team in plain clothes snatched the suspect from his bed and rushed him to an airstrip in a raid lasting only minutes. It appears that the Americans were working with a militia faction that controls the area around the hospital in the north of the city’, the Telegraph reported. The TFG told the Telegraph the US team included ‘4 or 5’ FBI agents. Matt Bryden, coordinator for the UN monitoring group on Somalia, and Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group, wrote in autumn 2003 that Abdallah was a Yemeni national:

Although intelligence officials have not publicly disclosed evidence linking Abdallah to any terrorist acts, he was found to be in possession of a list of former and serving US government officials, suggesting a planned attack on American targets.

According to legal charity Reprieve Abdallah was captured ‘by a notorious warlord named Mohammed Dheere‘. He was then ‘sold to the CIA and then rendered to Djibouti, Kenya and Afghanistan’. Abdallah was held by the US for ‘over five years in incommunicado detention in the Salt Pit, the Dark Prison and Bagram Airforce Base’, before being released in July 2008. The case is documented in a UN secret detention report. In March 2012 a torture victim understood to be Abdallah and referred to as ‘Rashid in the US Annals of Internal Medicine is described as having suffered ‘severe beatings, prolonged solitary confinement, forced nakedness and humiliation, sexual assault, being locked naked in a coffin, and forced to lie naked on a wet mat, naked and handcuffed, and then rolled up into a wet mat “like a corpse.”’

Type of action: Ground operation, rendition
Location: Mogadishu
ReferencesBoston College International & Comparative Law Review Daily TelegraphJournal of Conflict StudiesReprieveUN, Annals of Internal Medicine citation via Policy Mic, The Nation (US)

November 2003
US special forces infiltrated Somalian waters in 2003 and planted a dozen or more concealed cameras, as part of Operations Cobalt Blue and Poison Scepter, the Army Times revealed. According to reporter Sean D. Naylor, on January 12 2004 a fisherman discovered one of the cameras. ‘Asked what the secret camera missions achieved, the intel source with long experience on the Horn answered bluntly: “Nothing”.’

Type of action: Ground operation, surveillance
Location: Northern/eastern coast of Somalia
Reference: Army Times

Again according to Sean D. Naylor of the Army Times, beginning in 2003 teams of CIA case officers and ‘shooters’ from a special operations unit – Task Force Orange – flew into Somalia from Nairobi. Initially the teams gathered intelligence. ‘They soon expanded to include working with warlords to hunt al-Qaida members, tapping cellphones, purchasing [back] anti-aircraft missiles and, ultimately, developing a deeper understanding of al-Qaida’s East African franchise and how it fit into the wider al-Qaida network,’ Naylor reported. In an effort to develop targets, the CIA, supported by TF Orange, ran a series of missions into Mogadishu to ‘seed’ the city with devices that monitored mobile phone traffic, according to a senior military official. Mobile phone tapping targets included Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of the original al-Qaida in East Africa leaders, as well as two senior figures in Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militia: Aden Hashi Ayro, who allegedly trained in al Qaeda’s Afghanistan camps, and Ahmed Abdi Godane, the group’s leader from 2009 to 2010, according to the intelligence official.

Location: Mogadishu
Reference: Army Times

Mogadishu through a bullet hole (UN/Flickr)
Mogadishu through a bullet hole (UN/Flickr)

Late 2003 to early 2004
Interest in Ras Kamboni resumed in late 2003 to early 2004, when US personnel flew over the town but saw no sign of any training camps. At that time, the US were also paying ‘unilateral assets’ – spies – to enter southern Somalia, including Ras Kamboni, and report on what they observed. Paid $1,000 – $2,000 a month, these were ‘Somalis who had businesses in the region, Somalis who had reason to be there,’ the source said. ‘People we could depend on.’ According to the International Crisis Group, key individuals paid by the US for counter-terrorism included ‘Mohamed Omar Habeeb (aka Mohamed Dheere, regional ‘governor’ of the Middle Shabelle), Bashir Raghe (a northern Mogadishu businessman), Mohamed Qanyare Afrah Hussein Aydiid, and Generals Mohamed Nur Galal and Ahmed Hili’ow Addow’. By 2006, the US was paying Somali militants up to $150,000 a month for their support.

Location: Ras Kamboni
References: Army TimesInternational Crisis GroupPrendergast & Thomas-Jensen

June 2004
One night in June 2004, Mohammed Ali Isse was captured in a CIA-ordered raid on his Mogadishu safe house by the Americans. A Somalilander, Isse was reportedly radicalised by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now serving a life sentence for masterminding the killings of four foreign aid workers, including two British teachers, in late 2003 and early 2004. Mohamed Afrah Qanyare, a ‘scar-faced warlord in a business suit’, told the Chicago Tribune: ‘I captured Isse for the Americans…The Americans contracted us to do certain things, and we did them. Isse put up resistance so we shot him. But he survived.’ Legal charity Reprieve told the Bureau that Isse was rendered to a warship off the coast of Djibouti. ‘He was later flown to Camp Lemonier‘ the Chicago Tribune reported, ‘and from there to a clandestine prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Isse and his lawyer allege he was detained there for six weeks and tortured by Ethiopian military intelligence with electric shocks‘. Isse was finally returned to Somaliland, where he remains imprisoned.

Type of action: Ground operation, rendition
Location: Mogadishu
References: Chicago TribuneReprieveAmnesty

2001 – 2005
During this period, warlords paid by the CIA helped render ‘seven or eight’ al Qaida figures out of Somalia, Sean D. Naylor of the Army Times reported. This included suspected al Qaeda terrorist Suleiman Abdallah from a hospital in Mogadishu in March 2003 and Mohammed Ali Isse, a Somalilander captured by warlords in Mogadishu in 2004 and rendered to a warship off the coast of Djibouti, before being imprisoned in Somaliland. As the Chicago Tribune reported, ‘the Somalis on the CIA payroll engaged in a grim tit-for-tat exchange of kidnappings and assassinations with extremists.’ However, Matt Bryden, coordinator for the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, told the Chicago Tribune that, in his opinion, the CIA’s cooperation with the warlords was ‘a stupid idea… it actually strengthened the hand of the Islamists and helped trigger the crisis we’re in today.’

Type of action: Ground operation, rendition 
References: Army TimesBoston College International & Comparative Law ReviewDaily TelegraphJournal of Conflict StudiesReprieveUNChicago Tribune


June 2006

Confidential emails seen by Africa Confidential and the Observer indicated that US mercenaries may have been operating in Somalia with the knowledge of the CIA. There was also a suggestion that British companies were ‘looking to get involved.’ One email dated June 16 was from Michele Ballarin, chief executive of Select Armor – a US military firm based in Virginia. She claimed that she had been given ‘carte blanche’ to use three bases in Somalia ‘and the air access to reach them’.

References: Africa Confidential September 8 2006 (paywall), The Observer

December 24 2006
Ethiopia invaded Somalia aiming to drive out the Islamic Courts Union, and to reinstate the Transitional Somali Government. Several sources reported that Ethiopia received extensive backing from the US, with the Nation’s Jeremy Scahill calling the invasion ‘a classic [US] proxy war’. As 10,000 troops crossed the border, they received airborne reconnaissance support and ‘other intelligence’ from the US, the Washington Post reported. Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Joe Carpenter told USA Today the US and Ethiopian militaries have ‘a close working relationship’. The US also began diverting drones to Somalia to monitor a perceived rise in militant activity. An intelligence source told the Army Times:

We really took [a] risk in Iraq and Afghanistan and brought resources there [to the Horn].

But Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer later told the BBC: ‘We urged the Ethiopian military not to go into Somalia. In a December 6 diplomatic cable quoted by Army Times, US Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto warned the Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi that the invasion could ‘prove more difficult for Ethiopia than many now imagine’. JSOC was unprepared for the invasion, a senior military official told the Army Times. ‘The military wasn’t prepared to take any advantage of it,’ he said. ‘Less than a dozen’ JSOC operators entered the country with Ethiopian special forces to hunt down a small number of senior al Qaeda associates. By December 28, Ethiopian forces had entered Mogadishu as militants fled to the south.

References: Army TimesAir Force TimesThe NationWashington PostBBCLA TimesIRINUSA TodayWikiLeaks diplomatic cable


January 4 2007

The US became convinced that ‘hundreds‘ of fighters were training in camps in and around Ras Kamboni, a senior intelligence official told Sean D. Naylor. ‘We observed two that had at least 150 personnel per [at any one time],’ the official said.

Location: Ras Kamboni
ReferenceArmy Times

Naval forces from Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 were now boarding vessels off the coast of Somalia to search for terrorist suspects, the US announced. These ‘Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure’ (VBSS) missions were performed on fishing boats and oil tankers passing near the Somali coast. The aim was to ‘deter individuals with links to al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations the use of the sea as a potential escape route’.

Location: Off the coast of Somalia
ReferenceUS Department of Defense

January 7 2007
♦ 9-10 total reported killed
♦ 2+ civilians reported killed, 0-1 children
♦ 1-3 reported injured

As Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia, the US carried out its first known combat operation within Somalia since the September 11 2001 attacks. A JSOC AC-130 gunship attacked a suspected al Qaeda convoy under cover of darkness, after tracking it with a Predator drone. Up to a dozen militants were killed. US officials, speaking anonymously, named various al Qaeda members as potential targets including Aden Hashi Eyro or AyroFazul Abdullah Mohammed, and Sudanese explosives expert Abu Talha al Sudani (aka Tariq Abdullah).

According to several reports and Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman, targets were those believed to be responsible for the 1998 embassy bombings, which killed 225 people. Al Sudani was also reportedly “al Qaeda’s leader in East Africa” and was involved in the 2002 Paradise Hotel bombing in Kenya that killed 13 people.

Somali government spokesperson Abdul Rashid Hidig told the New York Times that two civilians were killed, although an Islamist spokesperson said many nomadic tribesmen died, including many children. US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Rannenberger denied any civilian casualties in an interview with the BBC. Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman told CBS News the strike was based on intelligence ‘that led us to believe we had principal al Qaeda leaders in an area where we could identify them and take action against them.’ But another US official told the Washington Post: ‘Frankly, I don’t think we know who we killed.’

A team of Ethiopian military with one US Special Forces operative landed at the scene within hours and confirmed eight dead and three injured, the New York Times reported the following month. Ayro’s bloodied passport was found, leading them to believe he had been wounded or killed, the report added – although Ayro was later targeted in SOM008. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was also reportedly the target of SOM002 and SOM005. A later report in the Daily Mail claimed four British citizens were killed in the attack (see March 2007). Five days after the incident, a number of individuals surrendered to Kenyan authorities, including a number of Swedish citizens; Fazul’s wife Mariam Ali Mohammed; and eight children. They were deported to Mogadishu and then seized by the Ethiopian intelligence service, who transported them to Addis Addaba where they were held for ten weeks.

Type of action: Air operation, AC-130 gunship
Location: Ras Kamboni
ReferencesSomalia ReportBetween Threats and War (Zenko) p. 145, Army TimesCBS News, International Crisis GroupMenkhausWashington PostLos Angeles TimesNew York TimesNew York TimesLong War JournalDaily Mail, AP via ChinaDaily, Wired, Daily Times (Kenya), New York Times, Pentagon statement

January 9 2007
♦ 5-10 total reported killed
♦ 4-5 reported injured

Two days after the AC-130 attack, another US airstrike hit four towns near Ras Kamboni, including a training camp on Badmadow island. US officials denied to the LA Times that SOM001 and SOM002 were the work of US forces and blamed Ethiopian air attacks, although this appears to be contradicted by a January 12 2007 US secret cable obtained by WikiLeaks, which refers to a ‘US military … strike Jan. 9 against members of the East Africa Al Qaeda cell believed to be on the run in a remote area of Somalia near the Kenyan border.’ A US intelligence official, speaking anonymously, told AP that five to ten people targeted by the strike were believed to be associated with al Qaeda. The US military’s main target on the island was thought to be Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Although reports suggested he had been killed, he was also the target of SOM001 and SOM005. The official said a small number of others present, perhaps four or five, were wounded. Government spokesperson Abdirahman Dinari said it was not known how many people were killed, ‘but we understand there were a lot of casualties. Most were Islamic fighters.’

Type of action: Air operation, AC-130 gunship
Location: Hayo, Garer, Bankajirow and Badmadow, Ras Kamboni
References: WikiLeaks dipomatic cableCBSLos Angeles Times, Long War Journal

January 9 2007
♦ 4-31 total reported killed
♦ 4-31 civilians reported killed, including 0-1 child

Heavy civilian casualties were reported in airstrikes on Hayi near Afmadow, on Hayi, 250km northwest of Ras Kamboni, and other parts of southern Somalia, in confusing reports which may conflate activity by US and other forces. An elder told Reuters 22-27 people had been killed, while a Somali politician told CBS News that 31 civilians ‘including a newlywed couple’ had been killed by two helicopters near Afmadow, while Mohamed Mahmud Burale told AP that at least four civilians were killed on Monday evening in Hayi, including his four-year-old son.

Type of action” Air operation, possibly helicopter
Location: Hayi
References: AP via ChinaDailyCBSNew York TimesLos Angeles TimesReuters

January 23 2007
♦ 8 total reported killed
♦ Possible civilians reported killed

A fresh JSOC AC-130 strike in Somalia, reportedly operating from an airbase in eastern Ethiopia, targeted Ahmed Madobe, a deputy of ICU leader Hassan Turki. Madobe survived the attack but was wounded and captured, he later told The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill. His eight companions, who Madobe said included men and women ‘on the run’ with him, were all killed. Madobe told the Nation:

At around 4am we woke up to perform the dawn prayers, and that’s when the planes started to hit us. The entire airspace was full of planes. There was AC-130, helicopters and fighter jets. The sky was full of strikes. They were hitting us, pounding us with heavy weaponry.

At around 10am, he added, Ethiopian and US forces landed by helicopter and captured him. Somalia Report said the attack was on an al Qaeda supply convoy, and ‘follow-up operations’ confirmed the strike killed Tariq Abdullah.

Type of action: Air operation, AC-130 gunship and ground assault, capture
Location: Waldena
References: AP via Washington PostWikiLeaks diplomatic cableThe NationArmy TimesBetween Threats and War (Zenko) p. 146, International Crisis GroupSomalia ReportReuters, New York Times

March 2007

A single source claims an SAS unit entered Somalia with members of US Delta Force (part of JSOC) to identify the remains of British and other foreign fighters killed in SOM004. The joint mission took DNA samples from 50 exhumed bodies and four British citizens were identified, the report claimed.

Type of action: Ground operation
Location: Hayo
ReferenceDaily Mail

June 1 2007
♦ 8-12 reported killed
♦ Five gunmen captured

The destroyer USS Chafee, sailing off the coast of Somalia, fired ‘more than a dozen rounds from its 5-inch gun’ on militants in Bargal, north Somalia (some reports also claimed that a cruise missile was fired). Somali spokesmen claimed the strike was launched after around 35 heavily armed militants landed on the coast near Bargal and attacked local forces. The New York Times and Micah Zenko reported that a small number of US operatives – working alongside Somali forces to hunt high-value targets believed to be among the militants – came under fire, prompting the missile launch, enabling the US and Ethiopian troops to escape. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the 1998 embassy bombings, was among the targets, according to MSNBC and Zenko. The strike killed eight to twelve alleged militants, reportedly including men from the UK, US, Eritrea, Sweden and Yemen. Five militants were captured, a Somali official told the Chicago Tribune. The US operatives comprised three counterterrorism officials who were ‘investigating the computers that the militants were carrying,’ Hassan Dahir, the vice-president of Puntland, told the New York Times.

