US Forces in Yemen: Trump

Mabkhout Ali al Ameri with his 18-month old son Mohammed, shortly after a botched US raid on al Ghayil in January 2017 had killed at least 20 villagers, including Mohammed's mother Fatim Saleh Mohsen. © Iona Craig

Belligerent
US Forces
Country
Yemen
start date
end date
Airwars Grading
Belligerent Assessment
Strike Status
Strike Type

Incident Code

USYEMTr006-C

Incident date

January 29, 2017

Location

الغيل, al Ghayil, Yakla, Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.592945, 45.038975 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

At least twenty civilians, including eleven children and six women, were reportedly killed in a US Navy special forces operation in al-Ghayil village, Yakla region of Bayda province – though the reported civilian toll varied considerably.

A force of US Navy SEALs engaged in a firefight with alleged militants in the village at around 1:30am, before sustaining injuries and one death, and then calling in air support to facilitate their withdrawal.  Though the raid was publicly announced as a “site exploitation mission”, intended to recover sensitive information on AQAP militants, later reporting by NBC revealed that the mission had been to “kill-or-capture” AQAP leadership, possibly including AQAP leader Qassim al-Raymi.

Assessments of civilian casualties varied considerably.  While NBC News reported that Nasser al-Awlaki, the grandfather of Nawar al-Awlaki who was killed during the raid, alleged that some initial total fatality counts were as high as 59, local medics and tribal sources reported around 30 deaths including 10 women and children, according to Reuters.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism worked with a journalist who visited al-Ghayil five days after the raid and spoke with nine survivors, collecting the names of 25 civilians killed as reported by those who lived there.   According to the Bureau, these names were later corroborated in an investigation by Human Rights Watch.

Ten of those civilian names collected by the Bureau were under the age of 18, nine of whom were under the age of 13.  However, of the child casualties reported by the Bureau, Abdallah Ahmed Abad al-Zouba was also listed as an AQAP militant in a statement by the militant group, and is not therefore counted in Airwars’ minimum civilian child casualty figure.  Two further child casualties, not included in the Bureau’s list, were reported in international media.  Osama, the child of AQAP member Arwa al-Baghdadi, was killed during the raid, according to The Intercept and a statement by AQAP.  Multiple reports suggested that a newborn child, born 48 hours later by emergency caesarean section, subsequently died due to injuries sustained by the mother, Arwa al-Baghdadi’s sister-in-law, during the raid.

In its own list of casualties, as reported by Al Araby, AQAP stated that three unnamed children of Abu Abdelileh al-Hadrami were killed in the raid, though no other sources mentioned these children, and it was unclear whether they were the same as others already named by others.  The minimum number of civilian child casualties given by Airwars is therefore eleven, ten of whom are named.  The maximum is given as fifteen, including Abdallah Ahmed Abad al-Zouba and the three unnamed children of Abu Abdelileh al-Hadrami.  The Bureau also reported that five children were injured in the raid.

In the Bureau’s original report it was stated that, of the 25 reported civilian deaths, eight were women, including one who was heavily pregnant, and that two additional women were injured. In the Bureau’s list as published by Al Araby, however, only seven adult female casualties were named. In addition, one of the women listed, Arwa al Baghdadi, was reported to be an AQAP member by multiple sources; some AQAP propaganda channels indicated that she may have been directly involved in combat during the raid, though this was denied by local residents.

Some reports variously suggested that Arwa al-Baghdadi’s unnamed pregnant sister-in-law – the wife of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – either died of injuries sustained during the raid after giving birth, or survived.  It could not be confirmed whether she was among those casualties named by the Bureau or other sources.  AQAP additionally stated that the “wife of Abi Walid al-Hadrami” had been killed in the raid, but this was not confirmed by any other sources, and it was unclear whether she was among those casualties named by other sources.  Airwars’ minimum number of adult female civilian casualties is therefore presently set at six, all of whom are named, with a maximum of ten, including the eight mentioned by the Bureau and the wives of Al-Hadrami and al-Baghdadi.

Eight of the civilian names collected by the Bureau were adult men, of which five were also claimed by AQAP or other sources to be AQAP militants; Airwars’ minimum number of adult male civilian casualties is therefore set at three, all of whom are named.  Cumulatively, twenty minimum civilian fatalities of the raid are given by Airwars, of which nineteen are named.

On February 1st 2017, CENTCOM reported that civilian non-combatants were likely killed “in the midst of” the firefight, and that this “may include children”.  According to this report, “the known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist U.S. forces in contact against a determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions, and U.S. special operations members receiving fire from all sides to include houses and other buildings”.

On February 28th, a Pentagon official told NBC News that the Pentagon did not dispute the numbers reported by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. However, in March, General Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee that US forces killed between four and twelve civilians casualties in the raid. A later investigation by NBC included US intelligence sources saying sixteen civilians in total died as a result of the operation, contradicting Votel’s March comments. NBC determined from official documents verified by US intelligence that ten children under 13 had been killed.   A later internal Joint Special Operations Command report, obtained by The Intercept in December 2018, described the raid as resulting in “minimal civilian casualties”.

Numbers of reported combatant casualties also exhibited considerable variance.  One US soldier, Navy SEAL William ‘Ryan’ Owens, was killed by fire from alleged militants, while at least three further US personnel were injured, some during the “hard landing” of an Osprey helicopter during the raid.

US Central Command initially reported that fourteen AQAP militants were killed during the raid, including “two longstanding AQAP operational planners and weapons experts”, Sultan al-Dhahab and Abd-al-Ra’uf al-Dhahab.  Some local sources, as well as an AQAP statement, further suggested that Saif al-Jawqfi, an 80 year-old killed during the raid, had connections to AQAP.  According to “local sources”, reported by Al Jazeera, an AQAP leader, Abu Abu Barzan, was also killed, though other sources did not mention his name, and he did not appear in casualty lists given by either AQAP or the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.  According to AFP, one local Yemeni source initially stated that as many as 41 total “presumed militants” had been killed.  The internal Pentagon report obtained by The Intercept in December 2018 gave an overall number of 35 enemy combatants killed.

Several reports indicated that at least three of those killed during the raid were AQAP members.  Multiple sources suggested that the son of a local tribesman, Mohammed al-Ameri, Arwa al-Baghdadi and her brother Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi were “low-level” AQAP militants; all three were killed during the raid. Arwa and Abu Bakr were being sheltered in Mohammed al-Ameri’s house at the time of the raid, and one source indicated that this house was also used by passing AQAP militants.

Further, some witnesses suggested that additional AQAP militants may have joined the firefight from the surrounding area during the raid.  To reflect these issues, Airwars’ minimum estimate of militants killed in the raid is set at three.  Correspondingly, the maximum number of civilian casualties is set at 56, reflecting the highest alleged death toll of 59, less the three minimum militant casualties recorded by Airwars.  The maximum number of combatant casualties is set at 42, to reflect the highest alleged number of militant casualties, in addition to the single US death.

However, local sources and on-the-ground reporting cast significant doubt upon the more substantial militant casualty figures given by the US military and some other sources.  Both local residents and Yemeni state sources, as well as an investigation by the Associated Press, disputed that Sultan al-Dhahab or Abd-al-Ra’uf al-Dhahab were AQAP militants.  Instead, multiple sources, including Yemeni government army moral guidance director Major General Mohsen Kosroof, claimed that Abd-al-Ra’uf al-Dhahab was instead a leader of US-backed pro-Hadi militia forces, and that he had returned to Yakla to distribute payment to fighters.  Both are listed as civilians in the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s report on the raid.

In an interview with PBS Frontline, Abdulilah al-Dhahab, brother of Sultan and Abd-al-Ra’uf, said that neither were AQAP militants, and also stated that Abd-al-Ra’uf was a leader in the US-backed anti-Houthi forces.  The Yemeni government confirmed to PBS Frontline that Abd-al-Ra’uf held this position.  Abdulilah al-Dhahab went into hiding in the aftermath of the raid, according to Frontline, and has since been the target of several reported US raids.

In an investigation for The Intercept, journalist Iona Craig suggested that many of the combatants encountered by US forces in the al-Ghayil were likely scared civilians acting in self-defence, rather than AQAP militants, having previously been attacked by Houthi forces. “If you want to hunt al-Qaida, you can find them in the surrounding mountains not in this small village… The Americans’ information was wrong,” said Aziz Mabkhout, the village chief, according to Associated Press.  PBS Frontline later published witness testimony, suggesting that the village had been attacked by Houthis hours before the raid, and that the villagers initially believed US forces to also be Houthis.

In an initial statement, AQAP indicated that the raid had killed “only women and children… with some tribal leaders who have no connections” to the group, while a statement by AQAP leader al-Raymi listed fourteen men as dead, but did not clearly state that they were AQAP members.  Eight of those names given were listed with a nom de guerre, indicating likely membership.  According to Iona Craig of The Intercept, eight names given by AQAP were not included in the list of the dead that villagers provided to her, and were not known to local residents.  They were also not given in the Bureau’s list of casualties.  Family members disputed that the remaining six men were AQAP militants.  These six names included Mohammed al-Ameri, Sultan al-Dhahab, Abd-al-Ra’uf al-Dhahab, Saif al-Jawqfi, and seventeen year-old Abdallah Ahmed Abad al-Zouba, as well as Abdallah Mabkhout al-Ameri.

