US Forces in Yemen

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
Civilian Harm Status
Belligerent Assessment
Declassified Documents
Strike Status
Strike Type
Infrastructure

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

Airwars assessment

At least 15 civilians, including at least 10 children and four 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. The US military has to date conceded 12 deaths.

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.

In late 2020, following the publication of its report into Trump-era drone strikes in Yemen, Airwars had to remind CENTCOM of its previous confirmation to the Senate of up to 12 civilians killed at Yakla, after a press statement was issued asserting only that “there may have been civilian casualties”. CENTCOM’s official spokesman blamed the mistake on an “administrative error.”

A major report into Trump actions in Yemen, issued in March 2021 by the Yemeni human rights group Mwatana, lowered the minimum likely civilian toll at Yakla to at least fifteen killed – which it said was “likely a conservative estimate.” The study, Death Falling From The Sky, contained multiple eyewitness statements on the Yakla raid from survivors, many of whom had witnessed the killing of close relatives in the US attack.

Ten year old Barzan Mohammad Abdallah Mabkhout Al Amir, whose family lived in the village, for example recalled: “We were all asleep when we suddenly heard the shooting. Our mother gathered us in one room to protect us. My grandfather was immediately killed after he left the house. The house collapsed and my mother, father, and siblings were all killed.”

The report also noted that “Residents told Mwatana that US forces used helicopters to attack inhabited houses, and that US soldiers stormed the village and opened fire, including on villagers fleeing from their homes. Some of those interviewed by Mwatana said that some men in the village tried to fire back when they realized their village was under attack.”

More than three years after the US raid, residents described to Mwatana the extreme trauma they still experienced: “The strike left people in the village, particularly children, paralyzed with fear, residents said. Traumatized, people in the village told Mwatana in May 2020 that they were still struggling to carry out regular activities, such as farming. One man, whose daughter was killed in the raid, said his wife was traumatized and that her health had gravely deteriorated after the raid and their daughter’s death.”

The report concluded: “Mwatana found no credible information suggesting that these 20 civilians killed or wounded were directly participating in hostilities with AQAP or IS-Y. Of the 15 civilians killed, only one was an adult man, who residents said was old—about 65—who was unable to fight and had lost his hearing before the raid. All the rest were children—most very young—or women.”

Responding to the Mwatana report in April 2021, CENTCOM raised its estimate of civilians killed at Yakla to twelve. The following month, DoD’s annual civilian harm report to Congress noted that ” USCENTCOM assessed that between 4 and 12 civilians
were killed during this incident, however the assessment was not able to determine a more precise number. Twelve civilians killed is reported here.”

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

The victims were named as:

Family members (16)

3 months years old female killed
4 years years old female killed
5 years years old female killed
5 years years old male killed
6 years years old male killed
7 years years old female killed
38 years years old female killed
25 years old female killed
24 or 30 years old female killed
40 years old female killed
Adult female killed
Adult female killed
37 years old male killed
38 years old male Alleged by multiple sources to be an AQAP militant killed
65 years old male Alleged by multiple sources to be an AQAP militant killed
2 years old male injured

Family members (4)

11 years old male killed
12 years old male killed
32 years old male Alleged by multiple sources to be an AQAP militant killed
37 years old male Alleged by multiple sources to either have been an AQAP militant or a pro-government militant killed

Family members (2)

35 years old male killed
55 years old male killed

Family members (3)

Adult female Alleged by multiple sources to be an AQAP militant killed
Age unknown female pregnant Alleged in some sources to have been killed killed

Family members (4)

Adult female Reported only in AQAP statement killed
Child Reported only in AQAP statement killed
Child Reported only in AQAP statement killed
Child Reported only in AQAP statement killed

The victims were named as:

8 years years old female killed
17 years old male Alleged to have been an AQAP militant in a statement by the group killed
80 years old male Alleged by multiple sources to be an AQAP militant killed

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    15 – 56
  • (10–15 children4–10 women1–8 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    5–7
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–42
  • Belligerents reported injured
    3–6

Sources (92) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (52) [ 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)
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    An alleged child casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@amerAlhamiqaniu, January 29th 2017)
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    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)
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    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)
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    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
  • Barzan Mohammed Abdullah Mabkhout Al Ameri, 10, the sole surviving member of his family after the January 29, 2017 raid in Al Bayda governorate, Yemen. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • The place where Mursil Abedraboh Masad Al Ameri, 6 years old, was shot and killed during the raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • Location where witnesses reported US forces landed during the January 2017 raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • Damage to the reception room of a Yakla home from the January 2017 raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • A home in Yakla that was attacked and significantly damaged during the January 2017 raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • Text of CENTCOM letter to Mwatana, April 2021, confirming 12 civilian deaths at Yakla.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US 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
    12
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • May 28, 2021
  • Apr 20, 2021
  • 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.

  • CENTCOM letter to Mwatana (see image above)

  • The following table contains additional details about the one instance during 2017 assessed to have resulted in civilian casualties. USCENTCOM assessed that between 4 and 12 civilians were killed during this incident, however the assessment was not able to determine a more precise number. Twelve civilians killed is reported here.

Original strike reports

US 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
    15 – 56
  • (10–15 children4–10 women1–8 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    5–7
  • Causes of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions, Small arms and light weapons
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–42
  • Belligerents reported injured
    3–6

Sources (92) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr186-C

Incident date

January 21, 2019

Location

جعار, Ja'ar, Al Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.25, 45.83333 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

One civilian, named as the elderly man Saleh Ahmed Mohammed al-Qaisi, was killed by a US drone strike in the vicinity of Ja’ar, in the Al Qayseen subdistrict, Sama’a district of Bayda governorate, at 10am on January 21st 2019.

In April 2021, CENTCOM confirmed to the Yemen human rights group Mwatana that it had killed a civilian in this action.

Mr Al-Qaisi was killed by the strike as he drove near a health centre in the area, according to reporting by Al-Masdar Online and Mwatana for Human Rights. Local sources told news outlets, including Hunaa Al-Bayda, Al-Masdar Online, and Yemen Shabab, that Al-Qaisi had no affiliation with any militant or extremist groups. No known sources indicated that he was a belligerent.