In 2013 it emerged that Yemeni Mansur al Bayhani was killed in this attack. He was one of 23 al Qaeda members who escaped from prison on Yemen in 2006, according to author and Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen’s book The Last Refuge. Al Bayhani had turned himself in to the Yemen authorities and had sworn not to carry out any attacks in Yemen. Several of the 23 escapees went on to found al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Type of action: Naval operation, naval bombardment
Location: Bargal, Puntland
ReferencesBetween Threats and War (Zenko) p.147, Army Times, Stars and Stripes, Chicago Tribune, New York TimesMSNBCLong War JournalTelegraph, The Last Refuge

 ‘The entire airspace was full of planes. There was AC-130, helicopters and fighter jets. The sky was full of strikes‘ – Ahmed Madobe 

June 7 2007
The US announced it had detained and rendered suspected al Qaeda member Abdullahi Sudi Arale, a leading member of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) who it described as ‘an extremely dangerous terror suspect’, with links to Islamist forces in Somalia. Arale had been detained in the Horn of Africa and transferred to the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon said:

Abdullahi Sudi Arale is suspected of being a member of the Al Qaeda terrorist network in East Africa, serving as a courier between East Africa Al Qaeda (EAAQ) and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Since his return from Pakistan to Somalia in September 2006, he has held a leadership role in the EAAQ-affiliated Somali Council of Islamic Courts (CIC). There is significant information available indicating that Arale has been assisting various EAAQ-affiliated extremists in acquiring weapons and explosives, and has facilitated terrorist travel by providing false documents for AQ and EAAQ-affiliates and foreign fighters traveling into Somalia. Arale played a significant role in the re-emergence of the CIC in Mogadishu.

Type of action: Ground operation, rendition
Location: Somalia



March 3 2008

♦ 0-6 total reported killed
♦ 0-4 civilians reported killed
♦ 3-8 reported injured

The US fired at least one and as many as three cruise missiles at Dhobley, a town in southern Somalia four miles from the Kenyan border. Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman told AFP: ‘On March 2, the US conducted an attack against a known al Qaeda terrorist in southern Somalia.’ The Long War Journal reported the strike targeted Ras Kamboni Brigades leader Hassan Turki and al Qaeda leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. He was a member of al Qaeda’s ruling Shura Council and controlled the group’s East Africa cells. The US had put a $25m bounty on his head. Despite anonymous officials claiming it was a cruise missile strike, an Islamist spokesperson said the town was bombed and civilian targets hit in an attack carried out by a US AC-130 gunship. There were conflicting reports of casualties in the strike. A local elderAbdullahi Sheikh Duale, said four civilians were killed. Witnesses said at least six people were killed in the strike. And a police officer told AP eight people were wounded in the strike. However Dhobley residents told the New York Times three civilians were injured in the attack that partly destroyed a house. The only fatalities were three cows and a donkey, they said.

Type of action: Naval operation, cruise missiles and possible air operation, AC-130 gunship
Location: Dhobley
ReferencesAFPBloombergMonsters and CriticsLong War JournalAssociated Press, Washington Times, New York Times


May 1 2008
♦ 8-15 total reported killed
♦ 5-10 civilians reported killed

In May 2008, US naval-launched cruise missiles killed Aden Hashi Ayro (see also SOM001), the head of the Somali Islamist movement al Shabaab, which had growing ties with Al Qaeda. Some reports claimed an AC-130 was also involved. After Ayro’s death al Shabaab reportedly suspected the US had tracked him through his iPhone and banned the use of similar devices. An American military official in Washington told the New York Times:

[A]t least four Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from a Navy ship or submarine off the Somali coast had slammed into a small compound of single-story buildings in Dusa Marreb, a well-known hide-out for Mr. Ayro and his associates. The military official and two American intelligence officials said all indications were that Mr. Ayro was killed, along with several top lieutenants, but the attack was still being assessed.

Insurgent leaders had been meeting in Dusa Marreb, al Shabaab-controlled broadcaster Shabelle reported, putting the death toll at 15. A Shabaab spokesperson, Mukhtar Ali Robow, told Reuters: ‘Infidel planes bombed Dusa Marreb… Two of our important people, including Ayro, were killed.’ Sheikh Muhyadin Omar was among the dead, according to the Long War Journal and Africa Confidential. Residents said ‘several other Shabaab fighters and civilians were killed, Reuters reported. Half a dozen senior Al Shabaab commanders and Ayro’s brother were killed in the strike, according to Africa Confidential. Ayro’s wife and children, and people from nearby houses, were also reported dead.

Type of action: Naval operation, cruise missiles and possible air assault, AC-130 gunship
Location: Dusa Marreb town, central Somalia
References: Army TimesChristian Science MonitorAllAfrica.comTime, Between Threats and War (Zenko) p. 151, New York TimesReutersAfrica ConfidentialLong War JournalLong War Journal, US diplomatic cable, AFP


March 2009

Newsweek reported that the Pentagon considered attacking an al-Shabaab training camp. A high-level operative with the group was supposed to be attending a ‘graduation ceremony’ of militants from a camp. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen reportedly outlined a ‘strike package’ which included bombing other camps. The tactic was likened by USMC General James Cartwright to ‘carpet bombing a country.’ President Obama vetoed the attack.

Location: Southern Somalia
Reference: Newsweek, Kill Or Capture/ Klaidman pp49-51, pp201-203

March 14 2009
Apparently confirming US fears of a militant link between Somalia and al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden used an audio recording, posted on Jihadi websites, to urge Somalis to ‘fight on‘ against their newly elected president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, CBS News reported. ‘Bin Laden asked Muslim youths to disseminate extremist literature online‘, the report claimed. Ken Menkhaus, professor of political science at Davidson University and Somalia expert, felt bin Laden’s message would only bolster support for the new president. ‘There’s nothing that plays as poorly in Somalia as foreigners trying to advance their own agenda in Somalia – telling them who they may or may not have as a leader – and al-Qaeda is falling into that category. In some ways, you could not script this any better for the new government. On paper, it all looks excellent,’ he told TIME.

ReferencesCBS NewsThe IndependentYouTubeTIME

April 12 2009
♦ 3 pirates reported killed
A hostage rescue operation reveals the presence of JSOC Navy Seal Team 6 commandos off the coast of Somalia. Richard Phillips, a rescued US hostage, was then ‘flown to the Boxer, an amphibious assault ship also off the Somali coast’. The Boxer, a JSOC ship, also featured in the 2011 capture and rendition off the Yemen coast of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame.

Location: Off the coast of Somalia
References: The Daily Beast, New York TimesThe GuardianLos Angeles Times

September 14 2009
♦ 2-6 reported killed
♦ 2 reported injured

In an operation codenamed ‘Celestial Balance’ US Special Forces launched a helicopter raid into Somalia, killing Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, wanted in connection with the Mombasa attacks. ‘We’d been tracking him for years,’ a senior military official told Sean D. Naylor, in the Army Times. ‘We knew his travel route, we knew the vehicles he was using’. Three options were initially mooted to Obama and his senior advisers: to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from a warship off the Somali coast; a helicopter attack on the convoy, or a ‘snatch and grab operation attempting to take Nabhan alive. According to Klaidman ‘as everyone left the meeting that evening it was clear that the only viable plan was the lethal one.’

The US learned that Nabhan’s convoy would be setting off from Mogadishu to meet Islamic militants in the coastal town of Baraawe, the Beast reported. As the convoy neared Baraawe, JSOC struck. A number of 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment AH-6 Little Bird helicopters flew from a Navy ship and attacked the militants as they were breakfasting, killing six, including Nabhan, according to news reports. However, NPR radio reported that SEAL commandos fired missiles into Nabhan’s car. The Army Times and Daily Beast stated that one helicopter landed, with operators jumping out to load the bodies of Nabhan and three others into the aircraft, in order to retrieve Nabhan’s DNA. Following this operation, a Pentagon official told the Daily Beast the US Special Ops Forces wanted to increase their use of Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE), not just to kill terror targets but to rummage through their belongings’, but ‘the president was not supportive’ and that this became a bone of contention between Special Ops and the Obama administration.

Type of action: Air operation, helicopter and ground assault, body retrieval 
Location: Barawe
ReferencesABC, Mareeg, GuardianTimeArmy TimesAir Force TimesNPRThe Daily Beast, Daily Mail, Long War Journal, Long War Journal, Kill Or Capture/ Klaidman pp125-127

September 22 2009
A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks revealed unarmed US drones would soon fly from a base in the Seychelles on missions over Somalia: ‘Counter-terrorism missions will involve intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance flights over the Horn of Africa to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts. The UAVs originating from Seychelles and flying counter-terrorism mission will not conduct direct attacks.’ ABC News has since reported ‘US Africa Command has been flying drones out of the Seychelles since 2009 as part of anti-piracy measures in the Indian Ocean.’ The WikiLeaks cable revealed 77 US personnel would be located in Mahe, the capital, to launch, recover and maintain the drones.

Location: Mahe, Seychelles
References: WikiLeaks cableABC

We’d been tracking him for yearsWe knew his travel route, we knew the vehicles he was using’ – senior US military official to Army Times 

September 30 2009
A secret directive, the ‘Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order’, was signed by General David Petraeus, chief of Central Command, authorising ‘the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces,’ according to the New York Times. The order, which an official said ‘was drafted in close coordination with Admiral Eric T. Olson, the officer in charge of the United States Special Operations Command‘, called for clandestine activities that ‘cannot or will not be accomplished’ by conventional military operations or ‘interagency activities.’

ReferenceNew York Times

October 19 2009
Al Shabaab militants claimed they had shot down a US surveillance drone just off the coast near to Kismayo. ‘The suspected US aircraft had been flying in Kismayo airspace for days before being shot down two miles north-east of the town on Monday morning,’ an unnamed Islamist official told the BBC. ‘We think it fell into the sea. We are still searching for it’. ‘It fell into the water and our fighters are trying to locate it,’ al Shabaab spokesperson Sheikh Hassan Yacqub told Reuters. But US Navy spokesperson Lieutenant Nathan Christensen told Reuters all drones had been safely recovered.

Location: Kismayo
References: BBCReuters


February 4 2010
A Pentagon request to carry out targeted killings of al-Shabaaab leaders was reportedly overridden by Pentagon legal adviser Jeh Johnson. According to Newsweek

The decision came just as the military was ramping up its operations in Somalia. Pentagon officers left the meeting without saying a word to Johnson. It was a lonely moment for an ambitious lawyer who was used to getting along with his uniformed colleagues.

Johnson reversed his decision by the end of 2010 after ‘the military mounted a fierce campaign to persuade him to reverse course.’

Location: Washington DC
Reference: Newsweek, Kill Or Capture/ Klaidman pp212-213, pp218-223

Summer 2010
According to the Guardian, in summer 2010 the UK began drawing up ‘contingency plans’ for airstrikes on beach camps in Somalia, having become highly concerned about the threat to Britain and Europe posed by pirates and Islamic insurgents. ‘The UK has also considered plans for attacking targets in places where al-Shabaab and the pirates appear to co-exist, particularly in southern Somalia’, the Guardian reported.

Location: coastal and southern Somalia
Reference: The Guardian

Autumn 2010
The US agreed to place two Al Shabaab leaders on its ‘death list’ including Sheikh Mohammed Mukhtar Abdirahman, according to Newsweek. Efforts to add a third man, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, were reportedly overruled by State Department lawyer Harold Koh.

Koh forcefully insisted that the “killing would be unlawful.” Robow was removed from the targeting list. But the pressure to expand the list rarely lets up. After Al-Shabab’s top leader swore his organization’s allegiance to al Qaeda earlier this year [2012], Obama officials renewed their earlier debate. Robow’s life again hangs in the balance.

Location: Washington DC
Reference: Newsweek, Kill Or Capture/ Klaidman pp221-223



April 3-6 2011

♦ 1-36 reported killed

After a reporting gap of 18 months, US air attacks may have resumed. Reports of intense fighting for control of the town of Dhobley between al Shabaab and Somali forces mention an air strike, which Shabelle reports killed several militants. Somalia Report stated: ‘on April 6, shortly after the exploitation of data from captured al-Qaeda cell phones and laptops, three dozen al Shabab members were killed‘, although later reports say only one commander was killed. Jabreel Malik Muhammed was killed in the strike, according to the Observer (Uganda).

Type of action: Air operation, airstrike
Location: Dhobley
References: The Observer (Uganda), AllAfrica, Long War Journal, Somalia ReportAl ArabiyaSomalia Report

June 23 2011
♦ 2+ reported killed
♦ 2-3 reported injured

In the first known lethal drone strike in Somalia, Predators struck a militant training camp 10km south of Kismayo. Further missiles hit a second target near the airport. The attacks were aimed at two senior militants who were planning an imminent terrorist attack on the UK, US officials told the Washington Post. Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, Somalia’s deputy defence minister, told AP the strike killed ‘many’ foreign fighters. ‘I have their names, but I don’t want to release them,’ he claimed. Ibrahim al Afghani, also known as Ibrahim Haji Jama Mead, a senior leader in al Shabaab, was reportedly wounded or killed, although Strategic Forecasting claimed on August 11 that Afghani was alive and had replaced Ahmed Abdi Godane as the emir of al Shabaab. Al Shabaab has not responded to either report, and Afghani has not appeared in public since. Two militants were wounded, according to a local al Shabaab leader, Sheik Hassan Yaqub, while resident Mohammed Aden reported seeing three wounded militants. Among them was British citizen Bilal al Berjawi, killed in a subsequent drone strike, SOM018. US helicopters reportedly landed after the attack, with troops retrieving some dead and injured. The strike was the first joint mission conducted by JSOC and the CIA, CNN claimed.

Type of action: Air operation, drone strike, helicopter raid
Location: Kismayo
ReferencesLong War JournalWashington Post, Al JazeeraSomalia ReportBoston Globe, Strategic Forecasting via Critical ThreatsBloombergAssociated PressNew York TimesAll AfricaCNN

Russia Today reports on the first US drone attack in Somalia

June 28 2011

In a piece looking at drone strikes in Somalia, Somalia Report stated that on this day, ‘another attack occurred in Taabta village in the Afmadow District of Lower Juba’. However, it is unclear whether this was a US strike, and Somalia Report was not able to provide further information.

Type of action: Air assault, possible drone strike
Location: Taabta
ReferenceSomalia Report

July 6 2011
♦ Unknown number killed

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 by email it is 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: ‘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.’ But Dr. Omar Ahmed, an academic and Somali politician, told Somalia Report 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.’

Type of action:Air operation, either drone or airstrike
Location: Juba
ReferenceSomalia Report

August 1 2011
The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill revealed the CIA was operating a secret base in Mogadishu. According to the award-winning reporter, the CIA had its own aircraft at the site, and operated subcontracted underground interrogation cells elsewhere in the city. He stated:

At the [airport] facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted ‘combat’ operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.

References: The NationMSNBC

Jeremy Scahill discusses his investigation on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

August 19 2011 
Security officials in Somalia reported a drone had crashed in Mogadishu, but provided no details about who was operating it. Officials told Voice of America the drone crashed into a house near the Libyan Embassy. Small surveillance drones were known to be operated in the capital by both the US and AMISOM, according to a well-informed Bureau source.

Location: Mogadishu
ReferencesAPHiiraanVoice of AmericaCritical ThreatsGlobal Post

August 22 2011
Radio Andalus, an al Shabaab-run radio station, reported that five American surveillance drones had crashed in southern Somalia ‘over the last two weeks‘. Two of these drones fell in Mogadishu, one in Kismayo, and the others around Merka town of Lower Shabelle. The radio station claimed the US had confirmed some of these drones crashed in Somalia for technical reasons. However there is no other source for this.

Location: Mogadishu, Kismayo, Merka
References: Radio Andalus, via Somalia Report

Phantom drone strikes

In September 2011, Iranian broadcaster Press TV began reporting the deaths of civilians and others in alleged US drone strikes in Somalia, as well as a number of drone crashes. A three-month investigation by the Bureau failed to find independent corroboration for any of these supposed strikes, which Press TV claimed killed more than 1,300 civilians. These alleged strikes are listed separately here.

Read the Bureau’s full investigation of Press TV’s Somalia ‘drone strike’ reports

September 15 2011
♦ Unknown casualties

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. There were no further reports of a strike.

Type of action: Possible air assault
Location: Kismayo
Reference: AFPRNW

September 21 2011
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’.

Location: Seychelles
ReferencesWashington PostChannel 4 NewsWikiLeaks cable

September 25 2011
♦ Unknown casualties

The United States launched a series of drone attacks on al-Shabaab in Kismayo, according to residents, who reported attacks on three locations. The BBC claimed that ‘al-Shabaab are patrolling the streets, preventing locals from using the hospital, which is treating their wounded.’ A large drone was 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.

