The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) sheds light on civilian deaths near Dhuusamareeb. A cloud of uncertainty hangs over a recent counterterrorism operation in Somalia’s Galmugug State as the Somali government and al-Shabaab published conflicting reports. The incident took place on Wednesday and claimed the lives of al-Shabaab leaders and several civilians.
El-Lahelay, Galgaduud region, Galmudug, SOMALIA. By Dalmar:
Initially, the Somali government announced that it had successfully killed three al-Shabaab leaders. Simultaneously, another statement indicated that three members of a single family had tragically lost their lives while two others sustained injuries. The state-owned Somali National News Agency (SONNA) reported that a mother and her two children died when the militant group al-Shabaab detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) in their home in El-Lahelay.
In contrast, al-Shabaab-affiliated websites made no mention of the alleged killing of their leaders. This is typical for the militant group, which always conceals its own casualties. Instead, they claimed that a U.S. airstrike had caused the death of six family members: a grandmother and her five grandchildren.
The Somali government has denied involvement in the civilian casualties, asserting that neither they nor their allies were responsible for the deaths during the operation.
Tracing what happened
Yesterday, AFRICOM also issued a statement. It asserted that the U.S. soldiers were not present in the area during the operation and did not conduct any airstrikes in support of it. Instead, the press release says U.S. soldiers were responding to a request from the Somali government to medically evacuate civilians who sustained injuries during an operation which killed three al-Shabaab leaders.
“On September 6, 2023, a Somali national force conducted a counterterrorism operation in the vicinity of El-Lahelay, Somalia. The [AFRICOM] command’s initial assessment is that three al-Shabaab leaders were killed as a result of the operation, and, unfortunately, civilians were injured and killed in the vicinity of the operation,” read AFRICOM’s press release.
The conflicting accounts and the tragic loss of civilian lives have raised questions about the incident. Calls for transparency and accountability have emerged, with many urging the Somali government to provide a comprehensive account of the events.
The analysis of stakeholders’ statements indicates (not 100% confirms) that the Somali National Army (SNA), possibly its elite Danab unit, conducted the counterterrorism operation that caused all the casualties, both among al-Shabaab leadership and civilians. If this was the case, the civilian deaths should be considered ‘collateral damage’ caused as a tragic consequence of the operation. If proven true, the affected family must receive compensation from the Somali government.