Similarly, both local residents and commentators disputed the reports by US Central Command that female fighters had been involved in the firefight.  Pentagon spokesperson Jeff Davis stated that “female fighters ran to pre-established positions as though they had trained to be ready” to fight during the raid.  Some AQAP propaganda channels reported that women had been involved in combat during the raid.  However, all of those local residents spoken to by Iona Craig for The Intercept “strongly challenged this accusation, citing a culture that views the prospect of women fighting, as Nesma al Ameri put it, as ‘eib’ — shameful and dishonorable — and pointing out the practical implausibility of women clutching babies while also firing rifles”.  It is unclear what proportion of US-reported enemy casualties, if any, female fighters constituted.

According to both global media and local sources, the raid began in the early hours of the morning of January 29th.  Around thirty US SEALs and Emirati special forces entered the village, accompanied by military dogs. After taking wounded and one fatality – Navy SEAL William ‘Ryan’ Owens, US forces called in air support, including two Marine Corps CV-22 Osprey tilt rotor vertical take-off and landing aircraft, along with AV-8B Harrier jump jets and attack helicopters.  During attempts to evacuate the US-Emirati forces, one Osprey helicopter experienced a “hard landing”, and was then intentionally destroyed by US aircraft.  Multiple sources suggested that the overall firefight lasted for around an hour.

Local sources alleged that US forces began firing on the village and killing indiscriminately, causing civilians to take up arms in self-defence.  One anonymous local resident told Reuters that the “operation began at dawn when a drone bombed the home of Abdulraoof al-Dhahab and then helicopters flew up and unloaded paratroopers at his house and killed everyone inside”, and, subsequently, “the gunmen opened fire at the U.S. soldiers who left the area, and the helicopters bombed the gunmen and a number of homes and led to a large number of casualties”.

According to an investigation by Human Rights Watch, “men in al-Dahab’s house heard people approaching and called out. When they got no response, they began shooting”. Another witness said that “the men in [al-Dahab’s] house fired warning shots into the air and that the forces outside then opened fire on the home”.  Some sources reported that this advance was accompanied, or shortly preceded, by aerial strikes against the village. According to Alwaght, these targeted “a number of locations where al-Qaeda elements are believed to be entrenched in the area, including a school and an al-Qaeda prison”.  Others told Human Rights watch that “[Mohammed] al-Ameri’s house was destroyed by an aerial bomb soon after fighting began, killing at least nine people, including him, four women, and four children”.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that eleven-year-old Ahmed al-Dhahab was one of the first killed in the raid.  His father, Abdelilah Ahmed al-Dhahab, told the Bureau that “when my son Ahmed saw them, he couldn’t tell that they were soldiers because it was dark… He asked them ‘Who are you?’ but the men shot him. He was the first killed. No one thought that marines would descend on our homes to kill us, kill our children and kill our women”.  Abdelilah al-Dhahab later told PBS Frontline that his son was shot through the heart by US forces when he saw them, prompting the family to return fire.

Abdullah al-Dhahab, whose son, Nasser, was killed in the raid told the Bureau “that his son had gone to visit family members in the Yakla area during the midterm school holiday… ‘Nasser was very smart, and he was special to me. He was my friend, despite being young, and I trusted his decisions. … The American raid killed my son, a student in the eighth grade. … There needs to be accountability for those who carried out this crime before American courts'”.

According to witness Sadiq al Jawfi, both Abd-al-Ra’uf al-Dhahab and Sultan al-Dhahab were shot as they exited their home, as well as 80-year-old Saif al Jawfi.  Witnesses, including Abdelilah al-Dhahab, told the Bureau that US forces fired indiscriminately on the home of 65-year-old Abdallah Mabkhout al-Ameri, attacking everyone who left their home.  Abdallah was a survivor of a previous US drone strike in the area, in 2013, which had hit his wedding.  Saleh Mohsen al-Ameri said that US forces “attacked the mosque, school, medical unit and a prison in the area…  Anybody leaving the house was hit and killed… people in here have nothing but Kalashnikovs” to defend themselves.  According to The Intercept, the firefight escalated as others from the area came to support the al-Ghayil villagers.  Some sources claimed that AQAP militants from the area joined the battle, but others mentioned only villagers.

Further reported civilian casualties came as the result of US close air support.  Aziz al-Ameri reported that “[attack helicopters] were shooting at anything moving, anything that moved they shot, human or animal, even donkeys”.  Several reports suggested that multiple houses and buildings were destroyed by air support.  Speaking with Iona Craig of The Intercept, Nesma al Ameri, “an elderly village matriarch who lost four family members in the raid, described how the attack helicopters began firing down on anything that moved”.  Various sources alleged that 30-year-old Fatim Saleh Mohsen al-Ameri was shot in the back of the head and killed while fleeing fire with her 18-month-old son and her other children.  Her son, Mohammed, survived, but was injured.   “We pulled him out from his mother’s lap. He was covered in her blood,” said 11-year-old Basil Ahmed Abad al­ Zouba.  Fahad Ali al-Ameri said that his three-month-old daughter was killed in her crib when a missile hit his home.  The Intercept reported that three children of Mohammed al-Ameri were killed when an airstrike hit his home.

Nawar al-Awlaki, an eight year-old girl visiting her uncle in the village, was reportedly killed while hiding in a house, after fire from a gunship hit her in her neck.  According to her uncle, Abdelilah al-Dahab, she bled to death over the course of two hours. Her grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, who was not present at the time of the raid, told NBC News that “when the attack came, they were sitting in the house, and a bullet struck her in her neck at 2:30 past midnight. Other children in the same house were killed.”  According to Nasser, US forces “entered another house and killed everybody in it, including all the women. They burned the house”.  Nawar al-Awlaki’s father, the American preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed by a US drone strike in 2011.  Her sixteen-year-old American-born brother was also killed by a 2011 US drone strike.

Reporting by Human Rights Watch further suggested that those injured during the raid struggled to get medical care.  “Dr. Ameen Mabrook, director of the “26th September” hospital in al-Joubah district in Marib, a five-hour drive from the Yakla area and the nearest hospital that provides neonatal care, said that the hospital received three people wounded in the raid – a young man shot in the leg, a pregnant woman, and a small girl”.  The pregnant woman, the sister-in-law of Arwa al-Baghdadi, had been shot in the stomach, and gave birth to a child who later died on January 31st due to these injuries.

This picture of events strongly contradicts reports from US officials and US Central Command.  In a CENTCOM press release, it was stated that the US force came under attack from a “determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions, and U.S. special operations members receiving fire from all sides to include houses and other buildings”.  Speaking with Reuters, three US officials said that “the attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists”.  “Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has a horrifying history of hiding women and children within militant operating areas and terrorist camps, and continuously shows a callous disregard for innocent lives”, said CENTCOM spokesperson Col. John J. Thomas.

In its May 2018 annual civilian casualty report, the US Department of Defense stated that “there were credible reports of civilian casualties caused by U.S. military actions in Yemen against AQAP and ISIS during 2017”, but did not specify which specific actions these credible reports referred to.  Overall, the Department of Defense assessed that there were credible reports of “approximately 499 civilians killed and approximately 169 civilians injured during 2017”, as a result of US military actions in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

The incident occured at approximately 1:30 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (16)

Family members (4)

Family members (2)

Family members (3)

Family members (4)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    20 – 56
  • (11–15 children6–10 women3–8 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    7
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–42
  • Belligerents reported injured
    3–6

Sources (90) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (46) [ collapse]

