Initial AFRICOM Civilian Casualty Assessment Quarterly Report

As part of the command’s fundamental commitment to transparency, U.S. Africa Command is implementing a quarterly report on the status of ongoing and completed civilian casualty allegations and assessments.

By U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs United States Africa Command Stuttgart, Germany Apr 27, 2020

Initial AFRICOM Civilian Casualty Assessment Quarterly Report


Civilian Casualty Reporting


As part of the command’s commitment to transparency, U.S. Africa Command is implementing a quarterly report on the status of ongoing and completed civilian casualty allegations and assessments. This initiative was directed by U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command, to increase transparency regarding civilian casualty allegations that are reported to the command while demonstrating the U.S. military’s constant commitment to minimizing collateral damage in the pursuit of military operations.

“Since taking command I have placed additional focus on increasing the transparency of our process and status of closed and ongoing allegations,” said Townsend. “It is important that our partners and the public understand our commitment to minimizing collateral damage while conducting military operations. Where we come up short, we will admit it openly.”

U.S Africa Command, in coordination with African partner nations, reduce threats to the United States and our partners and conducts operations to counter violent extremist organizations (VEOs) in order to enhance regional security in Somalia, Libya, and other nations.

On occasion, civilian casualty allegations surface after U.S. operations including airstrikes. These allegations arise through self-reporting by our forces, traditional and social media reporting, non-government organizations, and through internal oversight processes. In addition, input is received via the U.S. Africa Command website contact link that was established so individuals can report allegations and provide feedback. As an added measure U.S. Africa Command will implement a webpage that enables the ability to report allegations in Somali, Arabic, and additional languages to broaden the ability to receive and assess information. This should be available by the end of May or soon thereafter.

“There is no secret air or shadow war as some allege,” said Townsend. “How can there be when the whole world knows we are assisting Somalia in their fight against al-Shabaab terrorists? When we publically announce every single airstrike we conduct? When we publically admit to our mistakes? Unlike al-Shabaab we do everything in our power to avoid civilian casualties and that is not changing on my watch.”

U.S. Africa Command takes all allegations seriously and has processes to conduct thorough assessments using all available information that may factor into findings. In many cases, the command’s information collection efforts are based on layered and reliable intelligence sources that are not available to the public to preserve operations security. This may ultimately lead to perceived discrepancies between the command’s findings and those of others.

U.S. operations are designed to provide assistance to African ground forces, disrupt terrorist plans, and create conditions to achieve progress along other lines of effort to include governance and economic development. At the same time, they eliminate part of a threat wishing harm on the U.S., African partners, and the international community.

“The growing threat in Africa from terrorist networks is significant and impacts not only Africans, but also the U.S. and our international allies,” said Townsend. “Our kinetic operations in Africa follow a strict, disciplined, and precise process. Nobody is more devoted to the preservation of innocent life than the U.S. military, and our actions and processes reflect that fact.”


Summary of Results

From February 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020, U.S. Africa Command conducted 91 airstrikes against Violent Extremist Organizations in Somalia and Libya. During this period, U.S. Africa Command received 70 allegations about 27 separate possible civilian casualty incidents with approximately 90 alleged civilian casualties. As of March 31, 2020, 20 alleged incidents are closed, and seven incidents are still under review. One of the 20 closed allegations that stemmed from this period has been substantiated by the command. 


** New Substantiated Allegation **

Regarding the February 23, 2019 strike, we assess that it is likely that two civilians were regrettably and unintentionally killed and three were injured as a result of the airstrike that also killed two al-Shabaab terrorists who were the intended targets.

“While we follow very precise and rigorous standards, in instances where we fail to meet our expectations, we will admit the mistake,” said Townsend. “Regrettably two civilians were killed and three others injured in a February 2019 airstrike. We have the highest respect for our Somali friends and we are deeply sorry this occurred.”

On February 24, 2019, the command received allegations from online media sources claiming two (2) civilians were killed and two (2) civilians injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia, on February 23, 2019. An initial allegation claimed dozens were alleged to have been killed but only provided specific information regarding four alleged civilian casualties. AFRICOM received a follow-on allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After thorough review, several of the allegations were assessed to be substantiated. Regrettably, two (2) civilians were likely and unintentionally killed and three (3) injured as a result of the airstrike.

It is assessed the deaths and injuries occurred due to the effects of U.S. munitions or secondary explosions caused by explosives stored by al-Shabaab at the location of the strike.