Several local-language sources, such as Yemen Monitor, described Al-Qaisi as a construction worker. Mwatana reported that he was employed in Saudi Arabia as a wall painter, and had returned to Bayda to visit his family. Reports gave differing accounts of Al-Qaisi’s age at the time of the strike.  Several local-language news and social-media sources indicated that he was 65. Both Mwatana and analyst Nadwa Dawsari (@NDawsari), stated that he was 67.

According to Mwatana, Saleh was targeted after taking his wife and three children to a relative’s house. Another relative, who spoke with him prior to the strike, told Mwatana “I had been on my bike when I met Uncle Saleh… he reminded me of some funny anecdotes while we were working in Saudi Arabia. Then he continued on his way… Suddenly, I heard an aircraft hitting his car”.

Another witness told Mwatana that the drone remained in the sky after the first strike, preventing others from helping Saleh. When he attempted to leave his car, another strike killed him. Locals described Saleh as “beloved, with good manners, and known as a person who did not involve himself in political or military affairs”.

A local source told Al-Masdar that the strike took place at 10am, and that drones had been flying over the area for the two previous days.

The day after the attack, Yemen Shabab, Huna Al-Bayda, and others reported that the Al-Qaisi tribe held a vigil for Saleh, holding banners condemning the government and the Saudi-led coalition for the killing of innocent civilians by US drones.

In its annual civilian casualty report for Congress issued in May 2020, the US Department of Defense stated that, as of March 1st 2020, it had assessed “no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from US military actions in Yemen during 2019”. The report also asserted that US Central Command had not received “any reports from IOs or NGOs regarding potential civilian casualties caused by U.S. military action in Yemen in 2019”.

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.”

However, in April 2021 in response to a major civilian harm review by Mwatana, the US military noted: “USCENTCOM acknowledges one civilian casualty in a strike on January 22nd 2019 [sic] in al Bayda, Yemen… The command determined that condolence payments were not appropriate.”

The event was also confirmed in DoD’s annual civilian harm report to Congress, in which it noted: “As of April 2021, one report about one incident in 2019 and
one report about one incident in 2017 were found to be credible.”

The incident occured at 10:00:00 local time.

The victims were named as:

67 years old male killed

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Ja’ar (جعار) village, within the Al Qayseen (القيسين) subdistrict. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Ja’ar are: 14.25, 45.83333.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Sources (28) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (12) [ collapse]

  • Members of the Al-Qaysi tribe held a vigil for Saleh, condemning US drone strikes against civilians.
  • Members of the Al-Qaysi tribe held a vigil for Saleh, condemning US drone strikes against civilians.
  • Members of the Al-Qaysi tribe held a vigil for Saleh, condemning US drone strikes against civilians.
  • The strike reportedly took place in Bayda governorate; the US later reported that an undated January strike had taken place in Bayda (Almarsd Post, January 21st 2019)
  • Weapon remnants found after the attack, which a weapons expert identified as being from an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Weapon remnants found after the attack, which a weapons expert identified as being from an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Weapon remnants found after the attack, which a weapons expert identified as being from an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Protest organized by the community in the village after the attack. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Protest organized by the community in the village after the attack. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Saleh’s car after the strike. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Saleh’s car after the strike. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US 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
    No reason given
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    1
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • Stated location
    Bayda, Yemen
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • May 28, 2021
  • Apr 20, 2021
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • 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.

  • CENTCOM letter to Mwatana: "USCENTCOM acknowledges one civilian casualty in a strike on January 22nd 2019 [sic] in al Bayda, Yemen... The command determined that condolence payments were not appropriate."

  • C. U.S. military actions in Yemen USCENTCOM received 11 new reports of civilian casualties related to U.S. military operations in Yemen from years prior to 2020. As of April 2021, one report about one incident in 2019 and one report about one incident in 2017 were found to be credible.

Original strike reports

US Forces

Our Yemen strikes data has been updated for individualized dates after CENTCOM responded to an inquiry on the eight strikes in 2019. Strikes were as follows: 1/1, 1/21, 3/25, 3/25, 3/26, 3/28, 3/29, and 3/29. All but 1/1 in al Bayda'

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Sources (28) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM041-C

Incident date

October 14, 2011

Location

عزان, Azzan, Shabwa, Yemen

Geolocation

14.326170, 47.445905 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

A series of up to six confirmed US drone and/or airstrikes across Azzan killed up to 24 people, including two children, on October 14, 2011. The others killed were reportedly Al Qaeda militants.

In the first of several attacks on this day, a drone attack struck a house in the Azan district of Shabwa, targeting the Egyptian-born AQAP Yemen media chief Ibrahim al-Bana, but the occupants of the house had left two minutes earlier, according to local tribal elders. There were no casualties reported from this incident.

A second drone attack then struck either a vehicle or a restaurant area. PBS Frontline later filmed at the scene of the attack, the footage showing the ruined foundations of a small building along with a nearby crater. Abdel-Rahman Anwar al Awlaki, the 16-year old son of al Awlaki, had been killed in the strike.

A statement from Abdel-Rahman’s family read, “he left with some friends for dinner under the moonlight when an American missile landed, killing Abdel-Rahman and his friends”. In a separate statement, the family said:  “On October 14th, 2011 Abdulrahman, along with some of his tribe’s youth have gone barbecuing under the moonlight. A drone missile hit their congregation killing Abdulrahman and several other teenagers.” A second teenager and family member, Ahmed Abdel Rahman al Awlaki, 17, is known to have been killed in the strike. Five to seven others were also killed, including Sarhan al Qusa (aka Farhan al Quso) brother of AQAP leader Fahd al-Qusa or Quso, according to a member of Awlaki’s tribe. Reuters later claimed that the dead men were planning to renounce Al Qaeda before they were killed. Elders claimed that four other Awlaki tribal members died in the strike.

Also initially reported killed was militant Ibrahim al Bana. However, two weeks after the strike, AQAP released leaflets stating that he had not been killed. Ansar al Sharia also reported in its second October newsletter that al Bana’s death was “a lie”. He was confirmed to be alive by the US State Department on January 5 2016 when it announced that al Bana had been designated “a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order (E.O) 13224” and a reward of $5 million was offered for information leading to his killing or captured.