  • The Pentagon said that an Osprey helicopter had experienced a "hard landing" during the raid, allegedly shown here (Al Jazeera, January 29th 2017)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki was reportedly fatally wounded after US forces fired upon the house she was hiding in during the raid. Photos of her body, shown here, circulated online after the raid. (Alshahed News, January 29th 2017)
  • Interior view of a building allegedly destroyed during the raid (Alahd, January 29th 2017)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    An alleged child casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@amerAlhamiqaniu, January 29th 2017)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Abd al-Raoud al-Dahab was reportedly killed during the January 29th 2017 raid. The US claimed that he was an AQAP militant, but other sources disputed this, instead suggesting that he was pro-Hadi government fighter (@shahd201062, January 29th 2017)
  • Abd al-Raoud al-Dahab was reportedly killed during the January 29th 2017 raid. The US claimed that he was an AQAP militant, but other sources disputed this, instead suggesting that he was pro-Hadi government fighter (@shahd201062, January 29th 2017)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    A compilation of alleged child victims of the raid (@ahmadnaser4444, January 29th 2017)
  • A car allegedly destroyed during the January 29th 2017 raid (@almisbarr, January 29th 2017)
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    An alleged child casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@m_alsallaly, January 29th 2017)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    An alleged child casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@mazenyemen, January 29th 2017)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    An alleged child casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@mazenyemen, January 29th 2017)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    An alleged child casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@abu_japheth, January 29th 2017)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    An alleged child casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@abu_japheth, January 29th 2017)
  • Alleged remnants of US medical supplies from the site of the raid (Elyamnelaraby, January 29th 2017)
  • Alleged remnants of US medical supplies from the site of the raid (Elyamnelaraby, January 29th 2017)
  • Abd al-Raoud al-Dahab was reportedly killed during the January 29th 2017 raid. The US claimed that he was an AQAP militant, but other sources disputed this, instead suggesting that he was pro-Hadi government fighter (Tehama Press, January 29th 2017)
  • "William Owens holds a photo of his son, Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens, in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida." (NBC, October 1st 2017) William "Ryan" Owens was killed during the raid.
  • "William Owens stands with his son, William "Ryan" Owens, in front of a helicopter in a family photo." (NBC, February 27th 2017) US Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens was killed during the raid.
  • Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki was reportedly fatally wounded after US forces fired upon the house she was hiding in during the raid. (@nationalyemen, February 3rd 2017)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    A newborn child allegedly died, 48 hours after the raid, due to wounds sustained by the mother during the raid. Some sources alleged that the mother was the nine-months pregnant sister-in-law of Arwa al-Baghdadi, and had been shot in the stomach. (@karot2525, January 31st 2017)
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    Pro-AQAP media channels used images from the raid in propaganda efforts (@ludowizze, January 30th 2017)
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    An alleged casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@doamuslims, January 29th 2017)
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    An alleged child casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@doamuslims, January 29th 2017)
  • The Pentagon said that an Osprey helicopter had experienced a "hard landing" during the raid, allegedly shown here (@defence_blog, January 29th 2017)
  • The Pentagon said that an Osprey helicopter, of the type shown here, had experienced a "hard landing" during the raid (@defence_blog, January 29th 2017)
  • "Ryan Owens, left, with his father Bill Owens." (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • "CPO Ryan Owens, a Navy SEAL who died in a raid on al Qaeda in Yemen in January 2017" (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • A map of Yemen, produced by NBC News, showing the location of Yakla, where the January 29th raid took place (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • The interior of a building damaged during the January 29th 2017 raid (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • A building damaged during the January 29th 2017 raid (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • "Relatives of those who died, including the seven children of Fatim Saleh Mohsen al-Ameri" (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Febuary 9th 2017)
  • Abdallah Mabkhout al-Ameri was killed during the raid. He had survived a previous US strike on his wedding in 2013. (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 9th 2017)
  • Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki was reportedly fatally wounded after US forces fired upon the house she was hiding in during the raid. (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 9th 2017)
  • Interior view of a building allegedly destroyed during the raid (Alahd, January 29th)
  • A map of al-Ghayil, published by The Intercept (March 9th 2017), detailing the locations of the raid
  • A girl in the remains of a building, reportedly destroyed during the January 29th 2017 raid (The Intercept, March 9th 2017)
  • Children in the ruins of a house, destroyed during the January 29th 2017 raid (The Intercept, March 9th 2017)
  • The village of al-Ghayil, in which the raid took place (The Intercept, March 9th 2017)
  • "Mabkhout Ali al Ameri stands with his 18-month-old son, Mohammed, in the village of al Ghayil in Yemen’s al Bayda province. Mabkhout’s wife, Fatim Saleh Mohsen, was shot in the back of the head by helicopter gunship fire as she fled with Mohammed in her arms during a U.S. raid on January 29, 2017. The vehicle in the background was also destroyed during the assault." (The Intercept, March 9th 2017)
  • Buildings damaged during the raid (Reprieve, February 2nd 2017)
  • The interior of a building damaged during the raid (@doamuslims, January 29th 2017)
  • Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki was reportedly fatally wounded after US forces fired upon the house she was hiding in during the raid. (Yemenpress, January 29th 2017)
  • Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki was reportedly fatally wounded by US fire during the raid (CNN, January 31st 2017)
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    Video footage of a child allegedly killed during the raid
  • Alleged video footage of al-Ghayil village, showing damage caused in the raid.
  • PBS Frontline visited the site of the Yakla raid, recording interviews with eyewitnesses of the raid

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a firefight and several strikes in the village of Al Ghayil (الغيل‎), for which the coordinates are: 14.592945, 45.038975. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • Tagged satellite imagery of the event from The Intercept.

    Imagery:
    The Intercept, 2017

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Credible / Substantiated
    The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties regrettably occurred.
  • Given reason for civilian harm
    Killed by strike blast, Unseen at time of engagement, Inside target building, Killed in adjacent structure
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    4–12
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Mar 9, 2017
  • Feb 1, 2017
  • A team designated by the operational task force commander has concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during a raid in Yemen Jan. 29. Casualties may include children. The ongoing credibility assessment seeks to determine if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties in the ferocious firefight that also claimed the life of Navy Seal Team Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens and wounded three other U.S. service members. The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist U.S. forces in contact against a determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions, and U.S. special operations members receiving fire from all sides to include houses and other buildings. This complex situation included small arms fire, hand grenades and close air support fire. Analysts are carefully assessing whether additional non-combatant civilians that were not visible to the assault force at the time were mixed in with combatants. The raid resulted in the seizure of materials and information that is yielding valuable intelligence to help partner nations deter and prevent future terror attacks in Yemen and across the world. “Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula has a horrifying history of hiding women and children within militant operating areas and terrorist camps, and continuously shows a callous disregard for innocent lives,” said Col. John J. Thomas, U.S. Central Command spokesman. “That’s what makes cases like these so especially tragic.”

  • Senator Kaine: If I might, one last question with respect to Yemen. We have had hearings in this committee about the ground operation in Yemen, which to my knowledge was the first ground operation by DOD forces in Yemen. There were a number of questions raised by that. I do not want to go into the classified briefing we had, but questions about was the mission compromised in some way in the advance. What intel was gained? There was some after the-fact justification of the mission using video that actually had been taken in another mission. Is the DOD conducting an ongoing investigation of that mission to determine all lessons learned, what worked, what did not, and what we can do better? General Votel: Senator, thank you, and let me answer this a little more comprehensively. First and foremost, I am responsible for this mission. I am the CENTCOM Commander and I am responsible for what is done in my region and what is not done in my region. So I accept the responsibility for this. We lost a lot on this operation. We lost a valued operator. We had people wounded. We caused civilian casualties. We lost an expensive aircraft. We did gain some valuable information that will be helpful for us. Our intention here was to improve our knowledge against this threat, a threat that poses a direct threat to us here in the homeland. And that was what we were focused on. There have been a number of investigations that have been initiated. Most of these are regulatory or statutory in terms of things that we normally do. When we lose an aircraft, there is both a safety investigation to ensure that we disseminate lessons learned for the broader fleet, and there is also a collateral investigation that tries to determine the specific reason why that happened and establishes accountability over that. We have done an investigation into the civilian casualties. That has been completed. The helicopter investigations are ongoing. The civilian casualty aspect has been completed, and we have made a determination based on our best information available that we did cause casualties, somewhere between 4 and 12 casualties that we accept -- I accept responsibility for. We have done a line of duty investigation, again a statutory investigation, on the death of Senior Chief Owens that determined that he was in the line of investigation. The key mechanism that I have, Senator, is the after action review, and this is something we do with every operation we do. And the intention here is to review the operation in great detail to understand exactly what happened. And it is done with the chain of command in place. And we have done that and I have presided over that. Based on my experience, nearly 37 years of service, I have certainly appointed a lot of investigations and I have been through a lot of these after-action reviews. When I go through these things, there are some specific things that I am looking for. I am looking for information gaps where we cannot explain what happened in a particular situation or we have conflicting information between members of the organization. I am looking for indicators of incompetence or poor decision-making or bad judgment throughout all of this. So what I can tell you is that we did an exhaustive after-action review on this. I presided over that. It went down to a level that included people who were on the specific objective. As a result of that, I was satisfied that none of those indicators that I identified to you were present. I think we had a good understanding of exactly what happened on this objective, and we have been able to pull lessons learned out of that that we will apply in future operations. And as a result, I made the determination that there was no need for an additional investigation into this particular operation. Senator Kaine: So the only investigation that continues is the investigation -- or the loss of the helicopters is still not complete. General Votel: That is correct, Senator. Senator Kaine: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair. Chairman McCain: Just to follow up, General, there has been a lot of conversation about this particular mission and the point that some of us are trying to make that the heroism and sacrifice of those who served has nothing to do with the mission itself. In other words, we honor their sacrifice no matter what happened in the mission. And when you have women and children killed, as you pointed out, the loss of a $70 million aircraft, you did not capture anyone as was part of the mission, that mission is not a success. But that happens in war. There is a thing called the fog of war. They did the best they could under very difficult circumstances. And I hope in the process of your investigation, when heavy fire was encountered why the decision was made to continue the mission -- I still do not think this committee has an answer to that question. But it does not question the loyalty and sacrifice and bravery when we question the mission. And unless we tell the American people the truth, the absolute truth, then we are going to revisit another war a long time ago where we did tell the American people the truth and we paid a very heavy price for it. There are 55,000 names engraved in black granite not far from here, and the American people were not told the truth about whether we were succeeding or failing in that war. And then because of that, it all collapsed. So I hope that we will not forget that lesson, and in no way does it detract from the heroism and professionalism and sacrifice of the brave men and women who serve under your command.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

An estimated 14 al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists were killed yesterday during a raid by U.S. forces in Yemen, according to a U.S. Central Command news release issued today.
One U.S. service member died of wounds suffered in the raid, and three others were wounded, the release said.
The names of the deceased and wounded service members are being withheld pending notification of next-of-kin, the release said.
“In a successful raid against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula headquarters, brave U.S. forces were instrumental in killing an estimated 14 AQAP members and capturing important intelligence that will assist the U.S. in preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world,” President Donald J. Trump said in a statement issued today.
Trump added, “Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism. The sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces, and the families they leave behind, are the backbone of the liberty we hold so dear as Americans, united in our pursuit of a safer nation and a freer world. My deepest thoughts and humblest prayers are with the family of this fallen service member. I also pray for a quick and complete recovery for the brave service members who sustained injuries.”
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our elite service members,” Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, Centcom’s commander, said in the Centcom release. “The sacrifices are very profound in our fight against terrorists who threaten innocent peoples across the globe.”
A U.S. military aircraft assisting in the operation experienced a hard landing at a nearby location, resulting in an additional U.S. injury, according to the Centcom release. That aircraft was unable to fly after the landing. The aircraft was then intentionally destroyed in place.
The raid is one in a series of aggressive moves against terrorist planners in Yemen and worldwide, according to the Centcom release. Similar operations have produced intelligence on al-Qaida logistics, recruiting and financing efforts.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    20 – 56
  • (11–15 children6–10 women3–8 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    7
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–42
  • Belligerents reported injured
    3–6

Sources (90) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr098-C

Incident date

September 9, 2017

Location

السرو ، بالقرب من قريضة, Al Saru, in the vicinity of Quraidah, Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.165570, 45.796766 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Two US drone strikes in the Al Saru area of the Sama’a district in Bayda governorate, on the afternoon of September 9th 2017, reportedly killed at least one alleged AQAP militant and as many as four civilians, according to some sources.