The February 23, 2019, airstrike was designed to degrade the al-Shabaab terrorist group and the command’s assessment is that two terrorists, the intended targets, were also killed as a result of this airstrike.          

In adherence to established procedures, the command has notified the Federal Government of Somalia and appropriate U.S. authorities verifying the credibility of the allegations and the fact that two civilians were unintentionally killed and three were injured as a result of an airstrike.   


Previously Substantiated Allegation 

The first substantiated instance of civilian casualties by the command occurred on April 1, 2018, when two civilians were regrettably and unintentionally killed during a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of El Buur, Somalia, as previously released.  


Explanation of Assessments and Terms

The results of each allegation assessment fall into one of two categories, "substantiated" or "unsubstantiated." 

A “substantiated” assessment means that, based on all reasonably available information, taking into account the totality of the circumstances, U.S. Africa Command determines that U.S. military operations more likely than not resulted in the death or injury of civilians.

An “unsubstantiated” assessment means that, based on all reasonably available information, taking into account the totality of the circumstances, U.S. Africa Command finds that U.S. military operations did not result in the death or injury of civilians or there is insufficient information to make a determination.

“Unsubstantiated” is not intended to deny the possibility that a civilian casualty incident occurred, nor is it intended as a comment on the credibility of the source of the allegation. The term “strike” can be defined as U.S. munitions of any type employed by U.S. military forces under the authority of U.S. Africa Command.

The time required to properly assess an allegation of civilian casualties varies depending on the specific incident. Each allegation is unique and considered as such, regardless of the source of the allegation. Depending on the allegation, the time to complete a thorough assessment varies; however, the focus is always to ensure that the assessment is thorough and diligent.


Closed incidents from 1 February 2019 through 31 March 2020:

  1. February 3, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming an unspecified number of civilians were killed from an airstrike in the vicinity of Janay Abdalle, Somalia, on February 1, 2019. The allegation does not state who conducted the airstrike. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S military strike took place at the alleged location.

  2. February 24, 2019, the command received allegations from online media sources claiming two (2) civilians were killed and two (2) civilians injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia, on February 23, 2019. The initial allegation claimed dozens were alleged to have been killed but only provided specific information regarding four alleged civilian casualties. AFRICOM received a follow-on allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, several of the allegations were assessed to be substantiated. Regrettably, two (2) civilians were likely and unintentionally killed and three (3) injured as a result of the airstrike.

  3. March 18, 2019, AFRICOM received two allegations from an online media source claiming between three to four (3-4) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Afgooye, Somalia, on March 18, 2019. AFRICOM received three duplicate allegations of this incident on April 29, 2019, May 7, 2019, and August 29, 2019, from online media sources, and one duplicate allegation again on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. U.S. intelligence confirmed the identity of the individuals as al-Shabaab militants involved in logistics operations. The vehicle and occupants were observed in support of known al-Shabaab locations, and strike video indicates that the effects of the strike were limited to the vehicle. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.

  4. April 4, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming one (1) civilian was killed and six (6) civilians injured as a result of a U.S. military operation and airstrike in the vicinity of Ugunji, Somalia on April 3, 2019. AFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.

  5. May 10, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming three (3) civilians were injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Farsooley, Somalia, on May 9, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.

  6. June 8, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Tortorrow, Somalia, on June 5, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated. U.S. intelligence identified and located a high-level, al-Shabaab financier. U.S. assets executed a strike on the individual in an isolated area separate from the civilian populace. This is contrary to the allegation which stated the strike occurred at the man’s home. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.

  7. June 26, 2019, AFRICOM received two allegations from two social media accounts claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia, on June 25, 2019. AFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated. Contrary to allegations that the individual killed was a civilian, U.S. intelligence confirmed the identity of the individual as an al-Shabaab facilitator. The vehicle and occupant were observed in support of known al-Shabaab locations and personnel. Strike video indicates that the effects of the airstrike were limited to the vehicle as the strike occurred in an isolated area. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that civilian casualties did not occur as a result of U.S. military action.

  8. July 11, 2019, AFRICOM received two allegations from two social media accounts claiming five (5) civilians were killed as a result of U.S. airstrikes in the vicinity of Jilib and Basra, Somalia. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or locations.

  9. September 23, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming an unspecified number of civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Murzuq, Libya, on September 19, 201 After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated. On September 19, 2019 a kinetic strike was executed against a compound which U.S. intelligence confirmed was a terrorist facilitation and meeting location consisting of ISIS-Libya terrorist leadership and militants. Significant and multiple sources of intelligence was compiled to clearly identify the nature of the target. It is assessed that civilian casualties did not occur as a result of U.S. military action.

