Civilians Killed by U.S. Drone Strike in Somalia

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In 2018, a missile screamed out of the sky near El Buur, Somalia. The U.S. military announced that the attack killed five “terrorists.” In reality, those “terrorists” included at least two civilians: a 22-year-old woman and her 4-year-old daughter.

An action review of the air strike — obtained via the Freedom of Information Act — details numerous failures that led to the civilian casualties, demonstrating that analysts were “under perceived pressure to get the [strike] out as quickly as possible.” The documents also note a “disagreement” among the analysts of the makeup of the group in the target vehicle. Analysts could not even agree on a count of the passengers but carried out the attack any way.

This is the first complete investigation of a drone strike in Africa using formerly secret U.S. military documents, the testimony of a soon-to-be-retired U.S. strike cell analyst in Somalia, and interviews with Somali witnesses and survivors, including the first witness on the scene of the strike – the brother of the 22-year-old.