In a later email to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a US Central Command spokesperson confirmed that three strikes were conducted in Bayda governorate on September 9th, killing “several” AQAP members.

According to three local-language sources, including Yemen Shabab, local reports indicated that four civilians or “paramedics” were killed by a US drone as they attempted to aid two alleged militants targeted by an initial strike while travelling on a motorbike in the Al Saru area, near the village of Qareidha.

Others suggested that those killed in the secondary strike were AQAP militants, though reports differed over the number of deaths.  Al-Arabi reported that, according to local sources, two “gunmen” were killed in the initial strike, followed by a further three who came to the site. According to Al-Masdar Online, one militant was killed and one injured in the first strike, while three were killed and “others” wounded in the second.

A “security source” told Khabar Agency that two suspected militants were killed in an initial strike, and that two other people were killed when they went to the aid of those killed in the first strike. It was not clear whether those reportedly killed in the second attack were militants or civilians.

Accounting for these reports, Airwars has assessed that a minimum of two civilians were reported killed in this strike, with a maximum of four. Between two and five militants were reportedly killed in the strike. Three belligerents were reportedly wounded, accounting for suggestions that one was injured in the first strike as well as plural “others” in the second.

This strike or strikes came alongside a further reported US action in the same area (USYEMTr100), which reportedly killed at least two alleged AQAP militants in the village of Qareidha.

Several sources gave varying estimates of the overall death toll from the three strikes.  Most suggested that a total of seven militants were killed or “killed and wounded”. At the lower end, one source, @Yemenat, suggested that five AQAP members were killed and one wounded. Another Twitter source suggested that ten militants were “killed and injured”. These overall figures fit into the casualty ranges assessed by Airwars for USYEMTr098-C and USYEMTr100.

While many sources specifically located the strikes in or near Qareidha, a few – including Reuters – indicated that the strikes took place in the area of two villages, named by some as Qareidha and Al Thubayb.

According to Al-Arabi, local sources said that “Al-Qaeda militants arrived in the al-Silo district last August, and their appearances indicate that they are not from the area”.  One local language Twitter source, @YemaniNet, suggested that two of those killed were AQAP leaders, though no other sources reported this, and it was unclear to which specific strike the source was referring.

In its May 2018 annual civilian casualty report, the US Department of Defense stated that “there were credible reports of civilian casualties caused by U.S. military actions in Yemen against AQAP and ISIS during 2017”, but did not specify which specific actions these reports referred to.  Overall, the Department of Defense assessed that there were credible reports of “approximately 499 civilians killed and approximately 169 civilians injured during 2017”, as a result of US military actions in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

Responding to Airwars’ publication of its Yemen dataset and accompanying report in October 2020, CENTCOM dismissed all but two civilian harm claims under President Trump, asserting that “USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020… The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen.   Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review.”

The incident occured in the afternoon.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–5
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–3

Sources (51) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (6) [ collapse]

  • Several reports suggested that a US drone strike targeted two alleged AQAP militants on a motorbike in Al-Saru area, Sama'a district of Bayda, killing at least one (@demolinari, September 11th 2017)
  • US Central Command confirmed that three strikes took place on September 9th 2017 in Bayda governorate (@demolinari, September 11th 2017)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Al Saru (السرو) area, allegedly in the vicinity of Quraidah (قريظة) village. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Quraidah are: 14.165570, 45.796766.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • Via email: U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) continues to focus on ways to minimize civilian casualties during its military operations. We assess or review all reports of civilian casualties because such assessments or reviews help us identify ways to improve our operations and counter misinformation and propaganda. We routinely share the results of every one of our assessments in Department of Defense (DoD) reports to Congress, including annual reports, many of which are publicly available. We also share the results of our assessments or reviews with the public via the USCENTCOM website and our statements to the media. Individuals wishing to understand U.S. military operations in Yemen more fully should consult these official sources of information. USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020. Of the information AirWars provided, one strike on September 14, 2017, was assessed to have caused injuries to two civilians. Also, as previously released by USCENTCOM to the public in February 2017, USCENTCOM acknowledged there may have been civilian casualties during a raid on January 29, 2017. The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen. Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review. Consistent with our mission, our authorities, and our obligations under the law of war, USCENTCOM will continue to conduct military actions in Yemen when required to protect the Nation and our allies and partners from al Qa’ida and ISIS terror cells that are committed to inflicting terror. In every strike and raid, we take careful measures to minimize civilian harm and take responsibility for our actions. When our military operations result in reports of civilian harm, we will continue to assess the credibility of such reports to help us identify ways to improve our operations and respond as appropriate.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

[Statement from CENTCOM to Bureau of Investigative Journalism] U.S. forces conducted three strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Al Bayda Governorate, Yemen, killing several Al Qaeda terrorists on Sep. 9.

In coordination with the government of Yemen, U.S. forces are conducting a series of sustained counterterrorism operations in Yemen against AQAP to degrade the group's ability to hold territory and coordinate external terror attacks.

Additionally, this year, the U.S. has conducted more than 100 strikes against AQAP militants, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 4
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–5
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–3

Sources (51) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr141-C

Incident date

January 26–27, 2018

Location

المصينعه, Al Mushainaah, Shabwa, Yemen

Geolocation

14.351505, 46.762544 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Seven civilians from two families, all men, were reportedly killed by a US drone strike in or near Al Mushainaah village, in the Saeed district of Shabwa governorate, at around midnight between January 26th-27th 2018. At the time of the strike, the men were reportedly searching for a missing 14-year old boy who was reportedly visiting Al-Qaeda militants.

Mwatana for Human Rights named the men killed as Saleh Muhammad Bin Olaywah (49 years old), Ziyad Saleh Muhammad Bin Olaywah (20 years old), Khalid Faraj Muhammad Bin Olaywah (37 years old), Ali Faraj Muhammad Bin Olaywah (34 years old), Nabil Salem Ba’adlan (40 years old), Mubarak Muhammad Saleh Hudaij (41 years old), and Najeeb Muhammad Saleh Lasma’ (25 years old). Mwatana found “no credible indication” that any of those killed were associated with any armed groups.

According to reporting by Associated Press, Saleh Muhammad Bin Olaywah’s son, 14-year old Abdullah, had gone with a friend to an AQAP camp in the mountains near Al-Masna’ah, after being told that the group was giving away free motorcycles. Speaking later with PBS Frontline, Abdullah said that “AQAP were messaging me and messaging my friends… They said, ‘Don’t worry, nothing will happen to you.’ So we went, although I didn’t really want to.”

Saleh, a taxi driver, reportedly went with his eldest son, Ziyad, and his brother-in-law, Nabil, to search for his younger son in Ataq.  They were later joined by two of Saleh’s nephews, Ali and Khalid. In the search, Saleh also enlisted the help of someone he knew from the al-Tolsi family, Mubarak, a beekeeper who knew the Al Mushainaah area. Mubarak’s nephew, Najeeb, a geology student, also joined the group.

The seven men were reportedly killed as they waited in a car at the foot of the mountains, in the Sar’ area, while a lookout took a message to the AQAP camp.  Sources indicated that two missiles from a drone targeted the vehicle. Ahmad Ali Al Arib Al Tawsali, a relative, told Mwatana that “It was a direct hit, killing everyone that was in the car, and their bodies were turned into nothing more than burnt body parts”.

Abdullah’s uncle, Ali Saleh, told PBS Frontline that Ziyad and Nabil were both members of the Yemeni army. “They were fighting the Houthis with no relationship to any illegal or terrorist organizations”, Ali said.  He also told PBS Frontline that he was now the sole provider for over thirty family members, and wanted the US to pay compensation for the strike.

A spokesperson for US Central Command later confirmed to Long War Journal that a strike had targeted AQAP in Shabwa on January 26th, but gave no further information on casualties or exact location.  There were no other known reports of strikes in Shabwa on that day.

Other sources, including Xinhua and AFP, suggested that those killed were AQAP militants, according to anonymous Yemeni officials.

Protests took place in Ataq in Shabwa in response to the strike. Al Jazeera reported that Saleh al-Aishi al-Ateeqi, another relative, “blamed the Arab coalition at war with Yemen for the deaths, saying it was responsible for the country’s airspace and protecting civilian lives”.

Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars, similarly indicating that seven had died in the strike.

In its annual civilian casualty report to Congress issued in April 2019, the US Department of Defense stated that it had assessed “no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from US military actions in Yemen during 2018″.