  10. September 23, 2019, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming thirteen (13) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia, on February 11, 2019. AFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place at the alleged time and location.

  11. September 23, 2019, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Qoryooley, Somalia, on February 23, 2019. AFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place at the alleged time and location.

  12. October 3, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming two (2) civilians were killed and one (1) injured as a result of an airstrike in the vicinity of Lower Jubba, Somalia. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or at the location.

  13. October 25, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming three (3) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of the Golis Mountains, Somalia, on October 25, 2019. AFRICOM received two duplicate allegations of this incident from an online media source on October 27, 2019, and again on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. On October 25, 2019 a kinetic strike was executed against three individuals which U.S. intelligence confirmed were ISIS-Somalia leadership and media operatives. Significant intelligence was compiled to clearly identify the nature and location of the individuals targeted. Strike images confirmed that the effects were limited to the three individuals. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that civilian casualties did not occur due to U.S. military action.

  14. November 19, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia, on November 19, 2019. AFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. On November 19, 2019 a kinetic strike was executed against one individual which U.S. intelligence confirmed was both an al-Shabaab leader and weapons supplier. Strike images confirmed that the effects were limited to the one individual. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.

  15. December 30, 2019, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia, on December 29, 2019. AFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign non-government organization. After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. On December 29, 2019 two airstrikes were executed against two individuals (one individual per strike) which U.S. intelligence confirmed were affiliated with al-Shabaab. Intelligence identified the individuals’ affiliation with the organization which was further corroborated during post-strike assessment. Strike video confirmed that the effects were limited to the two individuals. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.  

  16. December 30, 2019, AFRICOM received an allegation from an online media source claiming two (2) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. military operation in the vicinity of Shanta Baraako, Somalia, on July 12, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location. 

  17. January 21, 2020, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming up to five (5) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, on January 20, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.

  18. January 21, 2020, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming two (2) civilians were killed and four (4) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Gambole, Somalia, on March 8, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date and location.

  19. January 21, 2020, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming two (2) civilians were killed and five (5) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Iskashubun, Somalia, on July 3, 2019. After review, the allegation was assessed to be unsubstantiated because no U.S. military strike took place on the alleged date or location.

  20. January 28, 2020, AFRICOM received three allegations from an online media source and social media accounts claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, on January 27, 20 After review, the allegations were assessed to be unsubstantiated. On January 27, 2020 an airstrike was executed targeting an al-Shabaab operative associated with the al-Shabaab command and control network. U.S. intelligence sources confirmed the role of the targeted individual. Strike video confirmed that the targeted individual was the only casualty of the strike. It is assessed with a high degree of confidence that no civilian casualties occurred as a result of U.S. military action.    


Open incidents from 1 February 2019 through 31 March 2020:

  1. September 23, 2019, AFRICOM received a report from a foreign non-government organization claiming seven (7) civilians were killed and one (1) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Awdheegle and Dara Salaam, Somalia, on March 11, 2019. AFRICOM received a duplicate allegation of this incident on January 21, 2020, from a foreign Non-Government Organization. 

  2. February 3, 2020, AFRICOM received two allegations from online media sources claiming one (1) civilian was killed and two (2) injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, on February 2, 2020. AFRICOM received two duplicate allegations of this incident from social media accounts on February 4, 2020, and one duplicate allegation of this incident from an online media source on February 10, 2020.

  3. February 18, 2020, AFRICOM received three allegations from an online media source and social media account claiming two (2) civilians were injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, on February 17, 2020.

  4. February 25, 2020, AFRICOM received five allegations from online media sources and social media accounts claiming one (1) civilian was killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Jilib, Somalia, on February 24, 2020.

  5. February 28, 2020, AFRICOM received three allegations from an online media source and social media accounts claiming two (2) civilians were injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow, Somalia, on February 28, 2020.

  6. March 10, 2020, AFRICOM received two allegations from online media sources claiming four (4) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Janaale, Somalia. AFRICOM received three duplicate allegations of this incident from online media sources on March 11, 2020, three duplicate allegations of this incident from online media sources on March 12, 2020, and one duplicate allegation of this incident from an online media source on March 19, 2020.

  7. March 28, 2020, AFRICOM received one allegation from an online media source claiming two (2) civilians were killed as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Buulo Fulaay, Somalia, on March 27, 2020.