Potential drone attack results in casualties of both civilians and militants in Somalia
Saturday September 9, 2023
In an unfortunate incident in central Somalia, five civilians and three al-Shabaab militants lost their lives in a suspected drone strike. This occurred after the militants sought shelter in a house compound where a family resided, according to two local leaders.
Conflicting accounts of the event have emerged. Somalia’s state broadcaster reported that a woman and two children were killed by a landmine that the militants had concealed in a house in the village of El-Lahelay in Galgadud state.
On the other hand, the state news agency SONNA claimed that the three militants who were killed were senior leaders of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab, including Olol Ali Guled, who purportedly commanded the group in Galgadud. SONNA described their deaths as the result of a “special operation” conducted on Wednesday night, but did not mention the use of a drone or the unfortunate incident involving the family.
Africa Command (AFRICOM), the U.S. military division that has been supporting the Somali government in its yearlong offensive against al-Shabaab, confirmed the death of three militants and stated that AFRICOM had “medically evacuated injured civilians.”
The official statement acknowledged the loss of civilian lives but did not provide exact numbers. “Unfortunately, civilians were injured and killed in the vicinity of the operation,” stated AFRICOM. “U.S. forces were not present during the operation and did not carry out any airstrikes as part of or in support of the operation.”
A drone had tracked the militants to a house in El-Lahelay, which belonged to one of their relatives, according to local leader Farah Aden, who spoke to Reuters over the phone. Aden explained, “They were seated outside the house and were busy enjoying meat and rice. As they ate, the drone targeted them. The house was not struck, and civilians were not intentionally targeted. The civilians were unfortunately hit by bomb shrapnel.”
Both al-Shabaab and the government communications minister have yet to respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Last year, Somalia’s interior minister mentioned that the military was utilizing Turkey’s Bayraktar TB2 drones in their campaign against al-Shabaab. This military intervention has successfully driven the jihadists out of significant portions of the country’s central region in the Horn of Africa.