The New York Times detailed that the airstrikes were allegedly conducted by American drones and were responsible for the deaths of at nine individuals, including Al-Banna as well as the seventeen-year-old son of Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni cleric who was killed roughly a month before the airstrike that killed his son. The elder Awlaki was an American citizen and his death raised significant legal questions about the use of American drones to kill American citizens without a trial. CNN did not confirm if Awlaki’s son, named Abdul Rahman Anwar Awlaki, was among those killed in the strike, but on October 15th, Haaretz.com confirmed that Al-Awlaki’s son had indeed been killed. This story was corroborated by Taiwan News, but the younger Awlaki’s age was listed as twenty-one. There were varying numbers of those killed in the strike, with Pressit.com listing seven dead but Haaretz stating that nine were killed. While the number of dead was in contention, there was universal acceptance that the strike, which also struck a mosque injuring many, were American-made drones.

Longwarjournal.org published a disturbing story that claimed that Al-Awlaki’s son hoped to become a martyr like his father, making such a statement just hours before his death. The boy, also listed as young as sixteen years old in the LA Times, was killed with at least six other individuals in an airstrike conducted by American drones in Yemen. According to a Reuters articles published on October 18th, the death toll of the strike had reached twenty-four people. Time magazine published a piece in late October criticizing the Obama administration’s tactics in Yemen, questioning whether the death of young Al-Awlaki was merely “paying for the sins of his father?” When questioned about the drone strike that killed a reported teenager, one senior advisor to President Obama stated, “he should have had a more responsible father.”

The Washington Post reported that it was JSOC rather than the CIA which carried out the attack: “When pressed on why the CIA had not pulled the trigger, US officials said it was because the main target…an Egyptian named Ibrahim al-Banna, was not on the agency’s kill list. The Awaki teenager, a US citizen with no history of involvement with al Qaeda, was an unintended casualty. In interviews, senior US officials acknowledged that the two kill lists don’t match, but offered conflicting explanations as to why.”

In April 2012 the Toronto Star featured an interview with Nasser al-Awalaki, grandfather of Abdel-Rahman and former Yemen government minister. In it he said that former Yemen President Saleh had sent him a message insisting that he had had no role in his grandson’s death: “Tell Dr. Nasser I swear to God that I have nothing to do with the killing of his son.” Nasser al-Awlaki also said he would be taking legal action: “I am only a university professor and I’m not the kind of guy who would enlist tribal people. My only chance now is to go to court and I hope as far as Abdulrahman at least, they will be fair to us. They cannot claim he’s collateral damage.”

In April 2013 Jeremy Scahill added further controversy to the attack, reporting: “A former senior official in the Obama administration told me that after Abdulrahman’s killing, the president was “surprised and upset and wanted an explanation.” The former official, who worked on the targeted killing program, said that according to intelligence and Special Operations officials, the target of the strike was al-Banna, the AQAP propagandist. “We had no idea the kid was there. We were told al-Banna was alone,” the former official told me. Once it became clear that the teenager had been killed, he added, military and intelligence officials asserted, “It was a mistake, a bad mistake.” However, John Brennan, at the time President Obama’s senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, “suspected that the kid had been killed intentionally and ordered a review. I don’t know what happened with the review.”‘

And in May 2013 US Attorney-General Eric Holder told US lawmakers Abdulrahman was “not specifically targeted by the United States”. In a letter, Holder explained Anwar al Awlaki was a legitimate target and that “[US] citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted”. He said three other US citizens, including Abdulrahman, had been killed by US drones during Obama’s presidency.

The incident occured in the evening.

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

Ahmed Abdel Rahman al Awlaki
17 years old male killed
Abdulrahman al-Awlaki
16 years old male killed

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the city of Azzan (عزان), for which the generic coordinates are: 14.326170, 47.445905. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (2 children)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–22

Sources (60) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (7) [ collapse]

  • Abdulrahman al-Awlaki (left), killed in strikes carried out by the US on October 14, 2011, killed just a few weeks after his father, Anwar al-Awlaki (right) was killed. (Image posted by Independent)
  • Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, killed in strikes carried out by the US on October 14, 2011, killed just a few weeks after his father, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed. (Image posted by Esquire)
  • Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, killed in strikes carried out by the US on October 14, 2011, killed just a few weeks after his father, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed. (Image posted by The Intercept)

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

The Washington Post reported that it was JSOC rather than the CIA which carried out the attack: "When pressed on why the CIA had not pulled the trigger, US officials said it was because the main target…an Egyptian named Ibrahim al-Banna, was not on the agency’s kill list.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (2 children)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–22

Sources (60) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM079-B

Incident date

May 14, 2012

Location

شُقرة‎, Shaqra, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.356639, 45.699426 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

An alleged US or Yemeni airstrike, naval bombardment, or drone strike killed 10 militants in an Al Qaeda hideout 70 kilometers away from Zinjibar in Shaqra, a southern town in the province of Abyan. There are currently no reports of civilian harm.

The Associated Press reported Yemeni warplanes bombed an Al Qaeda hideout 70km from Zinjibar, killing at least 10 militants, and that this is one of multiple strikes that occurred on the same day, allegedly killing a total of 16 militants stated in this incident and USYEM080-B. The Defense Ministry corroborated this total death toll on their website 26Sep.net. AFP reports that two of the alleged militants killed were from Saudi Arabia and one was Egyptian.

Due to the telephone lines being cut, AFP could not verify the death toll.

American drones have been involved in the campaign against Al Qaeda making it unclear whether the strike was carried out by Yemen or the US. Agence France-Press noted that the strikes against militants were undertaken with “U.S. logistical support”. Aden al-Ghad reported that US drones and missiles were launched in the area of Abyan from warships against prominent Al Qaeda leaders, specifying that a “one of the rockets landed at a checkpoint of the armed groups located at the top of Jabal Al-Arqoub, but there was no information about casualties”, although it is unclear if that references any of the incidents Airwars tracked on this day. It is therefore unclear whether the attack was an airstrike, naval bombardment or a drone strike.

A militant leader named al-Muhajir was named as one of the militants killed later on but it is unclear whether he perished in this incident or in USYEM080-B.

The incident occured in the afternoon.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the town of Shaqra (شُقرة‎) in the province of Abyan (أبين‎). Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for the town of Shaqra (شُقرة‎) are: 13.356639, 45.699426.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike, Naval bombardment
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Yemeni Air Force
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    10

Sources (11) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Yemeni Air Force Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Yemeni Air Force
  • Yemeni Air Force position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike, Naval bombardment
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Yemeni Air Force
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    10

Sources (11) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM130-B

Incident date

October 4, 2012

Location

السدية, Sadiya, Shabwa, Yemen

Geolocation

14.3833330, 46.9000000 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

On the 4th of October 2012, a suspected US drone strike hit and killed up to six Ansar al-Sharia militants and injured up to four others in the desert region of al-Saeed in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa. According to security sources reporting to Akhbar al-Youm, the strike took place at roughly eleven o’clock in the morning. Even though it cannot be ruled out, there are no reports of civilian harm.