Type of action: Air operation, drone strikes
Location: Kismayo
ReferencesBBCVoice of AmericaReutersGlobal PostAntiwarThe ScotsmanAllAfricaMareegSomalia TodaySomalia ReportCritical Threats

October 6 2011
♦ 4 total reported killed
♦ 4 civilians reported killed 
♦ 1 person injured

Four Somali farmers were reported to have been killed in a possible drone strike in Dolbiyow Village, 35km east of Dhobley, said 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 Al-Shabaab had mortared the village.

Type of action: Possible air operation, drone strike
Location: Dolbiyow
ReferenceSomalia Report

October 13 2011
♦ Unknown casualties
♦ Possible civilian casualties

A single source, Somalia Report, claimed there had been attacks on an al Shabaab base near Taabta village, Lower Juba, though it is not clear who was behind the strikes. Drones targeted an al-Shabaab base used to train new fighters, according to TFG military official Mohamed Hassan Bule. ‘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 kilometers east of Taabta. They used the base to train a misguided generation’, Bule told Somalia Report. Casualty numbers were unknown, with some local sources saying that civilians were also affected.

Type of action: Air operation, drone strike 
Location: Taabta
ReferenceSomalia Report

October 22 2011
♦ 11 total reported killed
♦ 11 civilians reported killed
♦ 20 civilians reported injured

At least 11 civilians died and more than 20 others were wounded after a possible US drone attacked on Afmadow town in Lower Jubba region, according to a single source. ‘I have seen 11 bodies and we believe that it was a US airstrike,’ Mohamud Abdirahman, an eyewitness, told Somalia Report. Locals said they had sighted what they believed to be US drones hovering above the area in the previous few days.

Type of action: Possible air operation, drone strike
Location: Afmadow, Lower Jubba
Reference: Somalia Report

October 23 2011

♦ 0-1 reported killed

Either the US or France launched airstrikes on al Shabaab positions in Kismayo. Kenyan military spokesperson Major Emanuel Chirchir said the strike was in support of the Kenyan Defence Force advance in southern Somalia. ‘Everybody is in theatre,’ he told the New York Times. ‘They are complementary.’ He would not name who carried out the attack but said: ‘Everyone knows who is fighting the terrorists, they are the same partners who are always fighting al Qaeda.’ Two ‘senior American officials in Washington’ told the paper the US had not carried out the attacks. The French also denied they carried out the attacks or were responsible for a naval bombardment in the preceding days. Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Farah Dahir, a Somali army spokesperson, said Kenyan jets were responsible for the attack that killed an al Shabaab commander. Al Shabaab denied they suffered any casualties, saying a Kenyan jet launched the strike. A local resident told Reuters:

A jet bombarded an al Shabaab base near the port. It dropped a huge shell, flew past, came and then dropped another shell…The whole town shook. We’ve never heard anything like it. Everyone ran away.

Type of action: Air operation, possible US airstrike
Location: Kismayo
Reference: New York Times, allAfrica, Bloomberg, Somalia Report, Reuters, Independent, Associated Press, al Jazeera

October 27 2011
The US confirmed a new drone base at Arba Minch in Ethopia was now operational and that flights had already started from the site. The Washington Post reported armed Reapers were flying from the site, although US officials told the BBC and Al Jazeera the base was being used for surveillance flights only. The US government was reported to have spent millions of dollars adding drone facilities to Arba Minch’s small civilian airport. The Ethiopian foreign ministry denied a the facility was a military base: spokesperson Tesfaye Yilma told the Washington Post, ‘We don’t entertain foreign military bases in Ethiopia’. Captain John Kirby of the US Department of Defence told Al Jazeera: ‘There are no US military bases in Ethiopia. It’s an Ethiopian airfield.’

LocationArba Minch, Ethiopia
References: Al JazeeraWashington PostBBC

October 30 2011
♦ 5-15 killed
♦ 5 civilians reported killed, including 3 children
♦ 45-47 reported wounded
A refugee camp for those displaced by the severe drought was hit in a Kenyan air strike. Aid agency Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) reported the strike hit at around 1.30pm. The agency’s employees witnessed the strike on the camp which is home to 1,500 families. According to MSF Holland’s Head of Mission in Somalia Gautam Chatterjee: ‘In our hospital in Marare, we received 31 children, nine women and five men. All of them of with shrapnel injuries.’

A spokesperson for Kenya’s military said the country’s jets had killed 10 alleged al Shabaab insurgents. Somalia’s defence minister said the strike had targeted an al Shabaab convoy in Jilib. Both denied reports of civilian casualties.

The Kenyan defence ministry said:

The incident at the IDP camp developed following enemy actions in the area. Upon the aerial attack an Al Shabaab driver drove off a technical battle wagon mounted with a ZSU 2-3 anti aircraft gun, towards the IDP camp. The wagon was on fire and laden with explosives, it exploded while at the camp causing the reported deaths and injuries.

Type of action: Air operation, Kenyan air strike
Location: Jilib
References: MSF, Reuters, BBC, Capital News, UN Report

November 14 2011
0-2 reported killed

Missiles were fired at a training camp in Afgoye, Lower Shabelle, according to al Shabaab. An initial report from the Sunatimes stated: ‘[a] US drone attack killed leaders Ahmed Godane and Hassan Dahir Aweys.’ But Michael Logan, then editor of Somalia Report, later tweeted ‘Looks like the deaths of al-Shabaab leaders were greatly exaggerated by the TFG, as usual.’ A junior al Shabaab member allegedly told Somalia Report that the group suffered ‘some casualties.’ Associated Press debated who was responsible for the alleged strikes, with both French and US officials suggesting the other nation may have carried out the attacks.

Type of action: Air operation, likely drone strike 
Location: Afgoye
ReferencesSunatimesSomalia ReportAssociated Press

December 13 2011
Addressing American troops in Djibouti, US defence secretary Leon Panetta said US operations against al Qaeda were concentrating on key groups in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa:

Al Qaeda is what started this war and we have made a commitment that we are going to track these guys wherever they go and make sure they have no place to hide, and that’s what the effort here is all about – to make sure that they have no place to hide, whether it’s Yemen or it’s Somalia or anyplace else.

References: Washington PostAssociated PressUS Department of Defense transcript

Looks like the deaths of al-Shabaab leaders were greatly exaggerated by the TFG, as usual’ – Michael Logan 

December 13 2011
A US surveillance drone crashed in the Seychelles during a routine patrol, reported the Telegraph. ‘The Seychelles-based MQ-9s, which are used to monitor piracy activities in and around the Indian Ocean, don’t carry weapons, though they have the capability to do so… The US has used drones to hunt down al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia and Yemen, among other countries. Their humming is a constant feature in the sky in many of the major towns in southern Somalia, especially the capital city and the militant-controlled southern port of Kismayo.’

Location: Seychelles
References: Daily TelegraphAssociated Press (via NY Times)

December 28 2011
A major report in the Washington Post examined drone strikes sanctioned by the Obama administration. The Post reporters spoke to a ‘senior administration official’ who stated that in Somalia, the US administration has only allowed a handful of strikes, out of concern that a broader campaign could turn al-Shabab from a regional menace into an adversary determined to carry out attacks on US soil.

ReferenceWashington Post

December 20 2011
♦ 10–11 civilians reported killed
♦ 24 civilians reported injured

As many as 11 civilians died, and 24 were injured, when Kenyan air force planes attacked the village of Hosingow, in southern Somalia, according to witness interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch. One plane bombed a stand of huts, including a school, killing seven children and one woman, and a second plane strafed the village with machine gun fire, killing one woman and at least two men, all of them civilians, the interviewees said.

Location: Hosingow, Southern Somalia
References: Human Rights Watch


January 21 2012

♦ 1+ reported killed

Three missiles fired from a suspected drone operated by JSOC killed British-Lebanese militant Bilal al-Berjawi, also known as Abu Hafsa. The US intelligence services and military had had him under surveillance for days according to the Associated Press Al-Shabaab spokesperson Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said:

At around 1400, a US drone targeted our mujahideen. One foreigner, a Lebanese with a British passport, died.

A witness who gave his name as Osman told the New York Times there were two strikes: ‘One hit a car, which I believe held explosives.’ The strike was confirmed to AP by a US official in Washington. Berjawi was known to have been injured in airstrikes in June 2011 (SOM010) and was suspected to have sought medical assistance in Nairobi at that time. The Guardian reported Berjawi’s wife was understood to have given birth to a child in a London hospital a few hours before the attack, prompting suspicions that his location had been pinpointed through a telephone conversation between the couple. The killing caused a rift within al-Qaeda, reports suggested, with al-Shabaab calling an emergency meeting after the drone strike, amid accusations that leaders ‘may be involved in this latest killing to pursue their own goals’. In February 2013 an investigation by the Bureau and published by The Independent revealed Berjawi had his British citizenship stripped by the UK’s Home Secretary. a British-Lebanese citizen who came to the UK as a baby and grew up in London, but left for Somalia in 2009 with his close friend British-born Mohamed Sakr, killed in February 2012 (SOM015). They were among more than 20 people to lose their British citizenship at the order of successive Home Secretary.

In July 2012 al Shabaab executed three militants who they accused of spying for the CIA and MI6. Ishaq Omar Hassan, 22, and Yasin Osman Ahmed, 23, were accused of working for the Americans. Al Shabaab official Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdallah said they ‘had fixed a device on Bilal el Berjawi’s car and then he was killed by a plane in Elasha six months ago.’ Abu Abdallah said 33-year-old Mukhtar Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed had been working for the British.

Type of action: Air operation, drone strike
Location: Elasha Biyaha, 15km south of Mogadishu
ReferenceSomalia Report, Al Shabaab press, Long War JournalAssociated PressThe GuardianSomalia ReportNew York TimesThe TelegraphReutersLong War, Global Post, Associated Press, Associated Press, ReutersThe BureauThe Bureau

January 21 2012
♦ 6 reported killed

Further south, another airstrike killed six people near the insurgent stronghold of Kismayo, according to Sheikh Mohamud Abdi, a senior al-Shabaab commander. It is not known whether the strike was by US or Kenyan forces. Kenya sent troops into Somalia in October amid concerns that Somalia’s 21-year-old civil war was spilling over the countries’ border.

Type of action: Reported air operation, possible US airstrike
Location: Kismayo
Reference: Reuters

January 22 2012
People fled their homes in the rebel-held area of Elasha Biyaha on the outskirts of Mogadishu, ‘for fear of drone attacks targeting foreign and Al-Shabaab militants in the area’, Somali radio station Bar Kulan reported. The station’s correspondent said most were women and children who had earlier left the capital and camped in Elasha Biyaha, but had returned following the previous day’s strikes. Somalia Report stated they spoke with a resident who lived near the site of SOM019. We are scared of more strikes because Al-Shabaab fighters live around here and they might be potential targets … Shrapnel and dust was flying away from the impact area and if it happens again it might be fatal,‘ he told Somalia Report.

Location: Elasha Biyaha
ReferencesBar KulanSomalia Report

January 25 2012
Reported killed: 9 pirates
A US Special Forces raid freed two aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted, who had been kidnapped by pirates. According to Associated Press, the task force involved in the rescue was Navy Seal Team Six – the team that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Type of action: Ground operation, rescue mission.
Location: Galmudug
References: ReutersNBC NewsAssociated Press video, Associated PressBBC

February 3 2012
A surveillance drone reportedly crashed in a refugee camp in Mogadishu. There were no reported casualties and nothing to indicate the origins of the drone. According to AP, refugees and soldiers in Badbado camp said they watched the drone crash into a hut ‘made of sticks, corrugated cans and plastic bags’.

Location: Mogadishu
ReferenceAssociated Press

February 9 2012
In a video posted on Islamist forums, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said that Al Shabaab had officially joined the al Qaeda global network. According to the Telegraph, ‘analysts said the move appeared partly a propaganda gambit by an al Qaeda leadership weakened by drone strikes and a failure to carry out a major successful attack in the West since 2005’. AllAfrica noted that Al Shabaab had offered fealty to Al Qaeda in September 2009. Leader Ahmed Abdi Godane said his militia was ‘at the service of jihad under the stewardship of Bin Laden.’ But at the time bin Laden was non-committal.

References: Somali War MonitorThe TelegraphReuters, New York Times, AllAfrica

February 21-23 2012
In diplomatic moves relating to the London conference on Somalia, Britain said it would contribute £20m to a ‘stability fund’ for Somalia, which will pay for a civilian force of ‘chino-clad warriors’ to assist the Somali government. In addition, the Guardian reported that Britain and other EU countries were ‘considering helicopters from warships to mount offshore raids on the logistical hubs and training camps belonging to pirates and al-Shabaab militants in the country’. A Whitehall source told the newspaper: ‘We don’t have the assets in place…that does not mean we could not get them in the air quickly.’ Another official added, ‘there was no political will on this to begin with, but that has been changing. We know where the camps are, where they set up and where they launch from.’ In an interview with the BBC Somali service, David Cameron explained the threat he believed al Shabaab posed: ‘Al-Shabaab encourages violent jihad not just in Somalia but also outside Somalia,’ he said. ‘And there is a very real danger of young British Somalis having their minds poisoned by this organisation.’ But at the conference US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to contradict aspects of current US military policy in Somalia. Asked about the viability of airstrikes she said:

I am not a military strategist, but I think I know enough to say that airstrikes would not be a good idea. And we have absolutely no reason to believe anyone, certainly not the United States, anyone is considering that.

Location: London/ Somalia
References: Guardian, Daily Telegraph, BBC Somali Service via al Arabiya, Daily Telegraph

‘Airstrikes would not be a good idea.’
– Hilary Clinton, February 23 2012

February 24 2012
♦ 3-7 total reported killed
♦ 0-1 civilian reported killed

Hours after Secretary Clinton told the London Somalia conference that airstrikes against al Shabaab ‘would not be a good idea’, a US drone strike killed up to seven alleged Islamists in Lower Shabelle. According to AP:

An American official in Washington confirmed the attack was carried out by a United States drone. A second official said an “international” member of the Shabab was the target of the strike, though he said a white Kenyan reported killed in the attack was not the target..

Al Shabaab identified one of the dead as Moroccan Sheikh Abu IbrahimAccording to Reuters: ‘A very senior Egyptian was killed. Three Kenyans and a Somali also died.’ AFP reported that the strike targeted an al Qaeda commander in his vehicle, destroying the car and killing him. Also among those reported killed was a man named only as Sakr, the former deputy of Bilal al-Berjawi killed on January 22 (SOM014). The Bureau subsequently revealed his full name was London-born Mohamed Sakr. A February 2013 investigation by the Bureau, published by the Independent, uncovered Sakr had his British citizenship stripped by the UK’s Home Secretary. He was one of more than 20 people to lose their British citizenship at the order of successive Home Secretary, including Berjawi. The practice was compared to ‘medieval exile’ by leading human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Sakr’s later said they believed the loss of his UK citizenship left their son vulnerable to attack by the US. ‘I’ll never stop blaming the British government for what they did to my son. They broke my family’s back,’ his father told the Bureau.

More than a year after the attack German journalists identified a civilian killed in the attack. Mohammed Abdullahi, 50, had taken his animals to pasture when the drones struck, according to a joint investigation by newspaper Sud Deutsche Zeitung and Germany’s national broadcaster NDR. His son Slaman, 34

A civilian told Reuters that fighter jets roared overhead before a loud blast ripped through the night air. Hassan, a local resident said: ‘First we saw a huge flash and then a big explosion shook the ground… Later we saw a huge crater and nearby trees were burned.’ Al Shabaab confirmed the strike but ‘said it was not clear if the dead were its fighters or civilians.’ The strike targeting was reportedly provided by two al Shabaab miliantsIshaq Omar Hassan, 22, and Yasin Osman Ahmed, 23. The two were accused of providing targeting information for the CIA to kill Bilal al Berjawi (SOM019) and were executed in July 2012 along with 33-year-old Mukhtar Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed accused of spying for Britain’s MI6.

