Mogadishu, Somalia — The Somali government has confirmed that a joint U.S. and Somali National Army (SNA) security ground operation occurred in the early morning hours of August 25th. The raid which was targeting a suspected terrorist stronghold of the al-Qaeda linked Harakat al-Shabaab terror group near the farming town of Bariire in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia resulted in at least 10 suspected al-Shabaab casualties with an unknown number taken off the target by SNA forces.
However, conflicting reports from local residents and sources are telling a different story, one that indicates that the 10 killed were in fact local Somali farmers which includes three children among the dead.
— Garowe Online (@radiogarowe) August 25, 2017
SOFREP reached out to both U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) public affairs and the Somalia Ministry of Information for comment. To which AFRICOM’s media relations officer, Samatha Reho, did confirm with SOFREP that a raid led by the SNA did occur near the town of Bariire with an unknown number of U.S. service members in a direct support capacity. AFRICOM also provided an SNA statement in which they vehemently denied the allegations of SNA forces killing civilians claiming that the only deaths from the raid were that of al-Shabaab and not local farmers.
The commanding General of the SNA 20th Brigade is quoted in the press release as saying that, “[T]he SNA carried out an operation this morning against a farm in Bariire with known al-Shabaab presence. Al-Shabaab started shooting at SNA forces after our soldiers entered the farm. The individuals shooting at the SNA soldiers were al-Shabaab fighters; they were not farmers. We talked to the farmers in the area and instructed them to put their weapons in their homes to avoid confusion.”
Shortly after speaking with SOFREP, AFRICOM released its own press statement in which they report that the United States is aware of the civilian casualty allegations and is conducting its own internal investigation to assess the “situation to determine the facts on the ground.”
Somalia Ministry of Information did not answer SOFREP’s request for comment at the time of publication.
The conflict with al-Shabaab has seen a dramatic up-tick in U.S. military support since the Trump administration expanded its combat role within the war-torn East African country in early 2017. Since then U.S. Special Operations have been increasing their advisory and direct support roles alongside the special forces of the Somali National Army. Among these joint special operations mission was the Joint Special Operations Command’s (JSOC ) SEAL Team 6 (ST6) raid who was in direct support of Somali special forces in May where Navy SEAL, Kyle Milliken was killed during an attempt to capture or kill al-Shabaab senior commander Moalim Osman Abdi Badil who was in command of al-Shabaab forces for the Lower Shabelle region of southern Somalia. Badil was killed in the ensuing fire fight.
There has been no confirmation as to what U.S. military unit was along with this SNA-led raid in southern Somalia. However, if these allegations are in fact true and this joint U.S.-Somali operation did in fact kill unarmed civilians, then this has a potential of blackening the eyes of both the Somali governments and the U.S. special operations forces alongside them as their efforts to destroy al-Shabaab quite possibly could have cost the lives of innocent civilians.
Feature image courtesy of: Twitter