Confusion exists concerning the number of dead and the circumstances around the strike. First an unnamed tribal leader reported to Akhbaar24 that “The initial outcome of the raid is five dead supporters of Al-Sharia.” Multiple other news sources, such as the Huffington Post and English Ahram, also reported that five militants died as a consequence of the strike. The Huffington Post gained their insight from a Yemeni security official who claimed the strike was American and that all those who died were located in the one car. The official was unaware of whether there were any casualties or injuries in the second car. Barakish Net, on the other hand, reported that a local source had told them that only three had been killed and that an unknown number of additional people had been injured. Akhbar al-Youm provided the highest report of casualties quoting security sources which claimed that six had died. What the different sources seem to have in common though is that they believe that it was an American drone that conducted the strike. The US, however, has not commented on the strike.

The circumstances of the strike are also unclear. Akhbaar24 reported that local residents had told AFP that the strike was conducted by a drone which fired four missiles hitting two cars carrying the Ansar al-Sharia members. However, Barakish Net reported that there were not only four missiles that were fired but in fact five. In the aftermath of the strike one of the local residents reported that “The cars were burning, and we could not approach them because the drone was still in the air.” According to 26 September, a local source had stated the dead bodies were later transported to Yeshbam and buried there. In addition, a tribal leader reported that four Al Qaeda vehicles were sent to the area after the strike and that they “set up a checkpoint on the road linking Saeed and Ataq”.

Furthermore, the location of the strike is also under dispute. Al Jazeera reported that witnesses said the two cars were travelling through the town of Saeed in Shabwa. However, Reuters reported that a security official claimed that the strike took place in the remote area of Maqbala which is also in the Shabwa province. CNN, who are citing two local security officials, claim, on the other hand, that the strikes were split between two locations. The first strike, which they claim killed three, took place in the al-Saeed district whilst two other strikes took place not far away in the Aal Mahdi district killing two. Images from the aftermath of the strike suggest that at least one of the strikes took place on a plain.

Concerning the identity of the militants who were killed, Yemen Post quoted a local official who stated that one of them was an Egyptian national and that one of the others was a leader of Al Qaeda in the Azzan Area. Multiple sources, such as 26 September Net and Barakish Net, confirm that one of the killed was an Egyptian. Akhbar al-Youm was able to add further detail to the identity of those killed, stating that one of the killed was Saad bin Atef al-Awlaki who is likely the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Azzan area which the other sources seem to have been referring to. Akhbar al-Youm reported however that information concerning the death of al-Awlaki is conflicting due to communication from the region being interrupted in the aftermath of the strike. Furthermore, more recent reports suggest that al-Awlaki may still be alive. France24 reports that al-Awlaki was one of the contenders to take over the leadership of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula after the death of Qassim al-Rimi in 2020.

Akhbar al-Youm was also able to add that one of the others who seemed to have died from the strike is Abu Hajar al-Barasi. Al-Barasi was apparently the assistant of al-Habashi who was in charge of the militants located in Qarn al-Sawda. This knowledge they gained from the same security source who claimed that al-Awlaki had died. So far it does not seem like any other sources can confirm the death of al-Barasi.

Aside from al-Awlaki and al-Habashi, multiple news sources state that Sheikh Al-Abab (35) and Musab al-Masri, who are both prominent figures in Ansar al-Sharia, were also killed in the strike. Yemenat reports that the news outlet Al-Ghad had received exclusive statements from individuals close to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who said that al-Masri, who was an Egyptian national high up in the organisation, had been killed immediately by the first strike that hit the vehicle. Al-Masri was apparently a prominent figure who had been given a 21 year prison sentence in Egypt but then he was able to escape during the revolution and join Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Al-Abab, was on the other hand, according to Al-Quds Al-Arabi, the fourth highest ranked in the Al-Jihad based in the Arabian Peninsula. The news outlet quoted a private source who stated that Al-Abab and an aide “were martyred in the American raid that was carried out by an unmanned plane in the Upper Egypt district of Shabwa governorate a few days ago.” According to Yemenat, unlike al-Masri, Al-Abab was not killed by the first strike. He was instead able to escape from the area after the strike. As people rushed to the scene, Al-Abab escaped by foot and managed to get several kilometres away. However, Al-Ghad’s source, which Yemenat were referring to, had stated that the drone tracked down Al-Abab shortly after and fired another missile. Al-Abab was apparently killed by a piece of shrapnel which hit him as a result of this strike. According to a government source reporting to NZWeek, Al-Abab was seriously injured by the strike but did not die immediately. He was first transported to a local medical centre but then later succumbed to his injuries.

The incident occured at 11:00:00 local time.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the villages of Al Hqail (الحقيل), Sadiya (السدية) and Baras/Pars (بارس) in the Said (مديرية الصعيد) district of Shabwa governorate. Airwars was unable to locate Al Hqail and Baras areas, however, the coordinates for the area of Sadiya (السدية), just north of the town of Said, are: 14.3833330, 46.9000000. The image published of the damaged vehicles suggests that the strike took place in a flat area rather than in the surrounding mountains. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–6
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–4

Sources (38) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–6
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–4

Sources (38) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM005-C

Incident date

December 24, 2009

Location

أبين, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.766164, 46.112811 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Province/governorate level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

A second air strike reportedly occurred on 24th December 2009 in the province of Abyan “of which the death toll is unknown”, according to the Swiss-based human rights organization, Alkarama. No other sources were found that reported on this strike.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the governorate of Abyan (أبين), for which the generic coordinates are: 13.766164, 46.112811. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

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Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces

Sources (1) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Single source claim
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces

Sources (1) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM002-C

Incident date

December 17, 2009

Location

المعجلة, Al Majala, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.972421, 46.451482 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

At least forty-seven civilians, including at least twenty-two children and twelve women, were reportedly killed after a US cruise-missile strike targeted an alleged AQAP training camp on the edge of Al-Majala village, Mahfad district of Abyan governorate, at around 6 AM on December 17th 2009. This was the first known strike in Yemen approved by the Obama administration, and the first known strike conducted by the US in Yemen since 2002. The strike came alongside other reported US-Yemeni counter-terror operations in the country on the same day. Later reports suggested that uncleared bomblets continued to constitute a fatal hazard to civilians for years after the strike.

