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More than 20 killed in Somalia in alleged Turkish drone strike


By Katharine Houreld and Mohamed Gabobe
Wednesday March 20, 2024

A drone strike just outside the Somali capital killed more than 22 people and wounded 21, including many children, a witness and a relative of the victims told The Washington Post. Two security sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the strike was carried out by a Turkish drone.

The accounts are likely to fuel concerns that the proliferation of drones is causing a huge spike in civilian casualties with little accountability.

Witness Daud Hassan Mohamed said the strike hit a home in an agricultural area in the evening after iftar, the meal when Muslims fasting for the holy month of Ramadan break their day-long fast.

“There was one airstrike that targeted the victims. But when people began rushing to the scene to save them, these same people were hit by more airstrikes,” he said. “What happened was a massacre.”

About 15 children were among the casualties, he said, and several women. The wounded had sought treatment in Madina Hospital in Mogadishu, he said. Doctors at Madina were not immediately available for comment.

Mohamed said the strike hit a house in an area known as Baqdaad or “Baghdad” about seven kilometers from the town of Alifow, northeast of Mogadishu. There had been no fighting in the area immediately preceding the strike, although there had been clashes the previous day in a nearby village between Somali paramilitary forces and Islamist insurgents known as al-Shabab, he said.

Al-Shabab fighters typically do not travel openly to government-held areas such as Mogadishu to seek medical treatment because they would be arrested.

Turkey routinely carries out drone strikes in Somalia in support of Somali government forces. Turkey is a close ally of Mogadishu, is a major donor, has trained Somalia’s Gorgor, or “Eagle,” commandos, and runs the airport and port under commercial contracts. Mogadishu hosts Turkey’s largest military overseas military base.

The Turkish government and the Somali information minister did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman for Africa Command said the United States had not carried out a strike in that area.

Abdulkadir Mayow, a relative of several of the victims, spoke to The Post from Madina Hospital. The 37-year-old gave an incomplete list of the dead and wounded that included four dead women and eight injured women. Among the very severely wounded were five children and two women “clinging to life” in the hospital, he said. Among the wounded is a 4-year-old girl who is the lone survivor of her family, he added.

The strike hit families from the Gorgaarte subclan who were living in the fields after they had fled the fighting around three years ago, he said. His description of the location, time and circumstances of the strike — based on accounts from the wounded — including multiple strikes on those who rushed to the scene, matched the witness’s account.

“I was born and raised in the area where the strike took place but was in Mogadishu when it unfolded. Once I got word of what happened and knew the victims were on their way to Madina Hospital, I rushed here,” he said. “Nothing justified the indiscriminate killing that took place last night. … They’ve endured droughts, floods, conflict and now this.”

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