Responding to Airwars’ publication of its Yemen dataset and accompanying report in October 2020, CENTCOM dismissed all but two civilian harm claims under President Trump, asserting that “USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020… The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen.   Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review.”

The incident occured around midnight.

The victims were named as:

Family members (5)

Family members (2)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    7
  • (7 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    7

Sources (25) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (19) [ collapse]

  • Ziyad Olaywah, the eldest son of Saleh, was reportedly one of those killed in the strike. According to some sources, he was a member of the Yemeni army. (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Najeeb Lasma', a geology student, was reportedly one of those killed in the strike (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • The family of those killed keep fragments of the missiles which allegedly killed seven civilians on January 26th 2018, which appears to show that they were of US manufacture (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Abdullah Saleh Olwayah (right) with his father, Saleh Olwayah, in Mukalla. Saleh was reportedly killed while out searching for his son. (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Relatives told AP that they had gathered these letters from Yemeni city council chiefs to prove that those killed were not AQAP members (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Abdullah Saleh Olaywah reportedly left his village when AQAP militants promised free motorcycles (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • The daughters of Khaled Olaywah, one of those reportedly killed in the strike (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Relatives provided AP with this image of the interior of the car after the strike (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Ali Olaywah, the nephew of Saleh, was reportedly one of those killed in the strike (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • The strike reportedly killed all seven men as they waited in a car at the foot of the mountains near Al-Mosna'a (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Khaled Olaywah, the nephew of Saleh, was reportedly one of those killed in the strike (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Mubarek Hudaij, a beekeeper, was reportedly one of those killed in the strike. He and his nephew, Najeeb, joined the search for Abdullah when Saleh called on them to help. (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Saleh Olaywah, a taxi driver, was reportedly killed when he went searching for his son, Abdullah (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Nabil Ba’adlan, the brother-in-law of Saleh, was one of those reportedly killed in the strike. According to some sources, he was a member of the Yemeni army. (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • A map, produced by AP, shows the location of Al-Shaaba, the family's home village, and Al Masna’ah, the location of the strike. The map shows the relative locations of Saleh and Abdullah when the latter texted the former that he was with AQAP militants. (AP, November 14th 2018)

Geolocation notes

Reports on the incident mention the village of Al Mushainaah ( المصينعه) for which the generic coordinates are: 14.351505, 46.762544.  Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    No reason given
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • Apr 29, 2019
  • C. U.S. military action in Yemen against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS During 2018, U.S. forces deployed to Yemen continued to work towards disrupting and degrading the terrorist threat posed by AQAP and ISIS. U.S. forces conducted 36 airstrikes against AQAP and ISIS operatives and facilities in Yemen and supported United Arab Emirates and Yemen-led efforts to clear AQAP from Shabwah Governorate. DoD has no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military actions in Yemen during 2018.

  • Via email: U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) continues to focus on ways to minimize civilian casualties during its military operations. We assess or review all reports of civilian casualties because such assessments or reviews help us identify ways to improve our operations and counter misinformation and propaganda. We routinely share the results of every one of our assessments in Department of Defense (DoD) reports to Congress, including annual reports, many of which are publicly available. We also share the results of our assessments or reviews with the public via the USCENTCOM website and our statements to the media. Individuals wishing to understand U.S. military operations in Yemen more fully should consult these official sources of information. USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020. Of the information AirWars provided, one strike on September 14, 2017, was assessed to have caused injuries to two civilians. Also, as previously released by USCENTCOM to the public in February 2017, USCENTCOM acknowledged there may have been civilian casualties during a raid on January 29, 2017. The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen. Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review. Consistent with our mission, our authorities, and our obligations under the law of war, USCENTCOM will continue to conduct military actions in Yemen when required to protect the Nation and our allies and partners from al Qa’ida and ISIS terror cells that are committed to inflicting terror. In every strike and raid, we take careful measures to minimize civilian harm and take responsibility for our actions. When our military operations result in reports of civilian harm, we will continue to assess the credibility of such reports to help us identify ways to improve our operations and respond as appropriate.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In a major move toward transparency, US Central Command (CENTCOM) provided details to FDD’s Long War Journal on US air strikes against Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. Since early 2017, the military previously provided little information on the Yemen air campaign, typically providing only an aggregate number and limited detail on high-value target strikes.

In an email to LWJ, CENTCOM’s Major Josh T. Jacques disclosed the dates and locations of the last five months of strikes in Yemen. The information revealed that since the beginning of 2018, the US campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen has focused on three governorates: Hadramout (eight strikes), Al Bayda (17), and Shabwa (three), demonstrating the eastern reach of the terrorist group.

Last year’s publicized strikes were concentrated in the central governorates of Al Bayda and Marib.

Location of US air strikes against AQAP and the Islamic State in 2018:

– Jan. 2018: Ten total strikes. The US conducted 8 strikes against AQAP in Bayda on Jan. 1, 3, 9, 12, 13, 20, 25, and 29. An additional strike against AQAP in Shabwah occurred on Jan. 26. An additional strike against the Islamic State occurred on Jan. 12 in Bayda.

– Feb. 2018: Six total strikes, all in Al Bayda governorate. Strikes occurred on Feb. 7, 11, 12, 16, and 24 (two strikes were conducted on Feb. 24).

– Mar. 2018: Seven total strikes, six of which occurred in Hadramout. Strikes occurred on Mar. 4 (two strikes), 5, 7, 8, and 13. An additional strike in Bayda occurred on March 29. [AQAP’s apparent entrenchment in eastern Yemen is concerning. In addition to the concentration of strikes in Hadramout, CENTCOM previously disclosed that AQAP operated training camps in the governorate as recently as April 2018, when they were targeted by American strikes.]

– Apr. 2018: Four total strikes, one each in Shabwah (April 26) and Al Bayda (April 23), and two in Hadramout (both on April 11).

– May 2018: One strike, in Shabwah on May 14.

– Jun. 2018: No strikes to date.

The US military has stepped up its counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen as well as the Islamic State since President Trump took office in 2017. Last year, the US launched 131 strikes (125 against AQAP and six against the Islamic State), nearly tripling the previous yearly high of 44 strikes in 2016.

At the current pace, the US will fall far short of that mark; there have been 28 strikes reported by CENTCOM in Yemen in the first five months of 2018.

This counterterrorism campaign has targeted AQAP’s infrastructure, including its training camps and media operations, which serve as a hub for al Qaeda’s global communications. The US has killed several mid-level AQAP leaders and media officials in its air campaign.

Despite suffering setbacks after seizing large areas of southern and central Yemen between 2015-2016, AQAP remains a persistent threat to both the embattled Yemeni government and US interests worldwide. AQAP still controls remote rural areas in Yemen and operates training camps. The group’s master bomb maker, Ibrahim al Asiri, who has engineered several bombs which have evaded airport security, remains one of the most wanted jihadists on the planet.

Note: This article was updated to include the dates and locations of Jan. 2018 strikes.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    7
  • (7 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    7

Sources (25) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr123-C

Incident date

November 30, 2017

Location

صرار الجشم, Sirar Jusham, Al Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.552681, 44.820786 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Up to eight civilians and three militants, variously alleged to be ISIS or AQAP, were reportedly killed by a series of US drone strikes in or near to Sirar Jusham, Qayfa area of Al Bayda governorate, on the afternoon of November 30th 2017.

A Yemeni government source told Anatolia Agency that three of four overall strikes – “likely American” – had targeted civilian areas “which are known to have nothing to do with terrorist organisations”, killing seven civilians. According to this source, a fourth strike targeted an ISIS vehicle, killing three alleged militants.

Two sources, @Yembreaking and Al-Masdar Online, instead suggested that eight civilians and three ISIS militants had died. A local source told Al-Masdar Online that the eight civilians were from the area, and had no ties to either AQAP or ISIS. According to Al-Arabi, there were dead and wounded among both militants and civilians, including women and children. Khabar Agency further indicated that “injuries” were reported among AQAP militants.

Other sources stated that a total of six strikes had targeted the area. Journalist Mareb Alward (@mareb_alward) tweeted that four strikes were conducted against AQAP sites and vehicles in Hama Sirar village, while two had targeted civilians, resulting in “casualties”.

Given these reports, Airwars has assessed that between seven and eight civilians were likely killed, including at least one woman and at least one child. At least two civilians were also injured, also including at least one woman a child. Three militant deaths were additionally reported by sources, as well as at least two militant injuries.

Some local sources, including @belqeesTV, suggested that the strikes were launched by as many as three US drones. Locals told Al-Arabi that the drones bombed a number of homes and farms in the area. Others also indicated that attacks took place against vehicles and militant in gathering places, though sources disagreed as to whether the strikes targeted AQAP or ISIS. Both terror groups had previously been targeted in the Qayfa area. A local source told Al-Masdar Online that one strike targeted a vehicle carrying explosives, leading to continuing explosions after the initial strike.

In addition, Nashwan News and Twitter user @amerAlhamiqaniu suggested that at least one strike may have destroyed an ambulance.

In its May 2018 annual civilian casualty report, the US Department of Defense stated that “there were credible reports of civilian casualties caused by U.S. military actions in Yemen against AQAP and ISIS during 2017”, but did not specify which specific actions these reports referred to.  Overall, the Department of Defense assessed that there were credible reports of “approximately 499 civilians killed and approximately 169 civilians injured during 2017”, as a result of US military actions in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

Responding to Airwars’ publication of its Yemen dataset and accompanying report in October 2020, CENTCOM dismissed all but two civilian harm claims under President Trump, asserting that “USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020… The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen.   Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review.”