Though the Yemeni defence ministry initially briefed that they had conducted the strike, killing “between 24 and 30 Al-Qaeda militants, including foreigners…while training”, according to AFP, local accounts and investigators into the strike instead highlighted the large number of civilian fatalities. Evidence collected at the strike location, briefings by US officials, and information obtained in the Wikileaks files confirmed that US naval forces had targeted the village with multiple Tomahawk missiles, loaded with cluster munitions, or “bomblets”.

A Yemeni parliamentary commission, which visited the area, reported in February 2010 that forty-one civilians were killed, and at least seven – including women and children – were wounded, in the immediate aftermath of the missile strikes. Those killed that were named by the report were from just two family groups; fourteen were from the Haydara family, and twenty-seven were from the Anbour family.

The report stated that, of those killed, twenty-two were children; the youngest named by the report, Khadija Ali Mokbel Salem, was just one year old when she died. Nineteen of those killed were less than ten-years-old, the report stated. The Al-Karama Foundation also listed twenty-two children killed.

According to the Al-Karama Foundation’s list of casualties, six children were injured by the strike. Two of those who survived the strike were Samia Luqia Al-Anbouri, aged two at the time of the strike, who Al-Karama reported “was hit in the stomach and back by a bomb fragment”, and Nada Luqia Al-Anbouri, aged three in December 2009, who Al-Karama reported was “unscathed”, but nonetheless listed as “injured”.

Human Rights Watch later spoke with three of the four orphaned child survivors of the strike in 2013 – Nada Loqyah Mahdi, Aysha Nassar Mahdi, and Muhammad Ali Loqyah – who were aged five, four, and seven at the time of the interview. “Aysha raised a hand to show a finger she lost in the airstrike. Nada showed the gashes on her stomach from fragments of the ordnance. ‘Nada had been really healthy,” Medhi said. “Now she is very thin and vomits all the time. There may still be some fragments in her stomach but we can’t afford another operation.'”

Dexter Filkins wrote for The New Yorker that, in March 2011, he had “met a fifteen-year-old named Fatima Ali, who rolled up the sleeve of her chador, revealing hideous burns. Another girl showed me her hand, which was missing a finger. She had lost her mother in the raid”. Fatima Ali Muhammed Nasser, aged thirteen at the time of the strike, was listed by the Al-Karama Foundation as one of those injured. The Yemeni parliamentary report indicated that Fatima was the only survivor of the Haydara family, and required medical attention “abroad”. According to the Al-Karama report, three children died on their way to hospital.

The parliamentary report further listed that twelve of those killed were women. Residents later told Human Rights Watch that five were pregnant at the time of the strike, though other sources, such as the Al-Karama Foundation, indicated that as many as seven pregnant women were killed. Some sources indicated that fewer or more women were killed; locals told Human Rights Watch that nine women had died, while the Al-Karama Foundation explicitly listed ten women as deceased, and one as injured.

Seven civilian men were killed, according to the parliamentary report. Aden Press reported that nineteen male “nomads” had been killed, seemingly referring to civilians, though possibly including alleged AQAP militants. From the Anbour family, local residents told the commission, only one male survived, Houssain Abdallah Awad Aabad, a man in his thirties. The Al-Karama Foundation listed one man as injured in the strike.

The report also indicated that three additional civilians – Khaled Mohammed Ali, Nasser Saleh Al-Souedi, and Mithaq Al-Jild – were killed, and nine wounded, by unexploded ordnance on December 21st 2009. The Alkarama Foundation indicated that four had died, and twenty-five had been injured, in this secondary blast.

Reported fatalities continued for years after the initial strike and the publication of the report. The Al-Karama report stated that, in 2010, a bomblet floated five kilometres down a nearby river, killing two people gathering herbs and injuring four others. Locals, including a relative, told Human Rights Watch that on January 24th 2012 – over two years after the strike – a child brought a bomblet home with him, which detonated, killing the boy’s father, Salem Atef Ali Basyoul, and injuring the boy and two siblings. This was also reported by Yemeni tribal leader, and member of the parliamentary commission, Sheikh Saleh Bin Fareed, to Democracy Now. The Alkarama Foundation and Arij.Net further reported that the mother was also injured in this explosion.

Other sources gave slightly higher estimates of casualty numbers in al-Majala. Human rights activist Abbas Al-Assal, a local resident, denied the existence of an AQAP camp in the area to the Associated Press, and said that sixty-four were killed, including twenty-three children and seventeen women. Alkhaleej similarly reported that, according to a local mosque official, 49 civilians were killed, including 23 children and 17 women. According to Reuters, “residents and opposition groups said about 50 civilians were killed”. In 2012, an Al-Jazeera retrospective reported that forty-six were killed, of which “only three” were young men. Local sources told The Guardian that “about 50 people were killed, and some 60 injured”. According to Aden Press, 62 were killed, including “28 children and a woman”, and 88 wounded, while one Facebook source, Helmy al-Redfani, claimed that, according to news sources, there had been more than seventy “martyrs” and “hundreds” of wounded civilians.

Given that the names and numbers given by the commission were accepted by the Yemeni government on publication, and the later investigations by Human Rights Watch and Al-Karama appeared to broadly corroborate their findings, these figures have been taken by Airwars as minimum alleged civilian casualty figures. Including the findings of the commission, as well as the later post-strike casualties reported by human rights investigators, the minimum number of reported civilian deaths has been assessed by Airwars as forty-seven, including at least twenty-two children, twelve women, and eleven men. The minimum number of civilian injuries has been, similarly, set at twenty-three, including nine children, one woman, and one man. Given the higher reports mentioned above, maximum alleged civilians deaths has been set by Airwars at sixty-four, with a maximum of seventeen women, twenty-eight children, and nineteen male civilians. Maximum alleged civilian injuries have been set at eighty-eight.

The parliamentary commission’s list of named civilian fatalities has also been used as the basis for the names listed below; a variant list provided by the Al-Karama Foundation has been incorporated into the list as a secondary source.