Type of action: Air operation, drone strike
: Lower Shabelle, 60km south of Mogadishu
References: Reuters, BBC, AFP, Voice of America, The Nation (Kenya), Associated Press, Al Jazeera, Associated Press, The Standard (Kenya), Sydney Morning Herald, Reuters, Hiiraan, The Star (Kenya), Sabahi Online, Homeland Security Policy Institute (pdf), The Bureau, The Bureau, SD/NDR

March 17 2012
Alabama-born jihadist and US citizen Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki, revealed a rift within Al Shabaab when he released a video in which he declared that his life at risk. ‘I record this message today because I feel that my life may be endangered by Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahideen due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the sharia and matters of strategy.’ Al Shabaab tweeted that al-Amriki ‘was not endangered’. Yet reports emerged the following day that the al Qaeda-linked group had arrested al-Amriki and taken him into custody. It was later claimed that Hammami was executed by Al Shabaab on April 5.

Location: Somalia
References: Mareeg, video (arabic and English), Reuters, Wired, Al Shabaab (via twitter), Global Post, New York Times (biography), Somaliland Sun

March 23 2012
The European Union authorised possible ground strikes in Somalia as it extended its Operation Atlanta anti-piracy mission until December 2014. An EU statement said the force’s area of operations to include Somali coastal territory as well as its territorial and internal waters.’ AFP cited Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo:

The EU plan is to allow attacks on land installations when ships are assaulted at sea.

Location: Somalia, EU
References: EU statement, The Guardian, AFP, Al Jazeera, BBC, The National

April 17 2012
♦ 2 reported injured

‘Unknown military jets fired several missiles’ at a suspected Somali pirate base in the northern autonomous region of Puntland a coastguard official told AFP. At least two people were reported injured. The air strike came near midnight and is apparently unprecedented as it targeted pirates, not al Shabaab. Muse Jama, an elder, told AFP the two aircraft that attacked his village ‘came from the sea.’ Which nation the aircraft belong to is unknown. The European Union’s anti-piracy operation has been authorised to launch strikes on Somali coastal territory. But a spokesperson told AFP the EU was ‘not involved whatsoever’ in the strike and refused to comment on who was.

Type of action: Air operation, air strike
Location: Gumah, Puntland
References: AFP, RBC Radio

May 15 2012
♦ 0 reported casualties
The European Union (EU) launched attack helicopter and ‘maritime aircraft’ strikes on an alleged pirate base near Haradheere. Stating that there had been no EU ‘boots on the ground’ reports indicated that helicopters from the EU’s Naval Force (NAVFOR) had destroyed nine speedboats, an arms dump and fuel supplies in a night-time raid.

Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, later told Associated Press: ‘They destroyed our equipment to ashes. It was a key supplies center for us,” Hussein said. “The fuel contributed to the flames and destruction. Nothing was spared.’ The pirates responded angrily to the strike and pirate commander Abdi Yare told AFP ‘If they continue attacking Somali coastal villages, then there will be terrible consequences.’ Although no casualties were recorded fisherman Mohammed Hussein alleged fishing boats were destroyed in the operation. ‘We are very much worried that fishermen will die in such operations,’ he added. Speaking to the Bureau, NAVFOR spokesperson Lt Cmdr Sheriff acknowledged some pirate camps were also used by fishermen but said the target of the strike had been a known pirate base with no fishing activity. NAVFOR commander Rear Admiral Duncan Potts said of the attack:

The EU Naval Force action against pirate supplies on the shoreline is merely an extension of the disruption actions carried out against pirate ships at sea. We believe this action by the EU Naval Force will further increase the pressure on and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea and attack merchant shipping and dhows.

Although the EU did not reveal which nations had taken part in the attack, AP reported that newly-commissioned French amphibious assault ship Dixmude, part of NAVFOR, carries Tigre helicopter gunships. But NAVFOR spokesperson Timo Lange told the Bureau the Dixmude had left the EU flotilla around at the end of April, returning to French naval command. Lt Cmdr Sherriff told the Bureau the attack was carried out with helicopters ‘organic to the ships we have with us’ and that small arms fire was used for the attack. But ‘an intelligence operative close to EU anti-piracy operations’ told Defence Report EU ground forces did lead the strike, saying the destruction of the pirates’ fast boats could only have been achieved with a ground assault.

EU foreign policy spokesperson Michael Mann said that ‘This action against piracy is part of a comprehensive EU approach to the crisis in Somalia, where we support a lasting political solution on land.’ A Royal Navy source told the Daily Telegraph it was a good time to step up attacks on pirate infrastructure. The source continued:

However, the Somalis will certainly be better prepared next time round and are likely to defend their bases with significant anti-aircraft assets now they know that the ante has been upped. This will inevitably lead to bloodshed and escalation.

The EU had paved the way for the strikes in a March 23 decision allowing it to target Somalia’s ‘territorial, coastal and internal waters.’

Type of action: Air operation, helicopter strikes
Location: Handulle near Haradheere, Somalia coastline
References: Irish Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, Die Welte, Associated Press, BBC, EU NAVFOR, EU High Representative, Christian Science Monitor, Associated Press, Daily Telegraph, AFP, Defence Report

NAVFOR’s anti-piracy planning chart (May 2012)

June 7 2012
More than seven weeks after the last recorded American action in Somalia the US administration added seven al Shabaab leaders to the so-called ‘kill list’ of drone targets. This followed Newsweek revealing the US military had put President Obama’s advisers under pressure to expand the drone targeting list to include members of the African militant group. Agencies reported the US State Department would be be adding leading figures in the militant group to its Rewards for Justice programme. Under the scheme the Secretary of State can offer a bounty of up to $25 million for information that prevents terrorist attacks on US citizens or property. US officials told the Associated Press the administration would offer up to $7 million for information about al Shabaab founder Ahmed Abdi aw Mohamed and up to $5 million apiece for his associates Ibrahim Haji Jama, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud and Mukhtar Robow. Robow was one of three suspected militants Newsweek reported the US military was trying to add to the kill list in late 2010.

The military wanted to hit three top Al-Shabab leaders. The two lawyers agreed on a pair of the targets, but Koh differed on the case of Sheikh Mukhtar Robow. He had studied the intelligence and saw credible evidence that Robow represented a less extreme faction of Al-Shabab that was opposed to attacking America. While Johnson was fine with targeting Robow, Koh forcefully insisted that the ‘killing would be unlawful.’ Robow was removed from the targeting list.

Up to $3 million each were offered each for Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi and Abdullahi Yare. Robert Hartung, an assistant director at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security said adding these names to the list shows the U.S. government ‘takes the fight against terrorism very seriously.’

Location: Washington DC
References: Associated Press, Reuters, US Department of State, BBC, Newsweek

June 15 2012
In what was viewed by some as a significant move towards greater transparency, the United States officially acknowledged for the first time its military combat operations in Somalia and Yemen. In Somalia all strikes are thought to have been carried out by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command. A letter from President Obama to Congress – a six monthly obligation under the War Powers Resolution passed in 1973 – stated:

In Somalia, the U.S. military has worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and al-Qa’ida-associated elements of al-Shabaab. In a limited number of cases, the U.S. military has taken direct action in Somalia against members of al-Qa’ida, including those who are also members of al-Shabaab, who are engaged in efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States and our interests.

There were similar references to operations in Yemen. Previously any such details were reported only in a confidential annex to the reports.  The Wall Street Journal noted that much of the impetus for partial disclosure came from General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His spokesperson told the paper: ‘When U.S. military forces are involved in combat anywhere in the world, and information about those operations does not compromise national or operational security, Gen. Dempsey believes the American public should be kept appropriately informed.’ But the paper also noted that ‘officials said details about specific strikes in Yemen and Somalia would continue to be kept secret.’

The unexpected move by Obama came three days after 26 members of the US Congress wrote to Obama urging him to be transparent on covert drone strikes. They wrote:

The implications of the use of drones for our national security are profound. They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths, and are frequently the only direct contact with Americans that the targeted communities have.  They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.

The American Civil Liberties Union, while welcoming the partial declassification of military strikes in Yemen and Somalia, called for further disclosure: ‘The public is entitled to more information about the legal standards that apply, the process by which they add names to the kill list, and the facts they rely on in order to justify targeted killings.’ And Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists told the New York Times: ‘While any voluntary disclosure is welcome, this is not much of a breakthrough. The age of secret wars is over. They were never a secret to those on the receiving end.’

Location: Washington DC
References: The White House, The Pentagon, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, National Public Radio,, Bloomberg, New York Times, Washington Examiner, Letter from US Congressmen, Al Jazeera

June 27 2012
An investigation by the Daily Beast found that in one Somali prison, 16 inmates had been captured by US forces and handed over. A Pentagon official confirmed that the US was ‘returning them to their government, and their government takes them.’ The men appeared to be a mixture of pirates and al-Shabaab members. The investigation also featured an interview with Ahmad Mohammed Ali, an 18-year old al-Shabaab member who described being interviewed by US interrogators shortly after capture. As the Daily Beast reported:

Ali was arrested by the Puntland Security Force at the end of 2011 in a raid against Al-Shabaab in Bosaso. A semi-autonomous region of Somalia, Puntland is a US ally in the war on terrorism and piracy, and its president, Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, says US military and CIA advisers work closely with his security force. Two US military officials confirmed this.

Eli Lake at Bosaso Central Prison

Location: Bosaso, Somalia
Reference: The Daily Beast

July 22 2012
Al Shabaab executed three of its members for treason. The men were accused of spying for Western agencies. Ishaq Omar Hassan, 22, and Yasin Osman Ahmed, 23, were allegedly working for the CIA. Mukhtar Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed, 33, was said to be working for MI6. Omar Hassan and Osman Ahmed were accused of providing the CIA with targeting information for two drone strikes. In one they were alleged to have attached a tracking device to the car of British-Lebanese militant Bilal al Berjawi (YEM015). The three were shot by firing squad in front of local citizens, with ‘hundreds of Marka residents gathered to watch the execution.’

Location: Marka, Lower Shabelle
: Daily Telegraph, Reuters, International Business Times, Voice of America, Associated Press

July 25 2012
A UN report noted that so many unmanned drones were operating in Somali airspace that they risked a major air traffic incident, and may be violating the UN’s long-standing arms embargo. The report, from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, noted that some of small drones were attached to African Union troops. However, the use of US Reapers or Predators in kill operations would ‘be operating in violation of the embargo’, according to the UN’s Matthew Bryden. As the Washington Post notes

The United Nations said it had documented 64 unauthorized flights of drones, fighter jets or attack helicopters in Somalia since June 2011. At least 10 of those flights involved drones, according to the report, which provided dates and locations but few other details. UN officials said they catalogued the flights from ‘confidential international agency security reports’ and press reports.’

Location: Somalia
Reference: Washington Post, UN report

August 11 2012
♦ 3 civilians reported killed
♦ 2 civilians reported injured

Two boys and a pregnant woman died, and two others were wounded, after a Kenyan naval vessel fired four shells into the port town of Kismayo, during a fight with al Shabaab forces.

Location: Kismayo, Lower Shabelle
Reference: Human Rights Watch

August 23 2012
♦ Unknown casualties

Air strikes ‘reportedly from international forces’ targeted ‘a mountainous area near town of Qandala’. Garowe Online said it was not clear if aircraft or ships from ‘international forces’ carried out the strike. Foreign warships had been patrolling the Gulf of Aden waters around Qandala for days. According to Qandala residents, aircraft that ‘had been doing surveillance on the coastal town for days’ carried out the attack. Puntland officials told Garowe Online al Shabaab militants were ‘trying to set up new area of operations in mountains east of Bossaso’, which are near Qandala.

Type of action: Air operation or naval operation
Location: Qandala, Puntland
References: Garowe Online

September 12 2012
The new Somali president avoided assassination two days after his election. Three suicide bombers attacked the Jazeera Palace hotel, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s temporary residence. Two succeeded in detonating their explosives and one was shot and killed by security forces. The president and the Kenyan foreign minister Samson Ongeri were holding a press conference in the hotel when the bombs went off.

‘Mohamud remained calm, though he winced at the sound of every gunshot. He didn’t take cover. He kept talking, determined not to let the chaos affect him,’ reported the Washington Post. Eight were killed; the bombers, three Somali soldiers and two Amisom peacekeepers. The President and Ongeri were unharmed. An al Shabaab spokesperson said: ‘We were behind the Mogadishu hotel blasts. It was a well-planned Mujaheddin operation.’ The hotel is a mile from the heavily fortified Mogadishu airport, in what is considered one of the safest parts of the city.

Mohamud was selected for the presidency by 190 members of the 275 seat parliament in a second round run-off. The margin was called ‘a landslide victory that represented a stinging condemnation of the status quo, and an unequivocal vote for change.’ He beat the favourite to the presidency, the previous encumbent Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. The parliament itself had been selected three weeks before. Mohamud, chairman of the Peace and Development Party, was described as an ‘academic and activist‘, and linked to the ‘al-Islah party, the Somali equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood.’

The election was welcomed by Somalia’s neighbours and the international community. In a statement Hilary Clinton congratulated the new president. She said: ‘We applaud these steps toward a responsive, representative and accountable government and Hassan Sheikh’s commitment to inclusive governance. But there is still more work to be done.’

Location: Mogadishu
References:Al Jazeera, Voice of America, Raxanreeb/RBC, Reuters, AFP, Voice of America, Mareeg, US State Department, Somalia Report, Washington Post, New York Times, Daily Telegraph, Washington Post

September 25 2012
♦ Unknown casualties
The Kenyan Air Force attacked the airport in Kismayo. The jets dropped three bombs and destroyed an armoury and warehouse in the al Shabaab-controlled city, said Kenyan military spokesperson Cyrus Oguna. He also said the jets fired more than 10 missiles on the city but did not kill any civilians. Al Shabaab denied there any damage was caused or casualties sustained in a post on a social media site. Casualty figures could not be determined because militants sealed off the airport. The strike was reported as preparation for an assault by Kenyan troops fighting as a part of Amisom, and Ethiopians independent of the peacekeeping force. Their lines were 60 km outside Kismayo.

Type of action: Air operation, Kenyan airstrike
References: RTTNews, RBC Radio, Voice of America, Associated Press, Xinhua, Twitter

September 28 2012
♦ 4+ reported killed
♦ 1+ civilian reported killed
Kenyan forces stormed Kismayo in a pre-dawn assault, capturing parts of the port city. They attacked with Somalia National Army forces from the land and sea in what was dubbed ‘Operation Sledge Hammer‘. The assault was underway by 2am (2300 GMT) but there were reports of fighting on the beaches and helicopters strafing al Shabaab positions as fighting continued through the day. The BBC reported Kenyan troops landed on beaches 10 km (6 miles) north of Kismayo, al Shabaab’s last stronghold in southern Somalia. Six or seven Kenyan warships were involved in the assault. Kenyan Defence Force spokesperson Colonel Cyrus Oguna said the attacking forces met little resistance. He said:

Kenyan maritime forces with Somali national army assistance landed with full surprise early this morning. There is some fighting still continuing, but we are in control.

Al Shabaab denied they were retreating. telling the BBC none of the city had fallen. Casualty figures were not immediately known but Aamina (34) ‘said she had seen four bodies on Friday morning, including those of civilians.’An eyewitness reported there were white troops among Amisom forces manning checkpoints north of Kismayo. US Special Forces were known to be operating in Somalia however US Africa Command said it was ‘not participating in Kenya’s military activities in the region.’

Kismayo was strategically important for al Shabaab. It was the last major town under their control and their last deep water port. The militants supported itself financially and logistically through Kismayo. They brought in arms and exported charcoal, among other commodities, to continue fighting. International Crisis Group analyst Abdirashid Hashi said the fall of Kismayo would be a psychological blow to al Shabaab. But the loss of funding would hurt them less as the group would become a smaller guerrilla force. He said:

The die-hard members will continue with their destabilization strategy of targeted killings, suicide bombings and IEDs (roadside bombs)…The low-level footsoldiers will just see them as a losing proposition.

An elder called Abdi Buule said KDF troops had arrested about 160 people, fearing al Shabaab would hide among the population. More than 10,000 people had fled the city in the week before, and the previous day Kenyan aircraft had dropped leaflets warning the remaining civilians to run. The Kenyan ground forces were fighting as part of Amisom, the African Union peacekeeping force. Kenyan naval forces took part in the attack and had been shelling Kismayo in the preceding days. But the warships were not part of Amisom, according to the UK Permanent Representative to the UN Mark Lyall Grant.