The incident occured in the afternoon.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    7 – 8
  • (1 child1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), ISIS - Yemen
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2

Sources (26) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • Sources suggested that between four and six strikes targeted farms and vehicles in the Sirar al-Jushm area, reportedly killing at least three alleged militants and as many as eight civilians (@mareb_alward, November 30th 2017).
  • Sources variously indicated that the strikes targeted AQAP or ISIS militants. Both groups had previously been the alleged target of strikes in the area (@mareb_alward, November 30th 2017).

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a strike on a garage in or on the outskirts of Sirar Jusham (صرار الجشم) village. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Sirar Jusham are: 14.552681, 44.820786.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • Via email: U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) continues to focus on ways to minimize civilian casualties during its military operations. We assess or review all reports of civilian casualties because such assessments or reviews help us identify ways to improve our operations and counter misinformation and propaganda. We routinely share the results of every one of our assessments in Department of Defense (DoD) reports to Congress, including annual reports, many of which are publicly available. We also share the results of our assessments or reviews with the public via the USCENTCOM website and our statements to the media. Individuals wishing to understand U.S. military operations in Yemen more fully should consult these official sources of information. USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020. Of the information AirWars provided, one strike on September 14, 2017, was assessed to have caused injuries to two civilians. Also, as previously released by USCENTCOM to the public in February 2017, USCENTCOM acknowledged there may have been civilian casualties during a raid on January 29, 2017. The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen. Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review. Consistent with our mission, our authorities, and our obligations under the law of war, USCENTCOM will continue to conduct military actions in Yemen when required to protect the Nation and our allies and partners from al Qa’ida and ISIS terror cells that are committed to inflicting terror. In every strike and raid, we take careful measures to minimize civilian harm and take responsibility for our actions. When our military operations result in reports of civilian harm, we will continue to assess the credibility of such reports to help us identify ways to improve our operations and respond as appropriate.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    7 – 8
  • (1 child1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), ISIS - Yemen
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2

Sources (26) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr100

Incident date

September 9, 2017

Location

على مقربة من هوائي بين قريضة والرباط, In the vicinity of an Antenna, between Quraidah and Al Rabat, Al Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.176536, 45.808595 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Nearby landmark level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Nearby landmark

Airwars assessment

A US drone strike reportedly killed at least two alleged AQAP militants in the village of Qareidha, Sama’a area of Bayda governorate, on the afternoon of September 9th 2017.

In a later email to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a US Central Command spokesperson confirmed that three strikes were conducted in Bayda governorate on September 9th, killing “several” AQAP members. The two other strikes are thought to comprise a single event at Al Saru.

According to Khabar Agency, a security source said that two were killed and another “seriously wounded” in the US attack at Qareidha. Al-Arabi also reported that two militants were killed in “a Toyota car next to a house in the village”.

Two sources suggested that three people were killed in the strike. Bloomberg referenced a report by Al-Masdar News, though Al-Masdar’s own report on the strike did not appear to offer a casualty number. The other, Khabar Agency, suggested that two were killed and one injured.

This strike came alongside two other reported strikes in the same area (USYEMTr098-C), which reportedly killed at least two alleged AQAP militants in the village of Qareidha. Several sources gave varying estimates of the overall death toll from the three strikes. Most suggested that seven militants were killed or “killed and wounded”.  At the lower end, one source, @Yemenat, suggested that five AQAP members were killed and one wounded. Another Twitter source suggested that ten militants were “killed and injured”.  These overall figures fit into the casualty ranges assessed by Airwars for USYEMTr098-C and USYEMTr100.

While many sources specifically located the strikes in or near Qareidha, a few, including Reuters, indicated that the strikes took place in the area of two villages, named by some as Qareidha and al-Thubayb.

According to Al-Arabi, local sources said that “Al-Qaeda militants arrived in the al-Sama’a district last August, and their appearances indicate that they are not from the area”.  One local language Twitter source suggested that two of those killed were AQAP leaders, though no other sources reported this, and it was unclear to which specific strike the source was referring.

The incident occured in the afternoon.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (58) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes (2) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Quraidah (قريظة) and Al Rabat (الرباط). Visual material shows an antenna in the distance, identifying the general area of the strike as east or south east of its location. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for the antenna are: 14.176536, 45.808595.

  • Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Quraidah (قريظة) and Al Rabat (الرباط). Visual material shows an antenna in the distance, identifying the general area of the strike as east or south east of its location.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

  • Antenna visible in the distance between Quraidah (قريظة) and Al Rabat (الرباط).

    Imagery:
    @Dr_E_Kendall

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

U.S. forces conducted three strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Al Bayda Governorate, Yemen, killing several Al Qaeda terrorists on Sep. 9.

In coordination with the government of Yemen, U.S. forces are conducting a series of sustained counterterrorism operations in Yemen against AQAP to degrade the group's ability to hold territory and coordinate external terror attacks.

Additionally, this year, the U.S. has conducted more than 100 strikes against AQAP militants, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    None known
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (58) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr120-C

Incident date

November 23, 2017

Location

الأحماص او محاص , يكلاء, Al Ahmas or Mahhas area, Yakla, Al Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.499999936, 45.09999993 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Two civilians, including a 14-year old boy, were killed in a US drone strike in Yakla, in the Qayfa area of Bayda governorate, on the evening of November 23rd 2017, according to several reports.

In an email to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a US Central Command spokesperson confirmed that a strike took place in Bayda on the 23rd, and said that two ISIS “terrorists” were killed. Since there were no other known reports of a strike on that day, this event is treated as declared. No local sources reported any belligerent casualties, despite the US claims.

Three news sources – Yemen Shabab, Huna Radaa, and Aden News – named those killed as 25-year old Ahmed Salem Mabkhout Al-Ameri, and 14-year old Muhammad Musaad Abbad al-Bagh, and indicated that they were targeted by a US drone while on a motorbike in the Al Ahmas area of Yakla.

According to Alharf28, a local government source told Anatolia Agency that the civilians were working on a farm in the area, and had no ties to extremist groups. The original Anatolia report could not be found.  Aden News also reported that those killed were farmers, according to locals, and added that they were returning from prayers at the time.

Iona Craig, a reporter, tweeted that Al-Ameri was the nephew of Sheikh Aziz al-Ameri, who had reportedly lost 20 family members in a January 2017 US raid, also in Yakla.

Gulf News reported, in an article that appears to have been updated on November 28th 2017, that five civilians, “mainly farmers”, were killed in the course of “three separate air strikes” in the Qayfa area during that week. This reported civilian casualty event likely accounts for at least one of the reported strikes, alongside event USYEMTr122-C.

Gulf News reported that recent US drone strikes in the area had “displaced residents and caused panic”. “The air strikes have caused great panic among civilians,” the activist told Gulf News. “The targeted areas have no functioning schools or hospitals.”

In its May 2018 annual civilian casualty report, the US Department of Defense stated that “there were credible reports of civilian casualties caused by U.S. military actions in Yemen against AQAP and ISIS during 2017”, but did not specify which specific actions these reports referred to.  Overall, the Department of Defense assessed that there were credible reports of “approximately 499 civilians killed and approximately 169 civilians injured during 2017”, as a result of US military actions in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

Responding to Airwars’ publication of its Yemen dataset and accompanying report in October 2020, CENTCOM dismissed all but two civilian harm claims under President Trump, asserting that “USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020… The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen.   Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review.”

The incident occured around dusk.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (1 child1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    ISIS - Yemen
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Al Ahmas (الأحماص) or Mahhas (محاص) area, allegedly in or in the vicinity of Yakla (يكلاء) village. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Yakla are: 14.499999936, 45.09999993.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • Via email: U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) continues to focus on ways to minimize civilian casualties during its military operations. We assess or review all reports of civilian casualties because such assessments or reviews help us identify ways to improve our operations and counter misinformation and propaganda. We routinely share the results of every one of our assessments in Department of Defense (DoD) reports to Congress, including annual reports, many of which are publicly available. We also share the results of our assessments or reviews with the public via the USCENTCOM website and our statements to the media. Individuals wishing to understand U.S. military operations in Yemen more fully should consult these official sources of information. USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020. Of the information AirWars provided, one strike on September 14, 2017, was assessed to have caused injuries to two civilians. Also, as previously released by USCENTCOM to the public in February 2017, USCENTCOM acknowledged there may have been civilian casualties during a raid on January 29, 2017. The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen. Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review. Consistent with our mission, our authorities, and our obligations under the law of war, USCENTCOM will continue to conduct military actions in Yemen when required to protect the Nation and our allies and partners from al Qa’ida and ISIS terror cells that are committed to inflicting terror. In every strike and raid, we take careful measures to minimize civilian harm and take responsibility for our actions. When our military operations result in reports of civilian harm, we will continue to assess the credibility of such reports to help us identify ways to improve our operations and respond as appropriate.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

Jess,

This is the most current CENTCOM information on strikes against AQAP and ISIS in Yemen.

· One strike against ISIS in al-Bayda Governorate, Yemen, Nov. 26. killing three terrorists.
· One strike against AQAP in Shabwah Governorate, Yemen, Nov. 25 killing seven terrorists.
· One strike against ISIS in al-Bayda Governorate, Yemen, Nov. 23, killing two terrorists.
· Two strikes against AQAP in al-Bayda Governorate, Yemen, Nov. 19-20. The strikes killed two AQAP terrorists Nov. 19 and five terrorists on Nov 20.

Let me know if you have any further questions.