Responsibility for the strike was officially shouldered by the Yemeni government. On December 23rd 2009, the Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security, Rashad al-Alimi, told the Yemeni parliament that the recent air raids had been a “Yemeni decision carried out by Yemeni security units”, almotamar reported. Al-Alimi blamed Al-Qaeda for civilian casualties, describing them as “families of these elements brought to cook for them”. Officials told the New York Times that the US had “provided firepower, intelligence and other support” in the conduct of the mid-December strikes, but otherwise indicated that the Yemeni government was in the lead throughout. President Obama reportedly called President Saleh on the day of the strikes, to congratulate him on the “successful terror raids”, according to state press agency Saba.

On March 3rd 2010, when the findings of the Yemeni parliamentary commission were approved by parliament, “the Yemen government apologized to the victims’ families, describing the killings as a “mistake” during an operation that was meant to target al-Qa’ida militants, and said that committees would be established to provide compensation for the people killed and the property destroyed”, according to Amnesty.

At the time of the strike, however, US officials told ABC and Fox News that, on orders from President Obama, the US military had targeted alleged AQAP sites with cruise missiles on the morning of the Al-Majala strike. In June 2010, Amnesty International published a series of photographs showing the wreckage of a US-made BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile, as well as the BLU 97 A/B cluster munitions carried by it, in the Al-Majala area. These cluster munitions, Amnesty indicated, “are known to be held only by US forces”. The US strikes conducted on December 17th 2009 were codenamed “Copper Dune”, according to Human Rights Watch and other sources.

US responsibility for the strike was confirmed in a series of leaked classified minutes and cables. On December 21st 2009, Ambassador Stephen Seche summarised a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister al-Alimi: “The ROYG views the December 17 CT operations as a success and a benefit to Yemeni national interests, and appears not overly concerned about unauthorized leaks regarding the U.S. role and negative media attention to civilian deaths. ROYG officials continue to publicly maintain that the operation was conducted entirely by its forces, acknowledging U.S. support strictly in terms of intelligence sharing. Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi told the Ambassador on December 20 that any evidence of greater U.S. involvement ) such as fragments of U.S. munitions found at the sites – could be explained away as equipment purchased from the US”.

Al-Alimi also told Seche that, alongside some compensation, “the ROYG has recruited a number of local political and religious leaders to visit the ares affected by the air strikes in Abyan to explain o the people the need for the operation and the danger that AQAP poses to all Yemenis”. Al-Alimi assured Seche that “the Governor of Abyan visited the site after the operation and confirmed that there were no villages, houses, or civilian institutions that were damaged, only the training camp, and the encampments of the non-combatant Bedouin population”. Any civilians killed were acting in “collusion” with AQAP, Seche was told.

In January 2010, Yemeni President Saleh and US Central Command’s General Petraeus held a meeting, the minutes of which were published online by Wikileaks. “‘We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,’ Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG”, the minutes read. During the meeting, Saleh told Petraeus that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in Abyan. Petraeus responded only that “the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site”.

Shortly after the strike, Yemeni security and administrative sources, including the deputy governor of Abyan, indicated that the target had been suspected AQAP leader Mohammed Saleh al-Kazemi, also known as Mohammed Saleh al-Anbouri, who was killed in the strike. According to Al-Jazeera, al-Kazemi was “a Saudi who had resided in the country since fighting in Afghanistan. He was imprisoned in Yemen for two years before being released in 2005”. A Yemeni official told CNN that al-Kazemi “was implicated in planning the July 2007 suicide attack that killed nine people, including seven Spanish tourists at the Sun temple in the province of Marib”, and that he “also provided safe haven to foreign al Qaeda militants operating in Yemen”.

While Yemeni government sources initially stated that at least twenty-four AQAP militants in the “training camp” had been killed by the strike, other sources gave varying assessments of the numbers of alleged militants killed. Ahmad Al-Mayssary, governor of Abyan, told the Yemeni parliamentary committee that al-Kazimi had opened a “training camp” in Al-Majala, where over twenty “Saudi, Emirati and Pakistani Al-Qaeda members” trained, including “a Pakistani expert in poisons and explosives”. The commission’s final report, however, indicated only that, according to the Abyan governor and security leaders, fourteen AQAP members had been killed, and seven injured. Only two suspects, al-Kazimi and Abdul Rahman Ka’ed Al‐Thamary, were named by the report.

According to The Guardian, Deputy Prime Minister Al-Alimi stated that twenty-four AQAP suspects were killed, including “two Saudis, two Pakistanis and an unknown number of Egyptians, as well as five other unidentified foreigners”. A security source further indicated that five were wounded, and later arrested in Aden.

In a January 3rd report, from state news agency Saba, security sources named AQAP militants killed in the strike as “Mohammad al-Kazimi, Mithaq al-Jaled, Ubad Salem Muqbel, Samir Sheikh Mohammad Amqida (a cousin of terrorist Abdul-Mune’m al-Qahtani), Saudi Mohammad al-Thara’an and another Saudi element called al-Kindi”, as well as further unidentified persons. The report also indicated that “five terrorists” had been injured, named as “Abdullah Salem Ali, Haidrah Ali, Mohammad Salem, Abdurrahman Mohammad Qayed and Fattah al-Amri”. The report also stated that AQAP militants had “booby-trapped” the area after the strike, leading to post-strike fatalities that many blamed, instead, on unexploded ordnance.

At the time of the strike, however, local sources told Al-Masdar Online that only six Al-Qaeda members had been killed, and four wounded. Local sources, likewise, told Al-Sahwa Net that, in addition to al-Kazimi, Munir al-Ambouri and four other AQAP members had been killed. These numbers are taken by Airwars as the minimum alleged militant casualties in the strike.

Further reporting, however, raised considerable doubts over the belligerent status of these alleged militants. Locals told the parliamentary commission that twenty days before the strike, al-Kazimi and six others not from the local area, including Al‐Thamary, had begun work on a well near the Anbour family residential area, which was observed by the parliamentary commission. “They cooked their own food and lived in a small tent… We will not allow the erection of a camp in our neighbourhood which would harm our children,” the report quoted the locals as saying. After being released from prison, Al-Kazimi had obtained sheep and goats from local tribal leaders in exchange for his commitment not to involve himself with Al-Qaeda, the commission heard. He lived with his family on the edge of the residential area – all were reportedly killed in the strike. Members of the parliamentary commission later told Amnesty International that they had observed no evidence of a training camp in the area.