Type of action: Amisom amphibious assault, ground assault
Location: Kismayo
References: Xinhua, Garowe Online, ITV News, Capital FM, al Jazeera, Guardian, PTI, BBC, Voice of America, Daily Telegraph, Reuters, Financial Times, Raxanreeb Online, BBC, Washington Post

October 26 2012
The US military confirmed for the first time that armed drones fly out of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, ‘the busiest Predator drone base outside of Afghan war zone’. About 300 JSOC personnel coordinate drone sorties and counterterrorism raids in Somalia from the 500-acre base. On August 20 the Defence Department told Congress sixteen drones take-off or land every day from the base. In a detailed investigation the Washington Post revealed these flights are coordinated from Lemonnier by a JSOC major known as ‘Frog’. The drones fly usually for 20 to 22 hours, the paper revealed. They can be over Somalia ‘in minutes’. The drones are launched, recovered and maintained by the 87-member 60th Air Force Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. Commanded by Lt. Col. Thomas McCurley, the squadron has adopted a ‘uniform patch emblazoned with a skull, crossbones and a suitable nickname: “East Africa Air Pirates”‘. In October 2010 the Pentagon sent eight Predator drones to turn Lemonnier into a ‘full-time drone base’. And the Pentagon plans to expand their operation. In August 2012 the US military told Congress it wanted to spend $1.4bn increase the capacity to store munitions and arm aircraft. The developments will also increase the number of JSOC personnel to 1,100.

Location: Djibouti
Reference: Washington Post


January 12 2013

♦ 27-28 killed
♦ 8 civilians, including 1 child
♦ 0-1 reported wounded
French commandoes failed to a rescue a French spy held hostage by al Shabaab since 2009. Paris claimed the militants executed the captured secret service agent, known by his alias Denis Allex, during an assault by 50 Special Forces troops. However al Shabaab’s media wing said the hostage survived. Seventeen alleged militants were reportedly killed and eight civilians died, including a child and both his parents. Four civilians were killed when they were woken by helicopters landing. They were reportedly shot when they turned on flashlights. Survivors warned the militants of the advancing French force. Al Shabaab claimed they had moved Allex to a new location before the attack although French and Somali government sources said he was killed by his captors during the attack. The militant commander Shiekh Ahmed was reportedly killed in the gunfight. One French commando was killed and another was wounded. The injured soldier was taken by al Shabaab who said he subsequently died of his wounds.

At least five helicopters ferried the commandoes from amphibious assault ship Mistral to Bulo Marer. The French force underestimated the resistance they would face, reported AFP. An anonymous Somali aid worker told the agency: ‘We were told there were about 40 of them against more than 100 heavily armed Shebab fighters. Their mission was impossible and not very professional.’ The US provided ‘limited technical support‘ to the French operation. US Air Force strike fighters entered Somali air space but did not fire their weapons. The operation was reportedly timed to coincide with a French air and ground offensive in Mali. Paris denied the two African operations were connected.

Location: Bula-Marer
Reference: Long War Journal, Daily Telegraph, France 24, Al Shabaab Press Release, BBC, Reuters, Associated Press, Associated Press, Aviation Week, The New York Times, AFP, Shabelle Media NetworkAl Shabaab Press Release

March 2013
♦ 3 civilians reported killed
♦ 5 civilians reported injured

Two airstrikes hit the nomadic settlement of Kol, near the city of Bulla-Xama, in southwestern Somalia’s Gedo region, killing a mother and her two children and injuring five others, a young man who fled the settlement following the strike told the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice.

Loctation: Bulla-Xama, Gedo region
References: Journalists for Justice

April 14 2013
A coordinated assault on Mogadishu left more than 90 reported dead or wounded. As many 35 people were killed by a nine or 10 gunmen wearing explosive vests. The suicide squad burst into the court complex in the capital and fought ‘an extended gun battle’ with court guards, witnesses told the New York Times. Foreign fighters reportedly took part in the attack. Somali investigators told the Toronto Star that they believe a Canadian militant Mahad Ali Dhore organised the assault. The paper said Dhore left Toronto four years earlier to join al Shabaab. There were unconfirmed reports that a second Canadian and an unspecified number of Swedish fighters may have taken part in the attack. Western officials said al Qaeda is trying to assert itself in Somalia and that the explosive devices used in the attack were more sophisticated than normal. They said this suggested al Qaeda was more involved in this operation than in previous attacks. Al Shabaab warned the attacks would not stop. spokesperson Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters: ‘Yesterday’s blasts eliminated the dreams of the puppet government. More lethal attacks are coming.’

Somali journalists working for the court as media advisors were reportedly killed. And several human rights lawyers were killed including Mohamed Mohamud Afrah, the head of the Somali Lawyers Association, and Abdikarin Hassan Gorod, who won the release of a Somali journalist jailed for interviewing an alleged rape victim. CNN reported as many as 60 people were wounded in the gunfight. Later in the day a car bomb detonated outside a government building near the airport. It hit a vehicle carrying Turkish aid officials. A Somali driver was reportedly killed and three Turks were wounded. More than 400 people were detained in a major security operation said senior police officer Mohamed Hassan. Soldiers were stopping all vehicles and arresting people at road blocks across the city. Yusuf Ganey, a witness, told AFP: ‘I saw nearly 300 people who were detained and blindfolded near the industrial road. Everyone the security forces set eyes on today is getting arrested…This is not a normal operation.’

Four days after the attack al Shabaab released a statement explaining that since January ‘the Mujahideen have been conducting a series of coordinated attacks against the coalition of disbelievers’. The group claimed it had ‘succeeded in eliminating more than 127 apostate intelligence officials and mid-level operatives and spies since the launch of the campaign’.

Location: Mogadishu
References: BBC, Associated Press, New York Times, AFP, Reuters, CNNToronto Star, Associated Press, Reuters, Al Shabaab statement

May 27 2013
A US drone crashed in southern Somalia, possibly brought down by militant gunfire. The Pentagon has confirmed it was a US aircraft although would not comment on what kind of drone crashed. US officials told Politico: ‘During the course of a routine surveillance mission along the coast of Somalia on May 27, a military remotely piloted aircraft crashed in a remote area near the shoreline of Mogadishu.’ The governor of Lower Shabelle Abdikadir Mohamed Nur said al Shabaab militants shot the drone down, telling Reuters militants fired on the aircraft for several hours before it crashed.

The the US denied this saying it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the militants had brought it down considering the altitude it would have been flying at. Al Shabaab posted images of what was purportedly a US drone to Twitter. However they did not claim to shoot it down, only saying it crashed. In one image posted on Twitter by al Shabaab showed a piece of debris inscribed with ‘Schiebel’, the name of a Vienna-based defence manufacturer who make a helicopter drone, the S-100 Camcopter. This fired speculation that the drone belonged to a number of other nations, including France which has reportedly been testing the Camcopter. The drone crashed near where French commandoes failed to rescue a captured spy in January this year.

Location: Bulo Marer, Lower Shabelle
References: Voice of America, Reuters, Defence News, BBC, NPR, Daily Telegraph, Politico, Schiebel, Twitter

June 2013
♦ 3 civilians reported killed
♦ 7 civilians reported injured
Drones and helicopters attacked civilians outside the town of Jilib, in Somalia’s Middle Jubba region, killing three people and seriously wounding seven, according to locals interviewed by the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice.

Location: Jilib, Middle Juba region
References: Journalists for Justice

September 21 – September 24 2013
More than 67 people were killed in a brutal, prolonged attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Al Shabaab militants stormed the Westgate shopping complex, taking hostages and indiscriminately shooting civilians. The attack was reportedly meticulously planned and executed by the militants. They had built up secret weapon and amunition caches within the Westgate centre in the weeks and months before the attack. The four day siege ended with after Kenyan military forces stormed the buildings. One of the possible attackers was named as Hassan Abdi Dhuhlow by the BBC – a 23-year old Somali-born Norwegian.

Location: Nairobi, Kenya
References: BBC, BBC, Guardian, Guardian, New York Times, New York Times, Daily Star

October 2013
♦ 10 reported killed
♦ Unknown civilian casualties
♦ 47 reported injured
Al Shabaab militants distributing food to civilians near the town of Jilib, in Somalia’s Middle Jubba region, were attacked by Kenyan jets, according to civilian victims interviewed by the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice. It was unclear from the report how many of the casualties were civilians.

Location: Jilib, Middle Jubba
References: Journalists for Justice

October 5 2013
♦ 1-7 people reported killed
♦ 1 reported injured

US Special Forces attacked al Shabaab in a pre-dawn amphibious raid to capture a senior militant. It was not immediately clear who was the target. Reports varied from an unnamed Chechen; al Shabaab’s leader Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr (aka Ahmed Godane); or a Sudanese national. It later emerged Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir (aka Ikrima) was the target of the attack. He was listed in a Kenyan security services report as a leader of a plot to attack targets in Kenya in 2011 and 2012.

The assault itself was unsuccessful, Associated Press reported. Navy Seals attacked a house where foreign fighters lived at about 2.30am, according to Abu Mohamed, an al Shabaab fighter. But the troops reportedly met stiff resistance and unexpectedly found women and children were in the house. They retreated ‘after a 15-20 minute firefight’. The Toronto Star reported the US force had tipped al Shabaab off to the impending assault by jamming the internet minutes before attacking. Militant spokesperson Abdulaziz Abu Musab likened the raid to a failed French Special Forces assault in January 2013.

A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed US forces took part in the raid and multiple anonymous former and serving US officials told Associated Press US Seals carried out the assault. It was also not clear how many people were killed. Senior Mogadishu police officer Colonel Abdikadir Mohamed said seven died: five militants and two from the attacking forces. However US officials said none of their troops died. although al Shabaab tweeted two gruesome pictures purportedly of US soldiers they ‘executed’. A spokesperson for the militants said one militant died but the Daily Telegraph reported two senior al Shabaab fighters were killed and a third was injured. Somali sources told the paperAbdi Qadar, a Swedish-Somali, and Awab al Uqba (aka Sheikh Abdirahim), a Sudanese, were killed. Al Uqba reportedly trained members of al Shabaab’s intelligence wing, Amniyat, which reportedly would have been central in the planning for the Westgate mall attack.

The attack coincided with a successful Special Forces raid in Libya. Hours after the aborted Somali raid soldiers from the US Army Delta Force snatched Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai (aka Anas al Libi) from the streets of Tripoli. Al Ruqai was wanted for his part in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

In April 2014 it emerged that FBI agents had been working closely with JSOC in the years since the September 11 attacks. A Washington Post report said an agent from the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) was with the Seals when they stormed the beach in Barawe. An HRT agent was also reportedly with the Delta Force commandos when they snatched al Rauqai from the streets of Tripoli.

Type of action: Amphibious operation, ground assault
Location: Barawe, Lower Shabelle
References: Associated Press, Voice of America, Guardian, Associated Press, Reuters, Sky News, Daily Telegraph, AFP, Independent, CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Associated Press, NBC, Guardian, Toronto Star, Washington Post

October 28 2013
♦ 2-3 reported killed

At least two people were killed in US Army drone strike on a vehicle. Senior al Shabaab commander Ibrahim Ali Abdi (aka Anta Anta) was killed in the attack, according to Abu Mohamed, an al Shabaab militant, and Somali Interior Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled. Ali Abdi was widely described as al Shabaab’s leading bomb maker. He was reportedly responsible for attacks on UN and diplomatic missions, and a presidential palace in Hargeisa, Somaliland. An unnamed official said Ali Abdi was ‘a person of interest we had been tracking’, another said the US was ‘optimistic‘ he had died in the attack. Interior Minister Guled said Somali security services provided the US with intelligence for the attack. Abu Ali, Abdi’s ‘friend’, also died in the attack, Guled added.

Four witnesses reportedly said two men in a car died, the only reported casualties. Such precision suggested a drone carried out the attack. Anonymous US officials confirmed this, briefing that it was a US Army drone strike. Local resident Hassan Nur reportedly said:

I heard a big crash and saw a drone disappearing far into the sky, at least two militants died…I witnessed a Suzuki car burning, many al Shabaab men came to the scene. I could see them carry the remains of two corpses. It was a heavy missile that the drone dropped. Many cars were driving ahead of me but the drone targeted this Suzuki.

The two men were apparently travelling from Jilib, around 120km south of Mogadishu, to Barawe, an al Shabaab stronghold. Barawe was where US Special Forces failed to capture a senior al Shabaab militant in a daring raid more than three weeks earlier. A Somali intelligence source told the Associated Press the men were on their way to mediate a clan dispute.

Al Shabaab announced in March 2014 that it had executed a man they claimed had helped the US launch this strike. Mohamed Abdulle Gelle, 29, was one of three men executed by firing squad for apparently spying for the US and Somali governments.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Jilib, middle Juba region
References: Al Jazeera English, Reuters, BBC, Voice of America, Associated Press, AFPAssociated Press, ABC, CNN, The Times of London (£), Toronto Star, Garowe Online

November 2013
♦ 2 reported killed
♦ 2 civilians reported killedFive children from a single family were killed in the town of Jilib, in Somalia’s Middle Jubba region, when their house was razed by aerial bombardment, according to residents interviewed by the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice. Four other homes were also destroyed in the attack, and a herdsman was injured, the residents said.

Location: Jilib, Middle Jubba
References: Journalists for Justice


January 9 2014

♦ 30-57 reported killed
♦ Up to 120 reported injured
Kenyan Defence Force jets killed as many as 57 alleged al Shabaab militants in a major air strike. The bombers reportedly hit a ‘remote base‘ base near the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders.

The jets targeted an meeting of al Shabaab and al Qaeda leaders, including al Shabaab commander Ahmed Godane. The attack missed Godane but killed ‘six senior foreign al Shabaab leaders’. Khaild Abu Abdrahaman, an Afghan mortar training expert, was included among the dead. Intelligence sources also said the attack killed ‘key foreign al Shabaab commanders Imran Abu Jilali from Pakistan, Shabdalla Al Manzur from Egypt, Alakim Nurala from Sudan, Abdul Hakim Mohamud an al Qaeda leader from Yemen and Shukri Bin Khalifa also from Yemen’. Two Kenyan alleged militants were reportedly among the dead. They were named as: Adan Adow and Idris Dheere. A third, Gama Dhere Mohammed, was reportedly either killed or injured.

The strike hit around 6pm, according to Cyrus Oguna, a KDF spokesperson. Oguna said: ‘This strike is part of efforts to degrade al Shabaab by targeting their infrastructure, including command centers, communications centers and logistics.’ The attack was reportedly carried out after ‘an Amisom intelligence gathering exercise’.

Type of action: Kenyan Defence Force air strikes
Location: Birta Dhere, Gedo region
References: Bloomberg, BBC News, Daily Star, AFP, Capital FM, International Business Times, Arab News, Garowe Online, Associated Press, Daily Star, Daily Star

January 26 2014
♦ 2-9 reported killed
♦ 0-2 children reported killed
♦ 0-1 civilians reported injured

A US military drone strike targeted but failed to kill Ahmed Abdi Godane, the then-leader of al Shabaab, and allegedly killed two child by-standers.

In November 2015 two Somali herders launched a legal case claiming they had been caught up in this strike. The men brought a war crimes suit against the Dutch government, saying the Netherlands’ spies had provided the US with the intelligence to prosecute this strike. Both men said their cattle herds were largely wiped out in the strike. One said the attack killed two of his daughters. He also claimed to have lost a leg.

These civilian casualty claims were not mentioned in any of the initial reports, which said the strike hit a vehicle and killed an al Shabaab commander and others about 200 miles south of Mogadishu. It emerged after the attack that Godane was near the site of the strike but escaped alive. He was killed on September 1 the same year.

The killed commander was named as Sahal Iskudhuq (aka Ahmed Abdulkadir). Voice of America reported Iskudhuq was one of Godane’s senior aides. Locals told RBC Radio he was a “senior figure” in Amniyat, the militant group’s intelligence unit, adding that he was a Somali who had trained abroad and “fought along with senior foreign fighters in Somalia”.

Voice of America reported Iskudhuq and Godane may have been meeting before the attack and “Godane was supposed to travel in the car that night”. The agency also reported claims “al Shabaab has since detained several people in Barawe on suspicion of spying”.

