Dozens of civilians have been killed and wounded in Somalia as US-led airstrikes against Islamist militants increase to unprecedented levels, a Guardian investigation has found, raising fears that Washington’s actions could bolster support for extremists.
The escalation in strikes is part of the Trump administration’s broader foreign policy strategy in Africa and the Middle East. There have been 34 US airstrikes in Somalia in the last six months – at least twice the total for the whole of 2016.
Regional allies active in the campaign against Islamic extremists in the east African country have conducted many missions too. These appear to be the most lethal for civilians.
Almost all the strikes target al-Shabaab, the al-Qaida affiliated extremist movement fighting to establish an Islamic state in Somalia for more than a decade.
The Guardian collected and investigated scores of reports of airstrikes over the last 12 months, checking claims in local media with western and local officials, medical staff, witnesses and relatives of victims.
In five attacks since July, more than 50 civilians appear to have been killed or injured. At least two involved US aircraft.
Further casualties are likely to have been caused by other strikes but have gone unreported.
Five civilians were killed and two wounded in an airstrike on a village on 6 December, witnesses and hospital staff said.
In another incident, in October, residents and medics reported up to eight civilians being injured in an airstrike during fierce fighting in Lower Shabelle province.
The previous month, four herders were injured when a water hole near the border with Kenya was bombed.
In August, seven members of a family including small children died in a strike in southern Jubaland, relatives said. Officials said all those killed were extremists.
A month earlier, four people, including three children, were killed and eight wounded in an airstrike on a village near the southern port city of Kismayo, relatives and witnesses said.