U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs
United States Africa Command
August 20, 2021
In the latest quarterly civilian casualty assessment reporting period ending June 30, 2021, U.S. Africa Command received one report of civilian casualties on May 31, 2021. The report was a duplicate of May 2018 reports previously assessed by U.S. Africa Command and found to be unsubstantiated. The command closed out and substantiated one additional case that was carried over from the previous civilian casualty assessment report. There are currently no open civilian casualty assessments.
This is the sixth quarterly civilian casualty assessment report since U.S. Africa Command began releasing reports in April 2020 as part of its commitment to increased transparency and accountability.
The command continues to study recommendations made during the March 2021 non-governmental organization (NGO) roundtable in order to refine the civilian casualty assessment process.
With every airstrike, we conduct a thorough pre-strike assessment to reduce the likelihood of civilian harm,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, commander, U.S. Africa Command. “Unfortunately, our Jan. 1 airstrike, which was designed to protect re-positioning U.S. troops and precisely hit its intended target, likely also caused injuries to three civilians nearby.”
The Jan.1, 2021, civilian casualty incident has been reported to the U.S. Embassy in Mogadishu, the U.S. Congress, and the Federal Government of Somalia.
Discrepancies between U.S. Africa Command Civilian Casualty Assessments and NGO Reports
U.S. Africa Command’s assessment of reports of civilian casualties occasionally differs from other organizations, including NGOs, for a number of reasons. The command’s information is based on reliable and layered intelligence sources and classified operational reporting, which are not available to the public. This can contribute to perceived discrepancies between the command’s results and those of others.
Definition of “civilian” and “combatant”
Consistent with the Department of Defense Law of War Manual, “civilian” and “combatant” are defined as follows:
Civilian: Persons who are not combatants (members of military/security forces or members of either a declared hostile force or an organized armed group of a party to an armed conflict).
Civilians may lose their protection against attacks if demonstrating hostile intent, engaging in a hostile act, or for such time as they take direct part in hostilities; but they retain or regain such protection when they cease said conduct, or if they become wounded, sick, detained, or surrender, and thereby are unable to continue said conduct. All personnel in the U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility are civilians with protected status, unless they are identified as legitimate military targets.
Combatant: Persons directly participating in an armed conflict, or persons whose hostile actions have purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States. Individuals who are formally or functionally part of a non-State armed group that is engaged in hostilities may be made the object of attack because they likewise share in their group’s hostile intent.
U.S. Africa Command Civilian Casualty Assessment Quarterly Report
Summary of Results
This report reflects results of civilian casualty assessments previously reported as open that are now closed or remain under assessment and reports of possible civilian casualties the command received during the reporting period. Any new intelligence or information relating to a current or closed case will be reviewed to determine if the new information alters the assessment and will be included in the following quarterly civilian casualty report.
Note: Where reports of civilian casualties are determined to be unsubstantiated, it means there was insufficient information to validate or substantiate the reports. When new information is received, a report of civilian casualties can be reassessed. Until that occurs, the assessment is considered complete.
- (Substantiated) Jan. 2, 2021, U.S. Africa Command received one (1) report from an online media source claiming three (3) civilians were injured as a result of a U.S. airstrike in the vicinity of Qunyo Barrow, Somalia, on Jan. 1, 2021. After a thorough assessment of the information and circumstances following the Jan. 1, 2021, airstrike, U.S. Africa Command assessed that more likely than not, the airstrike inadvertently injured three (3) civilians.
- (Unsubstantiated) May 31, 2021, U.S. Africa Command received one (1) report via the U.S. Africa Command civilian casualty reporting website claiming five (5) civilians were killed as a result of a joint Somali-U.S. military operation, occurring on May 9, 2018, in the vicinity of Moalinka, Somalia. This is a duplicate of civilian casualty reports U.S. Africa Command received in May 2018 in which an assessment was opened and determined that U.S. military action did not result in any casualties. Additionally, multiple sources of post-operation intelligence confirmed that any partner force action resulted in casualties only to al-Shabaab members, including one al-Shabaab commander.