Al Shabaab commander Abu Mohamed told Associated Press Iskudhuq “had previously been in charge of kidnappings of foreigners and ransom deals for the group but recently turned to working with its intelligence unit”. Voice of America reporter Harun Maruf tweeted further details about Iskudhuq:


An anonymous US official told the agency the target was a senior member of al Shabaab. Another said the US had “been tracking this guy for years”. Unnamed US officials also confirmed it was a US strike to Associated Press and Reuters. Somali intelligence also confirmed the attack on a “dangerous” militant and added that a driver had also been killed.

Al Shabaab reportedly abducted 17 people, including four al Shabaab mambers, in apparent retaliation for this strike. They told an elder they were searching for people working for the US.

Type of action: Air strike, US drone strike
Location: Hawai, Lower Shabelle
References: Associated Press, RBC Radio, Dhanaan, Reuters, AFPDPA, Associated Press, RBC Radio, Long War Journal, CNN, Voice of America

January 29 2014
The BBC interviewed an alleged al Shabaab member little over three months after the al Shabaab attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi left almost 70 dead. The unnamed fighter said he joined the armed group in 2007 because he was poor and jobless, and ‘al Shabaab came with that huge money’. He said most young Kenyans joining al Shabaab are ‘not because of jihad or because of Islam. It’s because of that money.’

♦ 1-5 civilians reported killed
♦ 3 civilians reported injured
The Farigow leper colony was attacked by jets in mid 2014, killing one person and injuring three, a woman living near the settlement told the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice. A UN monitoring group report confirmed the strike, but said that casualty accounts varied, including one that claimed two women, two children and an old man were among the dead.

Location: Farigow, near Jilib, Middle Jubba
References: Journalists for Justice, United Nations

June 23 2014
♦ 8-58 reported killed
♦ 8 civilians reported killed
♦ 8 civilians reported injured
At least eight civilians were killed and a possible eight were wounded when fighter jets attacked the Somali village of Kudah, 160 kilometres southwest of Kismayo, a woman who had fled the village following the attack told the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice. Around the same time as the reported attack, officials from AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia, claimed that 50 al Shabaab militants had been killed in an attack on Kuday.

Location: Kudah, Kismayo, Lower Jubba
: Journalists for Justice

September 2014
♦ 1 civilian reported killed
♦ 2 civilians reported injured
One woman was killed and a child and an elderly man were injured in a KDF airstrike on the Somali village of Garbatulla, near the Kenyan border, a local man told the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice.

Location: Garbatullah, Lower Shabelle
References: Journalists for Justice

September 1 2014
♦ 6 reported killed

The first known US attack in Somalia for more than seven months killed the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane (aka Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr or Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed).

US drones and conventional air craft, flown by special forces operatives from JSOC, targeted an encampment and vehicles in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia. At least six people were reportedly killed in the attack.

It remained unclear if the US had killed Godane for days after the strike. Initially the US government, Somali government officials and al Shabaab were cagey about his apparent demise.


The day after the attack, al Shabaab spokesperson Abu Mohammed confirmed Godane, above, was in the convoy when the attack hit. And a US official told Reuters: “We don’t know that he’s dead. But he was the target.”

Godane’s death was eventually confirmed on September 5. He was the specific target, according to a Pentagon spokesperson though the attack reportedly killed a group of senior al Shabaab figures.

Godane, 37, trained as an accountant and worked for an airline before turning to violence, according to the Telegraph. He took control of al Shabaab the group in 2008 when his predecessor Aden Hashi Ayro was killed in a cruise missile strike. He sidelined or killed more moderate rivals in his rise to the top of al Shabaab. The US government has put a $7m reward for information on his whereabouts.

Al Shabaab named a successor two days after the US government confirmed Godane was dead. Ahmed Umar was elected unanimously, according to a video message sent to al Jazeera. The Somali government subsequently put a $3m reward out for Umar.

While Godane’s fate was unclear for almost a week after the strike, the Pentagon was uncharacteristically transparent about the attack, with spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby making several statements about the attack, and answering questions from the press on the matter.

Kirby said of the strike: “The U.S. military undertook operations against Godane on Sept. 1, which led to his death… Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss” to al-Shabab… The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations.”

Somali National Security Ministry spokesperson Mohamed Yusuf told journalists: “His death is great news for the Somali people, because he was responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent people in his so-called holy war.”

Godane was in overall command of the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, in 2013. The president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta thanked the US for killing Godane: “We owe the United States and its soldiers our heartfelt thanks for bringing an end to Godane’s career of death and destruction and finally allowing us to begin our healing process.”

A possible, and surprising, element of this strike emerged on September 12 2014. A French publication Le Point reported France’s intelligence service the DGSE gave the US the precise whereabouts of Godane, under direct orders from President Francois Hollande.

The article explains that Prais had been hunting Godane to exact revenge for the kidnapping of two DGSE officers on July 14 2009, and the death of one of them and two commandos sent to rescue him on January 12 2013. President Hollande had ordered his intelligence services to do everything they could to find and kill Godane.

The last time there was official confirmation of a US operation in Somalia was on October 4 2013 (SOM017). US special forces launched a night raid on a house, also in Barawe, in a bid to capture a senior Shabaab figure. The operation ultimately failed after a protracted firefight.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Barawe, Lower Shabeelle
References: Washington Post, Voice of America, CBS, Associated Press, BBC, AFP/Twitter, AFP, Bloomberg, Rewards for Justice, Daily Telegraph, CNN, NBC News, Somali government/Twitter, Associated Press, Associated Press, Reuters, US DoD, Australian Associated Press, Le Point (Fr), Horseed Media, Voice of America

November 30 and early December 2014
♦ 2 civilians reported killed
♦ 6+ civilians reportd injured
After an ambush on a bus carrying Kenyans near the town of Mandera, in northern Kenya, there was an aerial assault on the village of Irida in southwestern Somalia’s Gedo region, according to a witness interviewed by the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice. A 32-year-old mother and her 10-year-old son were killed in the strike, the witness said. The following week, after a second attack near Mandera, Kenyan forces bombarded Irida again, severely injuring two women, two children, and two male herders, and destroying livestock, according to the witness.

Location: Irida, Gedo
References: Journalists for Justice

December 20 2014
♦ 1 civilian reported killed
♦ 2 civilians reported injured
A five-year-old child was killed and two women were injured when KDF jets bombed the village of Birhani, according to villagers interviewed by the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice. Al Shabaab militants had been hiding near the village, according to witnesses cited by the group.

Location: Birhani, Southern Somalia
References: Journalists for Justice

December 29 2014
♦ 2-3 reported killed

The U.S. military said that an airstrike had targeted a “senior leader” of the al Shabaab militant group. Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency later identified the target as al Shabaab’s chief of intelligence, known as Abdishakur. Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed the US killed Abdishakur with drones in a briefing two days after the strike.

The NISA said that both Abdishakur and two other senior members of the group were killed in the strike, according to Bloomberg. An anonymous US official later told Reuters that Abdishakur and one other militant had died.

The previous week a senior al Shabaab figure also described as the group’s head of intelligence gave himself up to Somali authorities. The US had reportedly offered a $3m reward for information leading to his capture.

A US defence official told CNN that the strike was carried out by a drone.

Type of action: US drone strike.
Location: Saakow
References: New York Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, CNN, Reuters


January 9 2015

♦ 1-31 reported killed
♦ 1 civilian reported killed
♦ 10-15 civilians reported killed
The Kenyan military claimed that it killed at least 30 al Shabaab fighters in an airstrike on a camp in Garbaharey, a town in southwestern Somalia’s Gedo region, according to a report by the US-government news service Voice of America. Villagers in the region told the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice, however, that Kenyan jets had killed a herdsman, wounded roughly a dozen others, and destroyed livestock, in an air cavalry attack on a well near the village of El Cade.

Location: Garbaharey, Gedo
References: Journalists for Justice, Voice of America

January 31 2015
♦ 40-60 reported killed

A mystery strike reportedly killed at least 40 people on Saturday. It was described as a US drone strike however the US has denied this. If the US was involved, it would be the most lethal US attack in Somalia recorded by the Bureau to date.

The governor of Lower Shabelle, where the strike hit, Abdulkadir Mohamed Nor Sidi reportedly told journalists unmanned aircraft targeted the training camp and a house he said belonged to al Shabaab. He also said: “Unmanned aircraft also hit Shabaab armored vehicles patrolling the Dugule neighborhood in Toratorow village.”

The US however denied it carried out the attack, after confirming it was responsible for a drone strike at 9am local time in Bay region the same day (SOM023). Amisom also denied it carried out the attack, saying it does not have aircraft to carry out airstrikes at all. And the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF), which has launched air attacks in southern Somalia, told the Bureau the strikes were “not within Sector II where KDF is mandated to operate”.

“I can confirm that between 45-60 al-Shabaab militants were killed during the airstrikes…. Some of their officials were killed also in the attack including foreigners,” Nor Sidi said, according to Horseed Media. A local resident told Xinhua: “There was a loud explosion from the village, and we ran away to escape fearing for our lives.”

This would be the most lethal drone strike since June 23 2009 when an attack killed at least 60 in Pakistan, according to the Bureau’s data. Though reported as a US strike, the high death toll is more in keeping with reported Kenya Defence Force attacks against Shabaab. Though reported as a US strike, the high death toll is more in keeping with reported Kenya Defence Force attacks against Shabaab.

Type of action: Air strike, possible drone strike
Location: Dugule, Toratorow, Lower Shabelle
Reference: APA/Star Africa, Xinhua, Horseed Media

January 31 2015
♦ 2-9 people killed
♦ 0-4 civilians reported killed
♦ 0-4 civilians reported injured

JSOC killed al Shabaab’s head of external operations in a drone strike. Civilian casualties were reported in the attack though it was not clear if they were injured or killed.

Rear Admiral John Kirby confirmed the US had carried out the strike and killed a senior al Shabaab figure in two separate Pentagon press conferences. The first, on February 3, confirmed the attack was a US operation. He confirmed the US killed its target in a second press conference on February 10. This was the third consecutive US drone strike in Somalia to kill a senior al Shabaab figure to follow this split confirmation format – a first briefing confirming the strike, a second confirming the death of the al Shabaab target.

Kirby said US special forces had killed Yusef Dheeq and one associate. When confirming the strike, Kirby said Dheeq was targeted “with Hellfire missiles fired from UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles]”. Kirby described Dheeq as al Shabaab’s “intelligence and security chief, and director of external planning”. However he said if Dheeq “no longer draws breath,” the US military considered the strike to be a success. The strike “goes to show how long our reach can be when it comes to counter terrorism,” he added.

Before Kirby’s statement, an unnamed official told the Washington Post Dheeq was killed while riding in a vehicle with other alleged al Shabaab members. It was not clear how many others were killed, the official added. Ahmed Adan, a Bay region official, told Anadolu Agency: “Several al Shabaab militants and a top leader have been killed in the airstrike.” The strike killed five according to an Africaine de Presse report.

Local resident Ali Yare, told AFP there had been civilian casualties in the strike. The civilians were injured however it is not clear if they died of their injuries. Yare said: “We heard a very loud explosion and a few minutes later I saw cars rushing to the scene, some of them returned with casualties. Four civilians were among the casualties… We don’t know who was the target because the area was sealed off.”

Type of action: Air strike, US drone strike
Location: Dinsoor, Bay region
References: Anadolu Agency, APA, AFP, Associated Press, Washington Post, Stars and Stripes

March 10 2015
♦ Unknown casualties

A single news source reported “unidentified armed drones” targetted two alleged al Shabaab camps. Witnesses said the attacks hit the camps in the towns of Torato and Ambereso. The regional governor Abdikadir Mohamed Nur confirmed the strikes but said the death toll had not been confirmed.

Type of action: Air strike, possible US drone strike
Location: Torato and Ambereso, Lower Shabelle
References: World Bulletin

March 12 2015
♦ 3 reported killed

A US special forces drone strike killed Adan Garaar, a senior member of al Shabaab, according to the Pentagon and Somali and Kenyan officials. The attack reportedly destroyed one or two vehicles in southwestern Somalia, killing two other alleged members of the group.

Garaar was described as “a top official in al Shabaab’s security service, the Amniyatt.” He reportedly replaced Yusuf Dheeq as head of al Shabaab’s external operations, which is part of the Amniyatt, after his predecssor was killed in a February 2015 drone strike.

The Pentagon confirmed a US drone strike killed Garaar a week after the attack hit, saying in a statement:

Garar was a key operative responsible for coordinating al Shabaab’s external operations, which target US persons and other Western interests in order to further al Qaeda’s goals and objectives. He posed a major threat to the region and the international community and was connected to the West Gate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya. His death has dealt another significant blow to the al Shabaab terrorist organization in Somalia.

The US military confirmed on March 13 it carried out the attack but did not immediately confirm it killed Garaar. A Pentagon spokesperson said: “This operation was conducted against the al Shebaab network.” He added: “We are currently assessing the results of this operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate.”

Somalia’s foreign minister Abdisalan Hadliye welcomed the news of Garar’s death, saying: “Somali government welcomes the effort by the U.S. in killing Garar and is open to lend a hand for any measures aimed at finishing Al-Shabaab in Somalia.”

Garar was reportedly connected to the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September 2013, in which at least 67 people died. He was also reportedly responsible for planning failed attacks in Nairobi and Kampala last year.

The Kenyan security forces released details of Garaar’s role in the Westgate attack that suggests he was intimately involved with the minutiae of the operation, according to Standard Digital.

The Pentagon said the attack hit 240km west of Mogadishu, near the town of Dinsoor in Bay region. However witnesses said the strike hit near Abaq Xaluul village outside Baadheere, in Gedo region, more than 80km further west. Local resident Hussain Nur told Reuters:

I was on the outskirts of Abaq Xaluul village when a car drove past me and soon I heard the huge blast from a drone ahead of me… I saw the car and the three men on board completely burnt and then many armed al Shabaab fighters driving in cars reached the scene.

The strike came on the same day al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the head of South Western State, an autonomous region within the federal government. The attackers reportedly used a car bomb to break through the gate of Aden’s compound before gunmen tried to storm the complex. Eight were reportedly killed in the assault, including the three attackers.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Abaq Xaluul village, Baardheere, Gedo region
References: Voice of America, Reuters, Standard Digital, Anadolu Agency, Xinhua, Associated Press, Washington Post, AFP, Reuters, Defense One, AFP, US DoD, Standard Digital

April 6-7 2015
♦ 4-6 civilians reported killed
♦ 3 civilians reported injured
On April 2 2015, al Shabaab killed a reported 147 people at Garissa University College, in northeastern Kenya. Within the week, Kenyan airstrikes hit the village of Gadoon Dabe, or Godondhabe, in southwestern Somalia’s Gedo region. The strikes, carried out over two subsequent days, killed six civilians, injured three people, and destroyed livestock, according to a witness interviewed by the Kenyan group Journalists for Justice. Among those reported dead were a mother and two to three of her children. Following the attack, dozens of people fled the area, the JFJ said. Bloomberg reported airstrikes in neighbouring villages as well, but a spokesperson for the Kenya Defence Forces told the news service there was “no chance” civilians were targeted or killed. The KDF claimed that two al Shabaab camps were destroyed in the attacks.

Location: Gadoon Dabe, Gedo
References: Al Jazeera, BBC, Bloomberg, Journalists for Justice

July 15 2015
♦ 2-3 reported killed

A US drone strike killed “a senior commander and other members” of al Shabaab. Two or three people were reportedly killed by the drones – an artillery barrage from Kenyan troops followed up the air attack, reportedly killing 50 people.

This was the first of six reported US drone strikes to hit in and around the town of Baardheere as the US provided top cover to advancing African Union troops. The Amisom peacekeepers took the town a week after this attack, ousting al Shabaab fighters.

The attack appeared to have hit a vehicle outside the town of Baardheere in southern Somalia. Three al Shabaab “officials” were reportedly in the car, two were killed according to residents. Two of the dead were identified as Ismail Jabhad and Ismail Dhere.

The strike targeted a large group of al Shabaab fighters who were preparing to attack African Union and US forces. The Kenyan interior minister claims from the Kenyan interior minister that the death toll was far higher than two or three.

The US carried out a strike on al Shabaab militants “who were in the final stages of planning an attack on Amisom forces,” a spokesperson from Africom, the US military command responsible for operations in Africa. The strike hit at “approximately 8pm eastern” – 3am in Mogadishu and 1am GMT.

