Relatives stand near the bodies of civilians killed on Aug. 25 in an attack by Somali forces supported by U.S. troops. Feisal Omar / Reuters

During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump exclaimed, “We’re going to win so much, you’re going to be so sick and tired of winning, you’re going to come to me and go ‘Please, please, we can’t win anymore’”. As president he has removed restrictions on military engagements in foreign lands and eased up on concerns about civilian casualties. This includes the involvement of the American military in Somalia. As a result raids involving American forces in Somalia have doubled since March when Trump made this announcement. In one raid on May 5, an American seal, Kyle Milliken, was killed, the first American killed in Somalia since the 1993 ill-advised US invasion of Somalia.

American and Somali troops in Bariire on August 25.

On Friday, August 25, Somali soldiers accompanied by about a dozen American soldiers and using two helicopters conducted a raid in a village called Bariire, about 30 miles west of Somali capital, Mogadishu. According to Somali and American reports ten Al-Shabaab militants were killed. The local people disagreed saying the ten dead were merely farmers with no connection to Al-Shabaab. According to Ali Nur Mohamed, deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle Regional Administration, “We don’t know yet the cause behind the deadly attack by the allied troops targeted the farm, which belongs to a local farmer named Hussein Tabliq and why they killed the civilians.”

To show that the dead are human beings here are their names:

Ali Aden Ahmed

Abdifitah Yusuf Abdi  

Juruum Mohamud Yusuf

Saney Jama Warsame

Ali Abdi Ibrahim

Abdulkadir Abdullahi Dirie

Isack Ali Harun

Mohamud Talasow Abdi  

Hussein Khamis Moalim Abdi

Mohamud Mohamed Abdi

Two of the dead were 13 years old and another 15.

Although in Muslim culture the dead are buried within 24 hours of death, the villagers carried the ten bodies to Mogadishu and put them in a refrigerated container taken from a lobster truck and parked it in a nearby garage. They demanded “blood money” for the dead. In Somali/Islamic culture the leaders of the two clans involved in a deadly conflict negotiate “blood money” as compensation for the dead person – this is one of the methods that a traditional society uses to keep violence from escalating. The restitution for death is 100 camels paid by the aggressor’s clan to the victim’s clan. Since no single person has 100 camels, the aggressor’s clan raises the camels from his clan members. Since a camel is worth $1000, the total value is $100,000 for one death. Note that the two clans/families involved are the ones doing the negotiating so, unlike western culture, the state itself is not involved. In this case, though, the Somali state itself was one of the aggressor party. The clan elders also demanded an apology from the government and attendance of government officials at the funeral of the dead men and boys.

The Somali government quickly acknowledged that the dead were not militants and admitted that they were innocent civilians. After the government sent an investigator to Bariire to confirm the villagers’ account, the Somali government agreed to pay $70,000 compensation for each death. The Somali government also paid $130,000 for the funerals and, as demanded by the victim’s families, high government officials attended the funerals.

Africom, the U.S. Africa Command, confirmed the presence of U.S. troops in the raid and said they were investigating reports of civilian casualties. From my investigations of this incident, no further information has come from the US military and they have not acknowledged that the people killed were civilians and not Al-Shabaab militants. They also have not paid any compensation nor apologized for the deaths.

Notice the astounding difference between the reaction of the US military and the Somali government. To the American military these ten dead farmers are just more “collateral damage” of the War on Terror. Is America “winning” yet?

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From 1998 to 2016, David Zarembka was the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He continues his peacemaking work in East Africa with Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC) and Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT). He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. David is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region.

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David Zarembka

Transforming Communities for Social Change (TCSC)

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