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 drone strikes||Additional US attacks|
|Total people killed||9||15-23|
|Civilians reported killed||0||0|
|Children reported killed||0||0|
|People reported injured||0||10|
16 August 2017
- 7 reported killed
The US announced it carried out three "precision air strikes" between August 16 and 17, killing seven al Shabaab fighters.
The strikes hit Jilib, about about 200 miles southwest of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, US Africa Command said.
A US defence official told CNN that pro-government Somali troops, accompanied by US military advisers, came under direct attack from a group of al Shabaab fighters in the early hours of August 17. They had been approaching the objective of a planned counter-terrorism raid at the time. The US launched a self-defence strike after returning fire from US-Somali ground forces did not stop the attack, CNN reported.
This strike was reportedly conducted under pre-existing self-defence authorities and not under authorities approved by US President Donald Trump in March 2017.
Two additional strikes were carried out against the original objective of the raid, CNN said, but they were carried out under the authorities approved in March. These declared parts of Somalia an “area of active hostilities” for 180 days, exempting US commanders from certain restraints.
CNN said the intended target were members of al Shabaab's intelligence network.
The Somali government announced Somali security forces, in coordination with international partners, had conducted an operation in Jilib. It said seven al Shabaab members were killed, including a senior leader responsible for multiple bombings in the capital
- Type of strike: US air or drone strikes
- Location: Jilib, Middle Juba Region
- References: US Africa Command press release via email, Somali government press release via email, CNN
10 August 2017
- 0-1 reported killed
The US carried out two "kinetic" strikes against al Shabaab members in the Banadiir region of southern Somalia on August 10, US Africa Command announced.
A press release from the Somali government said a high-level al Shabaab leader had been killed. The release said President Mohamed Farmajo had authorised a coordinated operation with international partners near Shashweyne, on the outskirts of Banadiir region, resulting in the death.
"This individual was part of an al-Shabaab terrorist network responsible for planning and executing several bombings and assassinations in Mogadishu that have killed innocent Somali citizens," it said.
The US has yet to confirm any casualties, but said it is still assessing the operation and will release additional details when appropriate.
Africom said the strike was carried out under authorities approved by US President Donald Trump in March 2017. These declared parts of Somalia an “area of active hostilities” for 180 days, exempting US commanders from certain restraints.
This is the third known US strike in under two weeks. At the end of July, a strike killed Ali Jabal, a high-level al Shabaab commander believed to be behind attacks in Mogadishu and responsible for leading al-Shabaab forces operating there and in Banadiir region. Mogadishu is in Banadiir region.
- Type of strike: US air or drone strike
- Location: Banadiir region
- References: US Africa Command press release, Federal Republic of Somalia press release
30 July 2017
- 1 reported killed
US Africa Command (Africom) confirmed a US strike killed Ali Muhammad Hussein, believed to be a high-level al Shabaab commander.
The strike took place in Tortoroow in southern Somalia at around 1500 local time on July 30, reportedly killing Jabal alone.
Africom said Hussein, who was know as Ali Jabal, was "responsible for leading al-Shabaab forces operating in the Mogadishu and Banadiir regions in planning and executing attacks against the capital of Mogadishu."
"The US conducted this operation in coordination with its regional partners as a direct response to al Shabaab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces," Africom said in a statement announcing the strike. "We continue to work in coordination with our Somali partners and allies to systematically dismantle al Shabaab, and help achieve stability and security throughout the region."
"His removal disrupts al-Shabaab's ability to plan and conduct attacks in Mogadishu and coordinate efforts between Al-Shabaab regional commanders," read a separate Africom press release announcing Jabal's death.
The Somali information ministry had announced Jabal's death earlier, describing him as the shadow al Shabaab governor for Mogadishu. "This individual was part of an al-Shabab network responsible for planning and executing several bombings and assassinations that resulted in the deplorable death of numerous innocent civilians in Mogadishu," a statement from the ministry reportedly said.
According to Stars and Stripes, Somalia's information ministry said Jabal was killed in what was described as an operation coordinated with "international partners". Reuters said the information ministry called it a "military raid" carried out with its military and allied foreign troops, although the nationality of the troops was not given. A Somali intelligence official told Stars and Stripes at least one missile struck a car Hussein was travelling in.
The strike was carried out under authorities approved by US President Donald Trump in March 2017. These declared parts of Somalia an “area of active hostilities” for 180 days, exempting US commanders from certain restraints.
Mission in Somalia leads to arrest of al Shabaab suspect link
23 July 2017
A suspected al Shabaab associate who once lived in the US has been arrested during a mission in Somalia, a US Africa Command spokesperson told AP.
It was a Somali-led mission with “limited tactical advisory support” from the US, Spokesperson Jennifer Dyrcz said.
The suspect, identified as Abdirizak Tahlil, is accused of “facilitating the use of improvised explosive devices in Somalia” and is being held by the Somali government, Dyrcz added. He had reportedly been granted status as a lawful US permanent resident and lived in the country between 2006 and 2009.
Somalia Newsroom said it was reportedly a “joint” operation between Somali intelligence agents and Puntland and Galmudug forces, with the tactical advisory support from the US.
Four other al Shabaab suspects were arrested in Galcayo, Somalia Newsroom added. It said local reports claim Abdirizak’s brother, a Galmudug politician, alongside a Galmandug security official, say he is innocent, blaming Puntland forces and the US for his arrest. Tensions have increased between the two regions following a US strike in September which was reported to have killed members of the Galmudug forces. The region's officials claim that Puntland gave incorrect information to the US causing the strike.
