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 1 2
Total people killed 8 4-9
Civilians reported killed 0 0
Children reported killed 0 0
People reported injured 0 0


SOM047 link

11 June 2017

  • 8 reported killed

A US strike on an al Shabaab "command and logistics node" killed eight members of the group, according to a US Africa Command press release.

The attack took place at 2:20am Eastern Standard Time on June 11, according to the statement. This is around 9.20am local time. 

The office of Somalia's President Mohamed Abdullahi said the camp was near Sakow, in the Middle Juba region in southern Somalia. Africa Command said it was located 185 miles southwest of Mogadishu.

"Earlier today, I authorised our special forces with the support of our international partners to conduct a strike against an al Shabaab training camp near Sakow," a statement from President Abdullahi said, which suggests Somali special forces were involved in the attack.

It was conducted under authorities approved by US President Donald Trump in March 2017 which declared parts of Somalia an “area of active hostilities” for 180 days exempting US commanders from certain restraints. This however appears to be the first strike conducted since the March change. 

Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White said that the strike was carried out as a direct response to al-Shabaab actions. This included recent attacks on Somali forces, she said, possibly referring to last week's attack on a Somali military encampment, which killed up to 70 people, with some reports of civilian casualties. 

US Africa Command said US forces, in cooperation with the Somali government, are conducting operations "to degrade the al Qaeda affiliate's ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in America". Al Shabaab was declared by the US an al Qaeda affiliate at the end of last year. 

The New York Times was told by an American official that the strike was carried out by at least one armed Reaper drone coming from an air base in Dijibouti. The source said it dropped multiple Hellfire missiles on a camp reportedly monitored by US surveillance aircrafts for months. 

Such strikes should be expected now, the US official said, on account of US and Somali officials having closely analysed potential targets that could be attacked following the March change. 

SOFREP, a news site written and curated by US special operations veterans, reported the strike targeted the leadership and senior members of the Amniyat, al Shabaab's intelligence service.   

They also reported rumours that a commander of the intelligence wing, identified as Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame (also known as Mahad Karate), had been killed.

A source told Reuters that Somali and US forces had been hunting Warsame and the May 5 raid detailed in the entry below had taken place in village where he was believed to be hiding. The US authorities have offered up to $5m for information that brings him to justice. Rewards for Justice describes him as a deputy leader of the group. 

SOM046 link

5 May 2017

  • 4-9 reported killed

A US serviceman was killed during an operation against al Shabaab in Somalia on May 5 (local time), the first American service member killed in combat in the country since 1993. 

US forces were conducting an advise and assist mission alongside members of the Somali National Army (SNA), according to US Africa Command

Pentagon Spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said US Navy SEALs and their SNA partners were flown in by helicopter, but came under fire "in the early phase of the mission" after landing near an al Shabaab compound, the target of the mission. The compound was associated with attacks on nearby facilities used by both US and Somali forces, he said. 

"We helped bring [the Somali soldiers] in with our aircraft, and we were there maintaining a distance back as they conducted the operation," Davis said. "This was a Somali mission," he stressed.

However, Brig. Gen. David J. Furness, the commander of the military’s task force for the Horn of Africa, said that the US and Somali forces were travelling in a single group when they were attacked.

According to Fox News, the target was Andalus Radio, reportedly a al-Shabab radio station, based in a farm village 40 miles west of Mogadishu. Somali sources told VOA that the village was Dar es Salam, located between the small towns of Barire and Mubarak, reportedly both al Shabaab controlled. These are located in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia. 

Helicopters carried the Navy SEALs and the Somali Danab commando team from Ballidogle airport to a point near Barire, from which they continued to the target on foot, a Somali official told VOA. A small Somali ground force from the town of Afgoye was also sent to help, the official also said. 

Fox News said it appears the group were ambushed as they neared the radio station, with a Somalia official telling VOA that al-Shabab brought in reinforcements and encircled the approaching commandos. 

Davis said the threat was “quickly neutralized”. By this time Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken had however been killed. A US military official told VOA at least two other Navy SEALs and an interpreter were wounded. New York Times said two others were wounded, including the Somali-American interpreter.

A senior official in Lower Shabelle region reportedly said a raid on a building housing the radio station killed eight al Shabab fighters and radio station equipment was seized. 

A Mogadishu-based security source told Reuters that US troops, alongside Somali forces, were hunting an al Shabaab commander identified as Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame, also known as Mahad Karate, near the Shabelle river. Another security source told them the raid took place in Darusalam village, where he was supposedly believed to be hiding.

Three al Shabab operatives, including Moalin Osman Abdi Badil, a regional leader of the terror group, was killed, Somali officials said. This was confirmed by Davis, who reportedly said Badil was responsible for gathering information on troops movements in order to support attacks on Somali and African Union forces. 

US press releases said the attack took place on both May 4 and May 5, which could be down to the time difference between Somalia and the US. 

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 security 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, the press release stated. It added 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.