MAJ Brown
CENTCOM Media Operations

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (1 child1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    ISIS - Yemen
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr152-C

Incident date

March 5, 2018

Location

مديرية العبر, Al Abr District, Hadhramout, Yemen

Geolocation

15.902375, 47.219628 Note: The accuracy of this location is to District level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

District

Airwars assessment

A child was reported killed, and his older cousin injured, by a likely US drone strike in Al Abr, in Hadramout governorate, at around 4pm on March 5th 2018.

A US Central Command spokesperson later told the Long War Journal that a strike had taken place in Hadramout on that date. CENTCOM also told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that allegations of civilian harm in this strike had been deemed ‘non-credible’, due to a lack of available evidence.

According to investigations by Mwatana for Human Rights and The Intercept, Amer Ali al-Saqra Huraidan and his older cousin, Hasan, were targeted as they drove home to Marib governorate, after taking relatives to a funeral in al-Hudhi, in Hadramout. According to these sources, Hasan was severely wounded on his right hand, leg, and head, while Amer was killed instantly by the strike.

Local sources denied to The Intercept that Amer or Hasan were members of either AQAP or ISIS. Hasan said that “[Amer] was too young to join [any militant groups]”, and Amer’s uncle, Amer Saleh Huraidan, also told The Intercept that there was “no link with Al Qaeda whatsoever”. Both Mwatana and The Intercept reported that Hasan was a soldier in the Yemen military, but that he was not on deployment at the time of the strike. Writing in The Guardian, Yemeni Human Rights Minister Mohamed Askar said that a government committee had collected evidence that those targeted were civilians.

Reporting on the ages of the victims was variable. Mwatana gave the ages of Amer and Hasan as twelve and 17 respectively. According to The Intercept, Amer was thirteen and Hasan was 19, while Associated Press reported that Amer was ten. One Twitter source, @abdrabboh_79, suggested that Amer was eleven at the time of the strike. Given this, it is possible that Hasan was also a child at the time of the strike.

Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars. An on-the-ground investigator reported that a thirteen-year-old was killed, and an eighteen-year-old injured, in the strike.

Baraa Shiban, a Reprieve caseworker, told The Intercept that Amer and his family were Internally Displaced Persons, and, at the time of the strike, were living in tents by an oil field, having fled fighting in Al-Jawf. Mwatana spoke with Amer’s teacher, who said that he was a “very, very good child”. His mother told Mwatana that he “would come home from school to help her with chores”. According to The Intercept, Amer is survived by five siblings.

Amer’s family members told reporters and investigators of their desire for justice and compensation. “We condemn criminal acts from any party, be it from Muslims or non-Muslims. If you take a look at their status in tents, they need relief — electricity, water, food — and not bombing,” Amer’s uncle told The Intercept. One relative told Mwatana that “If we keep silent about this crime, the number of similar strikes against innocent people will increase”.

A local activist told The Intercept that some members of the Al-Mahashima tribe, to which the alleged strike victims belonged, were members of AQAP, and said that Hasan “may have met some members of AQAP”, but he was not himself a member. A Yemeni intelligence official, however, indicated that those members of the tribe had been killed a considerable time ago.

Members of the Al-Mahashima tribe were the target of at least two further alleged US drone strikes in the area during March 2018. In an email to Long War Journal, US Central Command stated that two strikes had taken place on March 4th in Hadramout, and one on March 5th.  Given that two other strikes (USYEMTr150, USYEMTr151) that possibly took place on March 5th have been treated by Airwars as the declared March 4th events, this event is treated as the declared March 5th strike.

A local security official told Xinhua that four AQAP militants had been killed by a US drone strike against “a moving vehicle” on March 6th. Given that no other known sources reported a unique strike on that day, this potentially reflects a late report of this strike and/or other reported strikes at around the same time (USYEMTr150/USYEMTr151).  This single-source allegation is also captured in a separate event (USYEMTr153).

In its annual civilian casualty report to Congress issued in April 2019, the US Department of Defense stated that it had assessed “no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from US military actions in Yemen during 2018″.

Responding to Airwars’ publication of its Yemen dataset and accompanying report in October 2020, CENTCOM dismissed all but two civilian harm claims under President Trump, asserting that “USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020… The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen.   Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review.”

The incident occured at approximately 4:00 pm local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 child)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • Amer Ali al-Saqra Huraidan, reported to be between ten- and thirteen-years-old, was reportedly killed instantly when a US drone strike targeted a car in which he was travelling (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Amer was reportedly returning from visiting family in Marib province with his cousin, who was also reportedly injured in the strike (@abdrabboh_79, March 11th 2018)
  • Amer and his family were reportedly among a group of internally-displaced persons from Al-Jawf (The Intercept, March 26th 2018)

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the Al Abr District (مديرية العبر) for which the generic coordinates are: 15.902375, 47.219628. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • Reports of the incident mention the Al Abr District (مديرية العبر).

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    Insufficient evidence of civilian harm, No reason given
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • Apr 29, 2019
  • Email to Bureau of Investigative Journalism A spokesperson told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism: "After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of each civilian casualty report you provided, all four were assessed to be non-credible."

  • C. U.S. military action in Yemen against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS During 2018, U.S. forces deployed to Yemen continued to work towards disrupting and degrading the terrorist threat posed by AQAP and ISIS. U.S. forces conducted 36 airstrikes against AQAP and ISIS operatives and facilities in Yemen and supported United Arab Emirates and Yemen-led efforts to clear AQAP from Shabwah Governorate. DoD has no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military actions in Yemen during 2018.

  • Via email U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) continues to focus on ways to minimize civilian casualties during its military operations. We assess or review all reports of civilian casualties because such assessments or reviews help us identify ways to improve our operations and counter misinformation and propaganda. We routinely share the results of every one of our assessments in Department of Defense (DoD) reports to Congress, including annual reports, many of which are publicly available. We also share the results of our assessments or reviews with the public via the USCENTCOM website and our statements to the media. Individuals wishing to understand U.S. military operations in Yemen more fully should consult these official sources of information. USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020. Of the information AirWars provided, one strike on September 14, 2017, was assessed to have caused injuries to two civilians. Also, as previously released by USCENTCOM to the public in February 2017, USCENTCOM acknowledged there may have been civilian casualties during a raid on January 29, 2017. The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen. Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review. Consistent with our mission, our authorities, and our obligations under the law of war, USCENTCOM will continue to conduct military actions in Yemen when required to protect the Nation and our allies and partners from al Qa’ida and ISIS terror cells that are committed to inflicting terror. In every strike and raid, we take careful measures to minimize civilian harm and take responsibility for our actions. When our military operations result in reports of civilian harm, we will continue to assess the credibility of such reports to help us identify ways to improve our operations and respond as appropriate.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

In a major move toward transparency, US Central Command (CENTCOM) provided details to FDD’s Long War Journal on US air strikes against Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. Since early 2017, the military previously provided little information on the Yemen air campaign, typically providing only an aggregate number and limited detail on high-value target strikes.
In an email to LWJ, CENTCOM’s Major Josh T. Jacques disclosed the dates and locations of the last five months of strikes in Yemen. The information revealed that since the beginning of 2018, the US campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen has focused on three governorates: Hadramout (eight strikes), Al Bayda (17), and Shabwa (three), demonstrating the eastern reach of the terrorist group.
Last year’s publicized strikes were concentrated in the central governorates of Al Bayda and Marib.
Location of US air strikes against AQAP and the Islamic State in 2018:
– Jan. 2018: Ten total strikes. The US conducted 8 strikes against AQAP in Bayda on Jan. 1, 3, 9, 12, 13, 20, 25, and 29. An additional strike against AQAP in Shabwah occurred on Jan. 26. An additional strike against the Islamic State occurred on Jan. 12 in Bayda.
– Feb. 2018: Six total strikes, all in Al Bayda governorate. Strikes occurred on Feb. 7, 11, 12, 16, and 24 (two strikes were conducted on Feb. 24).
– Mar. 2018: Seven total strikes, six of which occurred in Hadramout. Strikes occurred on Mar. 4 (two strikes), 5, 7, 8, and 13. An additional strike in Bayda occurred on March 29. [AQAP’s apparent entrenchment in eastern Yemen is concerning. In addition to the concentration of strikes in Hadramout, CENTCOM previously disclosed that AQAP operated training camps in the governorate as recently as April 2018, when they were targeted by American strikes.]
– Apr. 2018: Four total strikes, one each in Shabwah (April 26) and Al Bayda (April 23), and two in Hadramout (both on April 11).
– May 2018: One strike, in Shabwah on May 14.
– Jun. 2018: No strikes to date.
The US military has stepped up its counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen as well as the Islamic State since President Trump took office in 2017. Last year, the US launched 131 strikes (125 against AQAP and six against the Islamic State), nearly tripling the previous yearly high of 44 strikes in 2016.
At the current pace, the US will fall far short of that mark; there have been 28 strikes reported by CENTCOM in Yemen in the first five months of 2018.
This counterterrorism campaign has targeted AQAP’s infrastructure, including its training camps and media operations, which serve as a hub for al Qaeda’s global communications. The US has killed several mid-level AQAP leaders and media officials in its air campaign.
Despite suffering setbacks after seizing large areas of southern and central Yemen between 2015-2016, AQAP remains a persistent threat to both the embattled Yemeni government and US interests worldwide. AQAP still controls remote rural areas in Yemen and operates training camps. The group’s master bomb maker, Ibrahim al Asiri, who has engineered several bombs which have evaded airport security, remains one of the most wanted jihadists on the planet.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 child)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr159-C

Incident date

March 29, 2018

Location

العقلة, Al Uqlah, Al Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.040833, 45.713056 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Four related civilians were reportedly killed, and at least one wounded, by a US drone strike against a vehicle in Al Mandhari village, in the Sama’a district of Bayda governorate, at around 2pm on March 29th 2018.