The strike prevented an attack that could have caused harm to civilians and friendly forces, the spokesperson added, saying the US was still assessing the situation on the ground but believed there were no civilian casualties.

An unnamed US military official told the Associated Press a joint US and African Union force was moving in to attack al Shabaab positions in Bardhere when the terrorist group advanced on the joint force. The drone carried out the strike, “killing and wounding a number of them,” the Associated Press reported.

The drone strike hit three days after Kenyan jets reportedly bombed an al Shabaab base in Bardere. The town had reportedly been taken by al Shabaab in 2009 and held since. Amisom peacekeepers were reportedly advancing on the area. The US said it carried out the attack to prevent an attack on Amisom soldiers.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Baardheere, Gedo region
References: Reuters, BBC, The Star (Kenya), Horseed Media, AFP, Associated Press, Los Angeles Times

July 15-18 2015

♦ Unknown casualties

At least five US drone strikes hit in the space of three days killing an undisclosed number of people. They were reportedly carried out in support of African Union troops who were advancing on Baardheere, a Shabaab stronghold since 2009.

The Bureau has yet to be able to disentangle these five attacks into individual entries on this timeline. However the SOM026 entry in our database will count five attacks in the running totals at the top of this page.

The strikes reportedly hit between the attack reported on July 15 and July 18 when President Obama arrived in Kenya for an official visit.

The attacks were reported in the LA Times, citing anonymous US officials. They were confirmed by a US spokesperson who said in a statement: “Over the past week, US forces conducted a series of strikes against al Shabaab, an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group in Somalia, in defence of Amisom forces under imminent threat of attack.”

Previous US air attacks in Somalia had been focused on decapitating al Shabaab, taking out its senior leaders. These attacks were more focused on directly supporting and protecting African Union troops on the ground. “The strikes prevented attacks by militants, which posed a significant threat to friendly forces. We are still assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information if and when appropriate,” the spokesperson said.

One US military official echoed this, telling the LA Times: “It’s a change in how we’re providing support… Up until now, we’ve focused strikes on high-value targets. These strikes were launched to defend forces on the ground.” An unnamed senior US official told the paper al Shabaab were “massing,” and “massing provides targets, and targets get struck.”

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Baardheere, Gedo region
References: LA Times

November 11 2015
The US government announced it was offering rewards for information about the whereabouts of six al Shabaab fighters.

The men were all Somali and included the group’s leader and deputy leader, fund raisers and recruiters. The US Department of State’s Rewards for Justice put out wanted posters for the six men with rewards totaling up to $26m.

Rewards for Justice was set up in 1984 to offer cash to informants who provide the US government with details leading to the location of wanted terrorists. Several names have been removed from the list after being killed by drones, including the former al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane who was killed in a September 2014 strike.mahad_karate

The latest additions to the wanted list include Godane’s successor, Abu Ubaidah. The US offered up to $6m for information about Ubaidah in a post that said he was believed to be in his forties and a member of the Dir clan from the southern port city of Kismayo. He was part of Godane’s inner circle who “is believed to subscribe to Godane’s view that al Shabaab is more than a Somali nationalist movement and instead is one front in al Qaeda’s global jihad.”

Ubaidah’s deputy, Mahad Karate (above right), was also among the six. The US offered up to $5m reward for Karate, also known as Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame. The listing said he played a key role in the branch of al Shabaab responsible for assassinations and the April 2 2015 massacre of 150 Garissa university students. He too was said to be in his forties.

The US was also offering up to $5m for both Hassan Afgooye and Maalim Daud. Afgooye “oversees a complex financial network whose activities range from fake charities and fundraising to racketeering”. And Daud was “responsible for the planning, recruitment, training, and operations against the Government of Somalia and Western targets.”


Two fighters were listed with up to $3m rewards. Ahmed Iman Ali was a recruiter, targeting Kenyan youth, and fund-raiser whose success had “earned him steady ascendancy within the group”. Maalim Salman was chosen by Godane “to be the head of African foreign fighters for al Shabaab”.

The six new al Shabaab fighters join two al Shabaab members still wanted by the US. Mukhtar Robow (above) was al Shabaab’s spokesman and also a spiritual leader and field commander, according to Rewards for Justice which listed him with a $5m reward. Abdullahi Yare, listed with a reward of up to $3m, was descibed as al Shabaab’s “head of media” and Godane’s deputy.

References: Rewards for Justice – Abu Ubaidah, Rewards for Justice – Mahad Karate, Rewards for Justice – Hassan Afgooye, Rewards for Justice – Maalim Daud, Rewards for Justice – Ahmed Iman Ali, Rewards for Justice – Maalim Salman, Rewards for Justice – Abdullahi Yare, Rewards for Justice – Mukhtar Robow

November 22 2015
♦ 5-10 reported killed

A US strike reportedly targeted an al Shabaab base in southern Somalia, killing at least five of the group’s fighters.

The US confirmed it carried out the airstrike “at approximately 4pm Eastern Time” – 1am November 22 local time – in defence of US and Somali forces.

A US spokesperson said: “US forces operating with Somali National Army (SNA) forces conducted a self-defence airstrike against al Shabaab… The al Shabaab forces were preparing to attack US and SNA forces. We are still assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information if and when appropriate.”

Police, residents and the district commissioner told journalists a drone carried out the attack either late on November 21 or early on November 22.

“We heard three big crashes at an al Shabaab base in Balad Amin last night. It looked like a drone but we have no news of casualties,” Adan Ahmed, a resident of the area, told Reuters.

“The drone targeted an al Shabaab base last night. So far we have the information that five fighters including the al Shabaab leader in charge of Lower Shabelle region died in the strike,” according to Major Abdiqadir Ahmed, a police officer based in Wanlaweyn.

The district commissioner of Wanlawayn town, Hajji Isack Ali Mamow, told Shabelle News a “late night airstrike against [the] al Shabaab base” hit as leaders in the armed group were having a meeting. “The attack was carried out by unidentified drone.

At least three junior al Shabaab commanders were reportedly among the dead. The strike reportedly hit near Ballidogle Airport which also serves as a base for Somalia’s special commandos who are trained from US soldiers.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Balad Amin, Lower Shabelle
References: Reuters, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, Shabelle News, Voice of America (Somali)

November 29 2015
♦ 0 reported killed

Unidentified jets reportedly bombed three villages in the central Hiraan region – all described as being under al Shabaab control. There were no reported casualties.

It was not clear who carried out the strike – US officials denied responsibility to the Bureau.

The area the attack hit borders Ethiopia and is nominally under the control of the Burundian component of Amisom.

Type of action: Reported airstrike – possible US attack
Location: Yasooman, Ceeldheer and Ceel Lahelay villages, Hiraan region
References: Shabelle English

December 2 2015
♦ 3 reported killed

A US air strike killed Abdirahman Sandhere, a senior al Shabaab fighter, the US Defence of Department (DoD) confirmed.

The “military air strike” specifically targeted Sandhere (aka Ukash) but also killed two unidentified associates, the DoD reported.

Initial reports said the attack hit one or two buildings in Kunyo Barrow village, near the town of Barawe where the group’s leader Abu Ahmed Godane was killed in September. However a spokesperson for the US military’s Africa Command (Africom) told the Bureau: “The strike occurred in one location and did not hit any structures.”

Sandhere was not among the six al Shabaab members listed by the US on its Rewards for Justice programme. The DoD said, in a statement:

Ukash’s removal from the battlefield is a significant blow to al-Shabaab and reflects the painstaking work by our intelligence, military, and law enforcement professionals.
This is an important step forward in the fight against al Shabaab, and the United States will continue to use the tools at our disposal – financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military – to dismantle al Shabaab and other terrorist groups who threaten [the USA], interests and persons.
We will also continue to support our international partners, particularly the African Union Mission in Somalia, that are working to support the government of the Federal Republic of Somalia in building a secure and stable future for the Somali people.

Type of action: US air or drone strike
Location: Kunyo-Barow, Lower Shabelle
References: Bloomberg, Shabelle English, US Africa Command, US Africa Command, Voice of America (Somali)

December 22 2015

♦ 5 reported killed

A US drone strike reportedly killed Abu Ubaidah, leader of al Shabaab, as well as four other fighters. The US told the Bureau: “We are aware of the media reports but have no information on the incident.” However two named Somali officials said it was a drone attack.

Ubaidah replaced Ahmed Abdi Godane when he was killed by US drones in September 2014. The US put out a reward in November 2015 for up to $6m to anyone with information leading to the location of Ubaidah.

Type of action: US drone or air strike
Location: “Shanta-Ameriko“, Kuntuwarey district, Lower Shabelle
References: Bloomberg, Shabelle English, Voice of America



March 5 2016
♦ 150-200 reported killed

US drones and jets killed 150 people in a strike on an al Shabaab training camp in Somalia, 120 miles north of Mogadishu.

This was the highest death toll from a single attack hitherto recorded by the Bureau. The unprecedented death toll outstripped the previous highest: 81 killed in Pakistan in October 2006.

The total killed could be much higher however. The district governor for Buloburte told the BBC radio’s Somali language service many more than 150 were killed, including 18 senior members of the group. The US said as many as 200 people were at the camp when the strike hit.

Al Shabaab for its part said the US was over-exaggerating the casualties caused by the strike. Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesperson, told Reuters: “The US bombed an area controlled by al Shabaab. But they exaggerated the figure of casualties. We never gather 100 fighters in one spot for security reasons. We know the sky is full of planes.” He did not provide an alternate casualty figure.

A Pentagon spokesperson told journalists: “The fighters were there training and were training for a large-scale attack. We know they were going to be departing the camp and they posed an imminent threat to US and [African Union] forces.” He added: “It was an air operation. Initial assessments are that more than 150 terrorist fighters were eliminated.”

The US said it had had the base under observation for around several weeks. The strike hit during what US official said appeared to be a graduation ceremony. The US aircraft fired several bombs and missiles at the al Shabaab fighters who “were standing outdoors in formation“.

An eye witness, camel-herder Bashir Dhure, told the Guardian: “All nearby places were caught on fire and no one knew what was happening. In the morning I could see the smoke coming from the bombarded training facility.

“It was like a burnt house. Everything turned burnt. I saw three vehicles burnt down. Al-Shabaab fighters were collecting dead bodies. They were put on trucks and took out of the village. We do not know where they were buried.”

After the strike, al Shabaab fighters searched for “spies” Dhure said. This was corroborated by the district governor who told the BBC the terrorists were confiscating phones and imprisoning people in a desperate search for whoever might have tipped the Somali and US authorities to the presence of the camp.

Two al Shabaab commanders were reported killed. Yusuf Ali Ugas was described as an influential preacher, recruiter and regional commander. Mohammed Mire was reported to be a leading member of the group’s finance wing. Both were later found to be alive, as Africa Confidential reported.


Unnamed witnesses told Voice of America’s Somali service the aircraft made two passes over the camp, firing three missiles each time.

Two Somali intelligence officials told Associated Press the training camp was in a forested area and was al Shabaab’s main planning base. One official said the targeted fighters were planning on attacking a drone base in the region.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook later said:

On Saturday, March 5, the US military, in self-defence and in defence of our African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) partners, conducted an airstrike in Somalia against Raso Camp, a training facility of al Shabaab, which is a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda. The strike was conducted using manned and unmanned aircraft. The fighters who were scheduled to depart the camp posed an imminent threat to US and [Amisom] forces in Somalia.
The removal of these fighters degrades al Shabaab’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Somalia, including recruiting new members, establishing bases, and planning attacks on US and Amisom forces.
We continue to assess the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate.

Peter Pham, director of the Africa Centre at the the Atlantic Council thinktank told the Wall Street Journal: “What was surprising was that [al] Shabaab felt confident enough to assemble in such a way… It may not hold territory like it held back five or six years ago, but it is far from being defeated and one can argue that the threat has actually expanded with the numerous attacks that it has carried out not only in Somalia, but across the border in northeastern Kenya.”

“That al Shabaab had that many recruits in training at just one location… is a worrying indicator of the group’s continued relevance and its power to attract… The fact that al Shabaab feels emboldened enough to gather so many together in one place, these are hardly signs of a group on the run,” Pham told the Guardian.

Type of action: US drone and air strike
Location: Between Dharykow and El Dibi villages, Hiran region
References: Pentagon statement (via email), AFP, BBC, Associated Press, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Stars and Stripes, CNN, Voice of America, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Reuters, The Guardian, Twitter, Africa Confidential

March 8 2016

♦ 19 reported killed

US attack helicopters supported US and Somali special forces who attacked an al Shabaab target in southern Somalia, the Pentagon and Somali officials said.

The assault took place overnight. The soldiers flew on US helicopters to a landing zone a few miles outside the target in the town of Awdhegle. US troops accompanied the Somali troops but did not “go all the way to the objective,” according to Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis. The US forces “served in an advisory role to enable the Somali operation,” Davis said. “It was their mission. We were acting in an advisory role.”

Type of action: Joint US-Somali helicopter assault
Location: Awdhegle, Lower Shabelle
References: New York Times, AFP

March 31 2016
♦ 3 reported killed

A US drone strike targeted three al Shabaab figures in a vehicle in southern Somalia. The attack hit in the early evening and killed a senior al Shabaab leader.

The Pentagon said the strike had targeted Hassan Ali Dhoore, “a senior leader of al Shabaab, who is part of al Qaeda”. The strike was conducted “in cooperation with the Federal Government of Somalia,” a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement.

Dhoore was also responsible for killing US citizens in two attacks in Mogadishu and plotting unspecified future attacks on the city.

The US did not officially confirm Dhoore was dead until April 4 when spokesperson Peter Cook briefed reporters. In the intervening time, the Pentagon maintained it was “still assessing the results of this operation”.

During the few days before Dhoore’s death was confirmed, unnamed defence officials told some US journalists that the drone strike had most likely killed Dhoore along with two other al Shabaab fighters in the early evening. The officials said the US military had been “watching him off and on for a long time” and the Somali government shared information that led to the attack.

The precise circumstances of the strike were confused by the deputy commander of Somalia’s army, General Abi Bashe, who told Voice of America that Somali commandos operating in al Shabaab territory had located and identified Dhoore. Bashe said Dhoore had been killed in a village called Toratorow, in a gun battle between Somali forces, their US advisers, and al Shabaab. He said it was not clear whether Dhoore was killed by gun fire or the drone strike.

A Pentagon spokesperson denied any gun battle occurred, saying the US had specifically targeted Dhoore near Jillib.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Awdhegle, Lower Shabelle
References: Pentagon Statement, Reuters, The Guardian, Washington Post, NBC News, New York Times, BBC, AFP, Pentagon Briefing Transcript

April 1 2016
♦ 0-23 killed

On April 4 the Pentagon confirmed it had carried out two strikes in Somalia on April 1 and April 2.

The attacks, first reported by Voice of America earlier on April 4, were “self-defence air strikes against al Shabaab fighters who posed imminent threats to US and partner nation forces in Somalia,” Department of Defense spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Michelle Baldanza told the Bureau.

She continued: “Our forces are working closely with partners to combat al Shabaab. Al Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda; and is dedicated to creating safe havens for terrorist operations and is planning on conducting external attacks in and from Africa. We continue to assess the results of the strikes and will provide additional information as and when appropriate.”

The attacks hit on the same days that ground operations by Amisom and Somali forces killed several al Shabaab fighters. It was not clear if the US strikes were in support of these ground operations or if they were separate incidents. Amisom general, Sam Okiding said the African Union and Somali operations involved both air and ground forces near Buufow

The ground operation on April 1 killed the commander in Janaale region, Qorilow, and at least three other fighters. General Okiding said 23 al Shabaab were killed, including Qorilow.

The US had not commented on whether this air attack was conducted in support of the Amsiom and Somali forces who said they killed Qorilow.

Type of action: US air or drone strike
Location: Unknown location
References: Pentagon spokesperson via email, Voice of America, eNCA

April 2 2016
♦ 6 reported killed

The second of the two strikes confirmed by the Pentagon on April 4. The attack was a “self-defence air strikes against al Shabaab fighters who posed imminent threats to US and partner nation forces in Somalia,” Department of Defense spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Michelle Baldanza told the Bureau. Earlier on April 4, Voice of America reported: “A separate strike Saturday killed six militants in the Lower Juba region, according to local officials and residents.”

