15.02.17 Drone Warfare

Somalia: Reported US actions 2017

The timeline below contains information on all US drone strikes and covert operations in Somalia recorded by the Bureau in 2017. The Bureau derives its data from open sources – predominantly media reports and, latterly, the US headquarters responsible for the war in Somalia, Africa Command or Africom. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US operations in Somalia, 2017
US drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total strikes 0 1
Total people killed 0 0
Civilians reported killed 0 0
Children reported killed 0 0
People reported injured 0 0


SOM045Ci link

15 April 2017

  • 105 reported killed

Xinhua reported Somali security officials and residents claiming over 100 al Shabaab fighters, including 20 commanders, were killed in US air strikes on the morning of April 15. The strikes were denied by US Africa Command who said the US military had not conducted them. 

The strikes were reported by Xinhua to have hit al Shabaab hideouts in Wargaduud and El Adde. There was some confusion around the date they hit - the news site said April 15, but included a quote from an unnamed security official saying the strikes took place on April 14 at 2am. The official said 20 commanders and around 85 other fighters were killed. A resident in El Adde was reported saying that the sound of explosions, believed to be air strikes, was heard shortly after midnight on April 14.  

The US Africa Command press release said the US military "did not conduct any kind of kinetic action in that area during the timeframe referenced". The most recent US strike in Somalia took place in January 2017, it stated. The press release said that several social media sites and websites had falsely reported the air strikes, naming Xinhua specifically. 

SOM045C link

24 February 2017

Somali news outlet Mareeg reported a suspected drone strike on an al Shabaab controlled village. 

Mareeg reported an eyewitness saying: “We heard several bomb explosion caused by drone airstrikes in Hawina village.” He added: “It is not clear how many people have been killed or wounded it is very difficult to know the real casualties.”

Hawina is reportedly located within several kilometres of Kismayo in southern Lower Juba province.

In an email to the Bureau, US military’s Africa Command (Africom) denied conducting a strike on this day in the area mentioned.

Type of strike: Possible US strike 
Location: Hawina village, near Kismayo
References: Mareeg, US Africom via email

SOM045 link

7 January 2017

  • 0 reported killed

The US conducted a “self-defence strike” against al Shabaab on January 7, according to a US Africa Command press release published on January 10.

The strike was conducted “in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, Somali partner forces, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces and U.S. advisors” after al Shabaab fighters reportedly threatened their safety.

The press release referred to al Shabaab as an “al Qaeda-associated terrorist group”. Al Shabaab is now considered to be an “associated force” of al Qaeda which gives the US military more leeway to target the group.