A US Defense spokesperson initially stated that four “terrorists” were killed in the strike, and that “no civilians were present and therefore none were injured or killed as a result of the strike.” A later statement, however, indicated that a credibility assessment of civilian harm allegations was underway.

According to several sources, Salem Muhammad Al-Mandhari, Muhammad Saleh Al-Mandhari, and Abdullah Saleh Al-Mandhari were killed instantly by the strike. Initial reports, from outlets including Anatolia Agency and Almawqea Post, also indicated that two additional persons, Nasser Ahmad Al-Mandhari and Adel Muhammad Al-Mandhari, had been injured in the strike. However, later reports and statements given by family members to Reprieve and the Daily Beast suggested that Nasser died of his wounds in hospital.

Adel Muhammad Al-Mandhari survived the strike, but reportedly suffered full-body burns and lost his legs and arms, according to a report by Associated Press. Some sources, such as Yemeni Press and journalist Saad Abedine (@SaadAbedine), initially suggested that a further unnamed individual was also injured.

Some initial reports had suggested that those killed were AQAP militants. A Yemeni government official told Xinhua that the targets were “practicing terrorist activities including encouraging local people to refuse the presence of government forces in the province”. One source, Al-Mashad Al-Araby, suggested that an AQAP judge and two “unaffiliated” people on the way to stand trial were killed, along with another another unidentified person.

Multiple local sources, witnesses, and family members, denied however that the dead had any affiliation with AQAP. “All people here, near and far, know that the targeted individuals have no relationship with al-Qaeda or any other group. This crime requires the strongest condemnation and is considered a dangerous precedent in targeting civilians and horrifying them which itself is terrorism,” read a local Tribal Affairs Council statement, signed by a dozen community leaders, according to the Daily Beast.

The Daily Beast report further stated that a witness of the strike, Omar Ahmed Al-Bakiri, had filed a statement with the family lawyer, indicating that he knew that the targeted individuals were civilians “because their activity and their daily routine was known to the sons of the area and they know for certain that they haven’t been involved with any armed group”. Academic Dr Elisabeth Kendall (@Dr_E_Kendall) tweeted that pro-AQAP feeds had not indicated that those killed were militants, only “Muslims”.

In a video seen by the Daily Beast, Al Haj Saleh Mohammed Saleh Al-Mandhari, the father of Muhammad and the brother of Salem, said that the former was “just a simple person”, a retired soldier who made his living working as a gas station security guard.  Abdullah Saleh Al-Mandhari was reportedly a mechanic who frequently worked in Saudi Arabia; the Daily Beast saw photographs, provided by Reprieve, of Saudi stamps in his passport. Multiple local sources, speaking with outlets including Anatolia Agency, described Salem as the former head of a local transportation union.

On May 30th 2018, Reprieve published an account by Al Haj Saleh Mohammed Saleh Al-Mandhari: “On March 29, my son and several others were driving towards the city of Al Samw’ah, in Al Bayda Governorate in Yemen, to pick up an elder to act as a witness in a land sale in a nearby village. At approximately 2 p.m., a U.S. drone opened fire on their vehicle. Three people were killed, including my son. Two others were injured. One of them later succumbed to his injuries. The U.S. military claimed responsibility for the attack. It alleged that the strike killed four terrorists. This is untrue. My son was not a member of Al Qaeda. He was a simple person, a family man. After serving in the Yemeni military, he became a night guard for a local gas station. He was a law-abiding citizen who never thought ill of the United States. In fact, he rarely thought of the U.S. at all.

“In killing [Muhammad], America has robbed three children — 1-year old Maha, 3-year old Faiz and 6-year old Ahmed — of their father. He was the only breadwinner in his family… Who will support them now?”, he said. Adel, injured in the strike, has since attempted to get compensation and an apology from the US. “I lost hope,” he told Associated Press. “Nothing is going to happen.”

In a later statement dated May 16th, CENTCOM noted: “U.S. Central Command is aware of reports of alleged civilian casualties following the March 29 air strike against AQAP in al Bayda governorate. A credibility assessment is being conducted.”

In its annual civilian casualty report to Congress issued in April 2019, the US Department of Defense stated that it had assessed “no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from US military actions in Yemen during 2018″.

Responding to Airwars’ publication of its Yemen dataset and accompanying report in October 2020, CENTCOM dismissed all but two civilian harm claims under President Trump, asserting that “USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020… The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen.   Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

The victims were named as:

Family members (5)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (4 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–4
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–3

Sources (55) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (11) [ collapse]

  • The US drone strike reportedly targeted a car in the Al-Mandhari area, killing at least three (@SaadAbedine, March 29th 2018)
  • Multiple sources suggested that four civilians from the Al-Mandhari family were killed in the strike (Marsad Post, March 29th 2018)
  • Other sources, including an initial statement by the US, suggested that AQAP militants were killed in the strike (@barakish_net, March 29th 2018)
  • The men were reportedly on their way to complete a land transaction; sources suggested that three were killed instantly, one died later in hospital, and a fifth lost his legs and arm (@barakish_net, March 29th 2018)
  • An initial US statement said that four terrorists were killed by the drone strike, and that "no civilians were present". A later US statement, however, indicated that an assessment of civilian harm reports was in progress. (@SaadAbedine, March 29th 2018)
  • "All people here, near and far, know that the targeted individuals have no relationship with al-Qaeda or any other group. This crime requires the strongest condemnation and is considered a dangerous precedent in targeting civilians and horrifying them which itself is terrorism," read a local Tribal Affairs Council statement (Al-Masdar Online, March 29th 2018)
  • Muhammad was reportedly a retired soldier, who worked as a security guard at a gas station to support his family (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • "A document stating the death of Muhammed Saleh Al-Mandhari from a drone strike" (AP, November 14th 2018)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Al Uqlah (العقلة) for which the generic coordinates are 14.040833, 45.713056. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    No reason given
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • Apr 29, 2019
  • C. U.S. military action in Yemen against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS During 2018, U.S. forces deployed to Yemen continued to work towards disrupting and degrading the terrorist threat posed by AQAP and ISIS. U.S. forces conducted 36 airstrikes against AQAP and ISIS operatives and facilities in Yemen and supported United Arab Emirates and Yemen-led efforts to clear AQAP from Shabwah Governorate. DoD has no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military actions in Yemen during 2018.

  • Via email to Airwars: U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) continues to focus on ways to minimize civilian casualties during its military operations. We assess or review all reports of civilian casualties because such assessments or reviews help us identify ways to improve our operations and counter misinformation and propaganda. We routinely share the results of every one of our assessments in Department of Defense (DoD) reports to Congress, including annual reports, many of which are publicly available. We also share the results of our assessments or reviews with the public via the USCENTCOM website and our statements to the media. Individuals wishing to understand U.S. military operations in Yemen more fully should consult these official sources of information. USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020. Of the information AirWars provided, one strike on September 14, 2017, was assessed to have caused injuries to two civilians. Also, as previously released by USCENTCOM to the public in February 2017, USCENTCOM acknowledged there may have been civilian casualties during a raid on January 29, 2017. The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen. Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review. Consistent with our mission, our authorities, and our obligations under the law of war, USCENTCOM will continue to conduct military actions in Yemen when required to protect the Nation and our allies and partners from al Qa’ida and ISIS terror cells that are committed to inflicting terror. In every strike and raid, we take careful measures to minimize civilian harm and take responsibility for our actions. When our military operations result in reports of civilian harm, we will continue to assess the credibility of such reports to help us identify ways to improve our operations and respond as appropriate.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

TAMPA, Fla. – In the past three months, U.S. forces have targeted and disrupted the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula terrorist network in Yemen through 17 counter-terrorism airstrikes in four separate governorates. These include six air strikes against AQAP terrorists in February, seven air strikes against AQAP terrorists in March and four airstrikes against AQAP terrorists in April.

The April airstrikes included an AQAP training camp in western Hadramawt governorate April 11 and an AQAP checkpoint for asserting regional control and raising illegal revenue in al Bayda governorate April 23.

Other air strikes took place in al Bayda, Hadramawt, Zamakh and Shabwah governorates.

U.S. Central Command is aware of reports of alleged civilian casualties following the March 29 air strike against AQAP in al Bayda governorate. A credibility assessment is being conducted.

Intelligence and defense communities have assessed AQAP as one of the terrorist groups most committed to and capable of conducting attacks in the United States. AQAP has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States, its citizens and its allies around the world.

In early 2018, senior AQAP figure Khalid Batarfi called on the group’s supporters to “rise and attack” Americans “everywhere.” Last month, Osama Bin Laden’s son Hamza, an influential al-Qaeda figure, called on aspiring terrorists to join and support AQAP’s terrorist efforts in Yemen.

The United States is committed to finding and striking AQAP’s terrorist network in Yemen.

“In coordination with the government of Yemen, U.S. forces are conducting a series of counter-terrorism operations against AQAP and ISIS-Yemen,” said Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a U.S. Central Command spokesman. “We will continue to disrupt and degrade the ability of AQAP to plan attacks, confronting threats before they reach our borders.”

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (4 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–4
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–3

Sources (55) [ collapse]