Type of action: US air or drone strike
Location: Unknown location, Southern Somalia
References: Pentagon spokesperson via email, Voice of America

April 6 2016
♦ 8 reported killed

A little-reported US strike hit Somalia on April 6. First reported on Twitter as hitting Jillib in Middle Juba, US Defense spokesperson Lt Col Michelle Baldanza confirmed the attack in a statement to the Bureau, though she did not confirm that the strike hit in Jillib:

On April 6, the US conducted self-defence fires against an al Shabaab anti-aircraft vehicle in southern Somalia which posed an imminent threat to US personnel. US Forces are working closely with partner forces to combat al Shabaab in Somalia.
Al Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and continues to use its safe havens throughout Somalia to plot attacks against US persons and interests in East Africa, as well as against our international partners in the region.
The US is committed to supporting Somali and Amisom forces as they combat al Shabaab and work to bring stability to the region.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Jillib, Middle Juba
References: Pentagon spokesperson via email, Twitter, Twitter

April 11-12 2016
♦ 8-12 reported killed
♦ 3 civilians reported killed

US drones attacked an al Shabaab camp in southern Somalia killing “about 12 militants,” the Pentagon said.

The attack began late on April 11 and continued into the small hour of April 12, Lt Col Michelle Baldanza said in a statement. The camp “posed an imminent threat to US personnel,” she said.

Somali officials allege the village was being used as a staging post for al Shabaab attacks. One unnamed “high-ranking security official” told Voice of America the al Shabaab fighters were seen making “some movements” before the drone attack started.

There were however reports of civilian casualties, with a Somali journalist and Voice of America’s Somali service reporting that the attacks killed eight people. Five of the dead were al Shabaab and three were civilians, according to witnesses and Somali officials. They said the strike hit the al Shabaab-controlled village of Yontyo in Lower Juba, 24km north of Kismayo.

There were reports in the week following the attack that civilians were “fleeing towards the countryside and other towns in lower Jubba region of southern Somalia for their safety, leaving behind their herds of goats dead in the airstrikes”.

In an email, Lt Col Baldanza denied civilians were killed: “We have no reports of civilian casualties from these strikes. We have significant mitigation measures in place during the conduct of operations to reduce the potential risks of collateral damage and civilian casualties.”

The full Pentagon statement said:

In the late evening of 11 April and early morning of April 12 the US conducted self-defense fires against an al Shabaab camp in southern‎ Somalia which posed an imminent threat to US personnel.
US forces are working closely with partner forces to combat al‎ Shabaab in Somalia. Al Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and continues to use its safe havens throughout Somalia to plot attacks against US citizens and interests in East Africa, as well as against our international partners in the region.
The US is committed to supporting Somali and [Amisom] forces as they combat al Shabaab and work to bring stability to the region.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Lower Juba
References: Pentagon spokesperson via email, Reuters, CBS/AP, Voice of America, Anadolu Agency AFP, Twitter, Twitter, Shabelle News

May 9-10 2016
Kenyan and Somali forces, and their US advisors, carried out a raid on an al Shabaab checkpoint in Toratorow. Media reports said helicopters were involved, meaning US air and ground forces were participating. However a US spokesperson denied US air assets were deployed. She told the Bureau in an email:

In the early morning hours of May 10, Kenyan Defense Forces and Somali National Army forces conducted a joint raid on an al Shabaab taxation checkpoint in Toratorow, with US forces participating in an advise and assist role. This was not a US-led nor was it a US-unilateral operation – US personnel did not participate in any kinetic operations.

Location: Toratorow,
References: Africom spokesperson via email, Reuters

May 11 2016
Somali forces killed at least 15 al Shabaab fighters, a local official told Voice of America’s Somali service. The aim of the raid was said to be destroying a terrorist base.

Location: Galgudud
References: Voice of America

May 12 2016
♦ 5 reported killed

A US air strike killed five people – all of them said to be al Shabaab fighters. The attack was defensive and conducted to protect African troops on the ground, an Africom spokesperson told the Bureau.

The Ugandan soldiers, part of the African Union peacekeeping force Amisom, were attacking a makeshift roadblock set up by al Shabaab. The roadblock was approximately 40km southwest of Mogadishu, demonstrating the degree al Shabaab continue to enjoy free movement through Somalia’s rural areas. The Ugandan contingent got into a firefight with about 15 to 20 al Shabaab fighters and the US provided them with air support.

Unnamed US defence officials told CNN that US forces who were mentoring the African soldiers came under fire but the Africom spokesperson denied this. She described the operation to the Bureau in an email:

We are in an advise and assist role with Amisom forces from troop contributing nations. These forces work together to conduct counter-terrorism operations against al Shabaab. And this time it was Ugandan Amisom troops came under fire from al Shabaab fighters, as the Amisom forces were stopping an illegal al Shabaab check point. Subsequently in the early morning of May 12 the US conducted defensive fires against the al Shabaab fighters in southern Somalia who posed an imminent threat to the Amisom forces.


Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Afgoye, Lower Shabelle
References: Africom spokesperson via email, AFP, Reuters, CNN, Twitter

May 13 2016
African Union peacekeepers and Somali government forces killed nine al Shabaab fighters in two operations, an Amisom statement said. A Ugandan operation in Afgoye the previous day had ended in US forces having to send air support to help the African troops in firefight with al Shabaab fighters.

Location: Afgoye, Lower Shabelle
References: Bloomberg

May 27 2016
♦ At least 1 reported killed

On June 1 the US announced it had targeted a senior al Shabaab fighter in a drone strike five days earlier.

A statement from the Pentagon said an airstrike in south-central Somalai targeted Abdullahi Haji Daud but initially would not confirm whether Daud had been killed. On June 8 Africom announced a “final assessment” concluded “Daud was struck and killed in the airstrike”.

It was not immediately clear if Daud was the same man as the Maalim Daud who had been on the US Rewards for Justice wanted list since November 2015. The US government was offering up to $5m (£3.5m on June 2 2016) as reward for information regarding his whereabouts.

The full Pentagon statement read:

On May 27, US forces carried out an airstrike in south-central Somalia targeting Abdullahi Haji Daud, a senior military commander for al Shabaab. Daud was one of al Shabaab’s most senior military planners and served as a principal coordinator of al Shabaab’s militia attacks in Somalia, Kenya, and Uganda. He held several positions of authority within the terrorist organization over the years, including head of the Amniyat, al Shabaab’s Security and Intelligence Branch.
Daud has been responsible for the loss of many innocent lives through attacks he has planned and carried out.  We are confident that the removal from the terrorist network of this experienced al Shabaab commander with extensive operational experience will disrupt near-term attack planning, potentially saving many innocent lives.
We are currently assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate. US forces remain committed to supporting the Federal Government of Somalia, the Somali National Army, and our [Amisom] partners in defeating al Shabaab and establishing a safe and secure environment in Somalia.


Type of action: US drone strike
Location: South-central Somalia
References: Pentagon Statement, Rewards for Justice, Africom Statement

May 31 2016
♦ 16 reported killed
Somali forces and possibly troops from the regional Jubaland administration reportedly killed 16 al Shabaab fighters. Four commanders were among the dead, including a senior figure who organised the April 2015 massacre at a Kenyan university.

Initial reports varied but several suggested US forces conducted the attack. Others said the US assisted African troops with helicopters. US spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Baldanza told the Bureau “US forces supported this Somali-led operation in an advise and assist role”.

Somali officials first claimed al Shabaab member Mohammed Dulyadeen. was killed in the attack. The US was more circumspect, telling the Bureau: “We have received initial reports of a ground operation conducted in southern Somalia last night by the Somali National Army,” Baldanza told the Bureau. “The operation may have resulted in the death of al Shabaab member Mohammed Dulyadeen, also known as ‘Mohammed Kuno’ and ‘Kuno Gamadere.'”

“We are working with Somali officials to assess the results of the operation and will provide further details when appropriate.”

However US Africa Command were more forthright on June 8, reporting “further assessment by US forces also indicates that Dulyadeen was killed in the operation.” Al Shabaab confirmed Dulyadeen had died on June 21. The group said: “We console ourselves and our nation for the martyrdom of the Muslim knight commander Sheik Mohamed Mohamud Ali (Dulyadin). May Allah accept him and lift him to paradise.”

His death was came at the hands of “Somali commandos and the special forces of Jubaland,” according to the Jubaland minister of state security. The attack reportedly took place in Farwamo village, 30km north of the port of Kismayo. Dulyadeen was one of several fighters responsible  responsible for the killing of 148 students in their dormitories at Garissa University in eastern Kenya on August 2 2015.

Location: Farwamo village, near Bulogudud, Jubaland
: Africom statement via email, AFP, Standard Media, Africom Statement, Al Jazeera

June 1 2016
Al Shabaab attacked a popular hotel in central Mogadishu in a complex operation involving a suicide car bomb and several gunmen.

The attack killed 15 people including two politicians. It hit the day the US government announced it had targeted a senior al Shabaab figure five days earlier in a drone or air strike.

Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, which was similar in tactics to other complex bomb and gunman assaults it had launched against targets in the supposedly secure centre of Mogadishu. The terrorist group told Reuters: “We targeted the members of the apostate government… We killed many of them inside and we shall give details later. Our mujahideen are on the top floor of the hotel building.”

Location: Mogadishu
: Reuters

June 11 2016
♦ Unknown killed

Unidentified jets struck al Shabaab targets in the northern autonomous region of Puntland.

Type of action: Possible US strike
Location: Galgala, Puntland
References: Garowe Online

June 21 2016
♦ 3 reported killed

The US conducted “a self-defence strike against al Shabaab, killing three” in southern Somalia. A statement from US Africa Command (Africom) said “the operation was conducted after it was assessed the terrorists were planning and preparing to conduct an imminent attack against US forces.”

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: South-central Somalia
References: Africom statement

July 24 2016
Local residents said jets bombed an al Shabaab camp near el Adde in Gedo region late at night on Sunday July 24.

The attack hit the same area that 100 Kenyan peacekeepers were killed in January 2016 when al Shabaab forces overran their base.

It was attributed to the Kenyan Defence Force with the Pentagon telling the Bureau the US was not responsible. Some reports said as many as 70 al Shabaab were killed though the limited capacity of the KDF aircraft raises questions over this claim.

Research by Kenyan NGO Journalists for Justice found multiple occasions when claims airstrikes caused mass al Shabaab casualties were false. A report documented incidents when jets failed to kill members of the terrorist group and instead hit “civilian villages, water-points and livestock”.

The KDF operates 22 F-5 Tiger fighters and ground attack aircraft, according to the 2016 Military Balance, published by London thinktank the International Institute for Strategic Studies. However its equipment in general is known to be aging and it is “experiencing declining levels of operability”, according to IHS Janes. It is not clear how precise a night strike by its limited strike fighter fleet could be.

Location: El Adde, Gedo
References: Shabelle News,, Mareeg, Garowe online, Black and White, IISS Military Balance 2016

August 16 2016
US forces helped Somali commandos in an operation in southern Somalia that killed several members of al Shabaab, a Pentagon official said on August 16.

The operation took place on August 10. Somali forces approached an al Shabaab checkpoint. The terrorist opened fire and a gun battled ensued. “US advisers accompanied the Somali-led force, which is standard for what we do in that area,” an Africom spokesperson said. The US forces did not participate in the gun battle, he added.

There had been a persistent drip feed of reports in the intervening week that al Shabaab leader Abu Ubaidah had been killed or captured in the operation. However the Africom spokesperson would not be drawn on this, saying the US military was still assessing the results of the operation.

Type of operation: US assisted Somali raid
Location: Saakow, Southern Somalia
References: The New York Times

August 30 2016

♦ 2 reported killed

The US reported that it had conducted a “self-defense strike” against al Shabaab in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia in a press release published on September 7.

They said the strike hit near Gobanale and resulted in the deaths of two al Shabaab militants.

The press release reported that during a Somali-led counter-terrorism operation, multiple al Shabaab fighters approached the force and US forces conducted the action.

Type of action: US air or drone strike
Location: Near Gobanale
References: US Africa Command

September 5 2016
♦ 4 reported killed

The US reported that it conducted two “self-defence strikes” on September 5 against al Shabaab killing four militants in a press release published on September 7.

According to the press release, the strikes hit near Tortoroow and were conducted in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia after a Somali-led counter-terrorism operation came under attack.

Type of action: US air or drone strike
Location: Near Tortoroow
References: US Africa Command

September 26 2016
♦ 4 reported killed

The US reported that it had conducted a “self-defence strike” in Caba near Kismayo on September 26 killing four al Shabaab fighters in a press release published on September 27.

The press release said that a group of armed al Shabaab fighters attacked the Somali force and their US advisors. The Somali forces returned fire, but could not stop the attack. The US said that they conducted the strike in response.

Type of action: US air or drone strike
Location: Caba, near Kismayo
ReferencesUS Africa Command

September 28 2016
♦ 10-22 reported killed
♦ 3-16 reported injured
♦ Possible civilian casualties 

A drone strike on September 28 killed ten members of a local militia and and not al Shabaab militants as the US had initially believed, according to a US Africa Command press release published on November 15. The militia hit was reportedly allied with the US. Three other members were injured. 

“A group of armed fighters attacked a PSF-led patrol in early daylight. PSF forces returned fire in self-defense, but were unable to subdue the attack or withdraw without suffering casualties,” read the statement. US forces conducted a strike “at the request of PSF forces and based on their own assessment of the situation”.

The press release added: “U.S. forces lawfully and appropriately used force to defend the PSF element in response to the attack by the local militia forces against that U.S.-partner force.”

The US reported in a press release following the incident that it had conducted a “self-defence strike” in Galcayo resulting in the deaths of nine alleged al Shabaab fighters. Somali forces were disrupting an IED making network when they were attacked by a group of al Shabaab fighters, it said. The US intervened to “neutralize the threat”. 

Somali officials claimed that the US instead killed 22 local soldiers and civilians. Galmudug region’s Security Minister Osman Issa blamed intelligence forces in the Puntland region for giving the US incorrect information. The two regions have clashed on a number of occasions. 

Somalia’s government then requested an explanation from the US. A government statement read: “The cabinet requests the US government give a clear explanation about the attack its planes carried out on the Galmudug forces.”

Following this, the US changed it’s position. US Africa Command had told the Bureau in an email on September 29: “We have seen reports alleging non-combatant casualties as a result of this defensive strike. We have assessed all credible evidence and determined those reports are incorrect.”

However, US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the next day that the US would investigate the reports. US Africa Command confirmed in an email to the Bureau that a formal assessment had been initiated.

According to the Washington Post, the US ambassador to Somalia met with the president of Galmadug and local officials who claim an apology was given. The US has not confirmed this. The US Mission to Somalia did issue a press release on October 11 which said the ambassador had met with Somali officials in Mogadishu.

The press release added that the US “seeks to improve its communication and collaboration with Galmudug security forces and the Somali National Army to fight al-Shabaab”.

Following the attack, Reuters claimed that protesters burned US flags and images of the US President in Galcayo leading to the closure of shops.

Type of action: US air or drone strike
Location: Galcayo, Galmudug
References: US Africa Command press release, US Africa Command via email, VOA, Reuters, AP, Al Jazeera, US Department of Defense press conference transcript, Reuters, Washington Post, US Africa Command press release, US Mission to Somalia press release

December 6 2016
♦ Unknown reported killed

Two media organisations reported a possible US air operation targeting an al Shabaab base in the Lower Shabelle region.

Dalsan Radio reported that Somali commandos backed by US Special Forces attacked al Shabaab bases in Omar Beere in Lower Shabelle overnight using helicopters.

Shabelle Media Network said that unknown fighter jets believed to be US military jets conducted an air strike targeting a base. Sources told the network that helicopters were used to target al Shabaab’s Ibrahim Ali Berre camp.

The US said they had not conducted an operation in the area. A spokesperson from Africom told the Bureau that over the night/morning of December 5/6 the Somali National Army conducted a mission to disrupt al Shabaab, killing one alleged fighter. US forces were working with the Somali army as advisors, the spokesperson added.

Type of strike: Possible US air operation using helicopters
Location: Omar Berre, Lower Shabelle region
References: Dalsan Radio, Shabelle Media Network