Local residents told Human Rights Watch that “they were not aware that [al-Kazimi] was engaged in military operations and had not seen a training camp, but added that they could not be sure”. “I challenge anybody in the United States of America, especially the American government, to prove that there was anybody from al-Qaeda at that site at all,” Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, a member of the parliamentary committee, told Democracy Now. As Jeremy Scahill noted in The Nation, “whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested”. Nasser Mahdi, a local, told Aden Press that the villagers “knew nothing about Al Qaeda in the first place… no one has ever invited us to join Al Qaeda”.

In the aftermath of the strike, local sources reported to the parliamentary commission, armed persons came at 3 PM and took away six dead bodies to an unknown location. Medical officials in Abyan told the commission that, soon after the strike, seven wounded and five dead individuals were escorted to the Mahnaf Hospital, in Lawdar district, but that the escorts prevented the identification of the dead. Names provided at the hospital were believed to be fictitious. These people prevented anybody from entering or leaving the hospital, until the dead and wounded were moved to another unknown location at 7 PM.

Whether al-Kazimi was or was not an active AQAP member, locals consistently indicated that an indiscriminate cruise missile salvo was wholly unnecessary.  Mohammed Nasser Ali, a member of the Anbour family, told the parliamentary commission that, as to al-Kazimi, “if the government wants him it could have found him somewhere else; he was moving from Modiya to Mahfad to Shabwah. And if he committed murders in another location, killing everybody is a shame and a sin towards us and towards our children”.  The director of Mahfad district told the commission, similarly, that al-Kazimi moved “freely” between Mahfad, Mudiyah, and Ataq, and could have been arrested at any time. “Grave mistakes occurred in the operation due to failures of information, which led to a large number of civilian deaths,” a provincial security official told Al-Jazeera. “If [al-Kazemi] was wanted, why didn’t the authorities come and arrest him all this time?”

“Kazimi has the right to live with his family, and if he is a member of al-Qaida then he should have been punished alone,” Mukbel Ali al-Anbour, a tribal leader, told The Guardian. “But 45 women and children and more than 1,000 animals were killed.”

The parliamentary report specified that the strike targeted two residential areas in the pastoral Katana valley, the first around a kilometre east of the second, both approximately three kilometres north of Al-Majala. The easternmost area was reported to have been home to the Haydara family for decades, while the other had been home to the Anbour family for three years. The families tended sheep and bees, with no contact from the state. The Governor of Abyan told the commission that residents had reported an aircraft flying low in the area, allegedly taking pictures, for over two months prior to the strike.

According to Jeremy Scahill, writing in the The Nation, at least one Tomahawk missile was launched from a submarine off the coast of Yemen that morning. The munitions found at the strike location were identified as BLU 97 A/B bomblets, which, The Nation reported, “explode into some 200 sharp steel fragments that can spray more than 400 feet away” – one Tomahawk missile can carry over 160 bomblets, which can also contain incendiary material. The number of missiles deployed by the US was unclear. According to Al-Karama, four missiles hit the Haydara tribal area, while another hit the Anbouri tribal area. “Authorization for the strikes was rushed through Saleh’s office because of ‘actionable’ intelligence that Al Qaeda suicide bombers were preparing for strikes in Sana,” Jeremy Scahill wrote.

“I thought a petrol tanker had exploded, but the mountains around me shook so hard,” a local resident, away from the village at the time of the strike, told Guardian journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. Abdul Mutalib, another witness, said that he saw people and animals burning: ” “A woman was burning in her tent. I tried to get her out but I couldn’t”. While observing the debris of the strike, including melted shoes amid remnant bright-yellow cluster munitions, another, Muqbel al-Kazimi, repeated that “there were fewer than ten men, and they lived in a couple of tents on the edge of Ba Kazim camp… The fighters told the Bedouin they would dig a well for them to get water”.

Dexter Filkins, published in The New Yorker, spoke with survivors of the strike in March 2011. “Hussein Abdullah, a herdsman, told me that he had been tending a herd of goats and camels when Al Majalah was hit. He recalled lying in his tent at sunrise, half-awake, when there was an enormous flash. ‘The sky turned white,’ Abdullah said. ‘Everything suddenly disappeared.’ He was knocked unconscious, and when he came to, he told me, he saw his wife running toward him. ‘And when she threw her arms around me I felt blood all over me,’ he said. She died, as did his daughter; only his infant son survived”.

In February 2013, investigators for the Al-Karama foundation, on a joint mission with the HOOD human rights organisation, visited Al-Majala.  “In the early morning, while I was on my way back, I heard explosions in the distance. I hurried home and when I saw the massacre, I was in shock. It was horrible: flames everywhere, bodies, tree and cars burning. The survivors were trying to rescue the injured and take stock of what had happened. Around 8:30am people came together and gathered the remains of the bodies that had been scattered in the trees and on the ground. Most homes and properties were destroyed. Many animals; goats, sheep, and camels had perished,” Muqbil Salem Luqia Al-Anbouri, who reportedly lost children, grandchildren, and three wives in the strike, told the investigators. “I found my beautiful daughter holding her youngest girl Khadidja. They were still burning even though their bodies were already completely carbonized,” he added.

Several sources reported that the devastation inflicted by the strike necessitated the opening of a mass grave near the village. “The residents picked up the shredded body parts of those killed without being able to distinguish one from another. The limbs were often mixed with those of animals that exploded at the same time. Without the ability to identify individuals, families buried their loved ones in a shared grave,” Al-Karama reported. The Yemeni parliamentary commission found that explosives had been spread over 1.5 kilometres of the strike site.

Saleh bin Fareed told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that “the clothes of the women and children were hanging from the treetops with the flesh on every tree, every rock. But you did not know if the flesh was of human beings or animals. Some bodies were intact but most, they melted”. Locals indicated to HRW that all thirty houses in the area had burned on the day of the strike, of which twelve were destroyed. Days after the incident, Al-Jazeera published video that apparently showed several civilians killed during the raid.

