Family mourns as US drone attacks in Somalia continue

It was a dark warm Sunday night and the Kusow family was gathered outside their home on the edge of Jilib, a small farming town in southern Somalia.

The family of five was having dinner outside their tin-roof house. In the distance, they could hear neighbours listening to the evening news bulletin on radios and the unique slap-slap of anjera, Somali pancakes, being mixed for the next morning.

Kusow Omar Abukar was catching up with his three daughters and his elderly mother over supper. He spent the day, like most residents of this poor town, toiling the land trying to eke out a living for his family.

All day, like most days in this part of the Horn of Africa country, there was a buzzing sound in the air coming from American drones high up in the cloudless blue sky above. Nothing unusual for Jilib residents. People pray no harm happens to them as they do their best to go about their business.

“It was a normal day for us. People here don’t have much. We are poor farmers. We are also peaceful people and have no enemies. We are not in conflict with anyone or any group,” Kusow told Al Jazeera by phone.

But Kusow’s family life changed forever that night – without the slightest warning.

“There was a very loud sound and light. The ground shook and I was thrown in the air, I couldn’t see or hear anything after that.”

Kusow is lucky to be alive – his daughter was not. The family house was hit from the sky – they are not sure if it was a drone or an attack from an aircraft. 

“My daughter was killed,” Kusow said, his voice trembling with anger. “What has she done to anyone to deserve that?”

Nurto died on the spot, her life cut too short. She was only 18 and was disabled. Her younger sister, Fadumo, sustained severe injuries. The 14-year-old has undergone two surgeries and will require further medical help if she is to make it, according to her father. 

“We don’t have good hospitals here. And we can’t afford to take her anywhere else,” Kusow added. The nearest large town to Jilib is Kismayo, some 110km (70 miles) away on bad, unsafe roads.

Fadumo’s grandmother was not spared. Shrapnel from the blast tore into her legs breaking bones. Khadijo Mohamed is 80-year-old and for the first time in more than 70 years is no longer able to stand on her two feet.

“She can’t walk any more. She can’t leave her bed without help. She is an old lady. She is in shock and can barely talk. I don’t know why anyone will want to harm her,” Kusow, her son, told Al Jazeera.

Jilib is controlled by al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-linked group fighting to overthrow Somalia’s internationally recognised government. The armed group was pushed out of the capital, Mogadishu, by Somali forces backed by African Union troops in 2011.

Al-Shabab also lost control of other major towns and cities but continues to carry out attacks in Somalia and the region. In January, the group attacked a military base in neighbouring Kenya killing three Americans – a soldier and two contractors.

Washington routinely carries out attacks in Somalia targeting the group. 

Since 2001, Washington has fired hundreds of missiles worth millions of dollars into this battle-scarred  country on the edge of the Indian Ocean in the hope it does not become a safe haven for al-Qaeda.

The United States carried out its first drone attack in Somalia in 2011. But the frequency of these attacks has significantly increased since President Donald Trump came to power. 



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