Somalia Newsroom notes that Abdirizak was however sentenced to death by a Puntland military court in 2013 for a possession of explosive material, but was allegedly released after a new regional president agreed to a prisoner swap.
The role of the US in this operation may be too limited to include it in our dataset of US operations in Somalia. We have reached out to US Africa Command for additional information.
13 July 2017
- "Several" casualties
US and Somali special forces carried out a night raid on an al Shabaab-held village in southern Somalia, the district commissioner and a senior Somali intelligence officials told reporters. It was the second US operation in the village in two weeks.
Two helicopters inserted the troops into the village where they engaged a small number of al Shabaab fighters, a senior Somali intelligence official told Associated Press. The official said a detention centre was targeted in the raid however the US said "this information is incorrect".
"The special forces of Danab and US troops landed in Kuunyo Barow and destroyed an al Shabaab base in the area," the district commissioner told Dalsan Radio.
The US carried out an air strike in this area on July 2, killing one al Shabaab fighter US Africa Command (Africom) confirmed in a July 20 email.
The only connection between that operation and the July 12 raid was that "both targeted al-Shabaab terrorists," Africom told the Bureau. "US forces, in cooperation with the Government of Somalia, are conducting ongoing operations against al Shabaab in Somalia to degrade the al-Qaeda affiliate's ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks."
Africom said US troops were involved in the July 12 operation but that no air strike took place. An Africom spokesperson told the Bureau, by email, that "US forces conducted an advise and assist mission against al Shabaab with members of the Somali National Army July 12 [July 13 local time] in Kunyo Barrow, Somalia."
"Advise and assist" missions involve US special forces soldiers accompanying local troops on operations though Africom maintains the American personnel do not actually engage in combat.
"US forces are assisting partner forces to counter al Shabaab in Somalia to degrade the al Qaeda affiliate's ability to recruit, train and plot external terror attacks throughout the region and in America," the spokesperson added.
The Bureau has contacted the Somali government in Mogadishu and this post will be updated to reflect any response that is forthcoming.
5 July 2017
- 10-13 reported killed
- 10 reported injured
US forces were involved in a "self-defence strike operation" with Somali National Army (SNA) forces "against an al Shabaab troop concentration" in the country's south, according to an Africa Command (Africom) press release.
The statement did not include a casualty count, saying it "will continue to assess the results of the operation, and will provide additional information as appropriate".
However a Somali government statement said "10 al Shabaab terrorists operating north of Kismayo were killed" in the US-SNA strike "against a formation of al Shabaab terrorists".
"The terrorists attacked a Somali forces outpost and were repelled," the statement added. A Somali military source told Voice of America (VoA) US helicopters ferried Somali special forces to site of the operation and then fired on the militants during an ensuing battle.
"Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operational security," Africom said.
Ahmed Abdullahi Issa, deputy commander of Somalia's national security agency, told VoA the operation was carried out because militants were planning to attack a Somali base.
"They were about 100 militias who were gathering in a jungle area, and we targeted them," he said. "We foiled their attack. We killed 13 and wounded 10 others."
Al Shabaab's Radio Andalus said the terrorist group attacked an SNA base in Jubba region at midnight. The fighting lasted several hours - the group claimed it pushed Somali forces out of their defensive position and back to a larger base where US trainers were based.
The operation happened at approximately 1830 Eastern Daylight Time on July 4, which is 0130 local time (2230 GMT).
- Type of attack: US-Somali joint operation
- Location: Luglaw, Jubba region
- References: Somali government statement via email, Africom statement via email, Voice of America, Radio Andalus via BBC Monitoring
2 July 2017
- 1 reported killed
A US airstrike in the Lower Shabelle region on al Shabaab insurgents may have killed a regional commander or the leader of the group's intelligence wing.
The US has confirmed it killed on al Shabaab fighter however has yet to officially confirm this was the al Shabaab commander.
The strike hit in the south of the country and was first reported on Twitter (below) late on July 2. US Africa Command (Africom) confirmed it carried out the strike on July 3, telling the Bureau: "On July 2, at approximately 0730 Eastern Daylight Time [1130 GMT], US forces conducted a kinetic strike operation against al Shabaab, an al Qaeda associated terrorist group."
There was no immediate word on casualties from Africom, who said: "We are currently assessing the results of the operation, and will provide additional information as appropriate."
However anonymous US defence sources told CNN Ahmed Osoble was believed to have been killed. Osoble was described as a "regional commander" who was responsible for gathering intelligence on US forces in Somalia.
On July 20 Africom told the Bureau it had "assessed the results of the July 2 strike and determined one al Shabaab terrorist was killed."
Somali intelligence officials told local media US drones targeted an al Shabaab convoy traveling between Kunya Barow and Barawe on the night of July 2. There were five al Shabaab commanders in the convoy, according to the unnamed Somali official. Among them was Andullahi Haji Daud, commander of al Shabaab's Amniyat - its intelligence wing.
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.
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.
- Type of strike: Ground operation - Somali-led or joint operation, ambushed before reaching target
- Location: Dar es Salam village, Lower Shabelle region, Somalia
- References, US Department of Defence press release, US Africa Command press release, New York Times, VOA, Fox News, Reuters, CNN, VOA, US Department of Defence press release, Reuters
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.
- Type of strike: Possible US strike
- Location: Wargaduud and El-Adde
- References: Xinhua, US Africa Command press release
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
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.
- Type of strike: US air or drone strike
- Location: Gaduud
- References: US Africa Command press release