The strikes prompted a considerable public reaction in Yemen. Al-Jazeera reported that, in response to the strikes, “dozens” of Yemenis protested in the streets in Abyan governorate on December 18th 2009. On December 19th 2009, Aden Aden reported that cities in Shabwa and Abyan governorate saw the displacement of “a number of northern families”, “against the background of the Majala massacre”. One local-language Facebook source, “Helmy Al-Redfani”, indicated that a meeting of tribal sheikhs and leaders of the “Southern Movement” were meeting on Mahfad district on December 21st 2009. According to the Yemeni parliamentary report, it was at a gathering on that day that unexploded ordnance in the area detonated, killing and wounding several; Al-Karama reported that “hundreds” of tribal members had gathered on that day.

According to one Facebook user, “Bakr Ahmed”, the tribal National Solidarity Council condemned the strike, saying that it was “brutally unlawful and indiscriminate in the manner of its implementation, while the authority could use another method to achieve its goal without causing such destruction and destroying these innocent souls”.

Al-Qaeda members also sought to exploit the strike. A few days after the strike, The Guardian reported, AQAP leadership figures Nasser Wahayshi and Saeed al-Shihri travelled to Abyan to mourn al-Kazimi, while “al-Qaida member Mohamed Saleh al-Awlaki urged a gathering of thousands of tribesmen to stand by al-Qaida”. At the December 21st 2009 protest, Human Rights Watch reported that an AQAP operative declared: “Soldiers, you should know we do not want to fight you. There is no problem between you and us. The problem is between us and America and its agents. Beware taking the side of America!” According to The Guardian, the AQAP members were then tracked to Rafd, Shabwa governorate, where an alleged December 24th 2009 drone strike killed at least five.

Despite accepting the recommendations of the parliamentary report, the Yemeni government did not immediately implement its recommendations on clearing the Majala area of munitions and granting compensation to survivors, according to Human Rights Watch. According the leaked cable from US Ambassador Seche, the Yemeni government initially gave the Governor of Abyan 20 million rial to compensate the families of those killed and wounded.

A second Yemeni government offer of 5.5 million rials for each civilian killed was rejected by the villagers. A local told Human Rights Watch that the government “offered us 10 Toyota Hiluxes as a down payment if we agreed to the 5.5 million rials. We refused. We have said to the government from the start, we want 10 billion rials [$51,000] compensation. We were flexible. We could have agreed on a lower sum. But the government refused”. Some families finally received some compensation, for property damage only, in mid-2013, dividing 37 million rials between ten households. In 2012, according to al-Masdar Online, Akhbar Al-Youm reported that a US official had secretly supplied $1m in compensation for each person killed; no other known sources reported this.

Fearing that a government clearance effort would hide evidence of the strike, villagers told Human Rights Watch that they had called for an international site clearance team.

Yemeni journalist Abd al-Ilah Haidar al-Shayi’, who initially reported on the US role in the al-Majala strike, was imprisoned in February 2011 on terrorism charges for a term of five years. According to Jeremy Scahill, writing in the New Yorker and speaking with Democracy Now, it was al-Shayi’ who provided the first images of the munitions wreckage to Amnesty International, enabling the identification of a US involvement in the strike.

In Democracy Now, al-Shayi’ was quoted as saying, from a cage in a Yemeni courtroom: “When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwa and Arhab, when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me. You noticed in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions and quotations to international reporters and channels into accusations. Yemen, this is a place where the young journalist becomes successful, he is considered with suspicion”.

In February 2011, when President Saleh agreed to pardon al-Shayi’, President Obama called Saleh and “expressed concern” regarding his release from prison, leading to the pardon being scrapped. In July 2013, al-Shayi’s sentence was commuted to two year’s house arrest by President Hadi. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that the US was “concerned and disappointed by his early release”, according to the Associated Press.

When Al-Karama investigators visited the area, locals reported to them that several residents exposed to the strike had gotten cancer in the subsequent years, and wanted to know whether there might have been a link with the munitions used.

Due to the nature of both CIA and US military involvement in Yemen, and the lack of official acknowledgement by the CIA for their involvement, Airwars grades this event as “declared” due to the comments made by US government sources to media, in lieu of public reporting on CIA actions.

The incident occured at approximately 6:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (5)

Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala
60 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Nousa Mohammed Saleh El-Souwa
30 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Nasser Mohammed Nasser
6 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Arwa Mohammed Nasser
4 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Fatima Mohammed Nasser
2 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed

Family members (7)

Ali Mohammed Nasser
35 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Qubla Al-Kharibi Salem
25 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as 30 years old killed
Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser
9 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser
7 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser
5 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser
4 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Fatima Ali Mohammed Nasser
13 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama injured

Family members (3)

Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala
30 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as 32 years old killed
Qubla Salem Nasser
21 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as 25 years old killed
Mouhsena Ahmed Adiyou
50 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as 67 years old killed

Family members (7)

Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
37 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Saleha Ali Ahmed Mansour
30 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant killed
Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
13 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as 12 years old killed
Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
9 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
4 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
3 years old female Also listedby Al-Karama killed
Sumia Abdallah Muqbil Salem Luqia
1.5 years old female Listed only by Al-Karama killed

Family members (7)

Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye
36 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Hanaa Abdallah Monser
28 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant killed
Moheile Mohammed Saeed Yaslem
30 years old male Not listed by Al-Karama killed
Safaa Ali Mokbel Salem
25 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as aged 2.5 years killed
Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye
1 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye
6 years old female Not listed by Al-Karama killed
Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye
4 years old male Not listed by Al-Karama killed

Family members (5)

Fatima Yaslem Al-Rawami
67 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Maryam Awad Nasser
43 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant killed
Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye
15 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as aged 1.5 years killed
Muqbil Salem Luqia
Adult male Listed by Al-Karama injured
Nada Muqbil Salem Luqia
2.7 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured

Family members (4)

Abdullah Awad Sheikh
65 years old male killed
Maryam Saleh Nasser
54 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured
Muqbil Abdallah ‘Awdh Shikh
22 years old female Listed only by Al-Karama killed
Ahmed Abdallah ‘Awdh Shikh
18 years old female Listed only by Al-Karama killed

Family members (5)

Hanane Mohammed Jadib
25 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant, but not explicitly as deceased killed
Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad
2 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad
1 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Khadija Husain ‘Abdallah ‘Awdh
2 years old female Only listed by Al-Karama killed
Husain Abdallah ‘Awdh Shikh
30 years old male Listed by Al-Karama, and not explicitly as deceased; Yemeni parliamentary report described as only survivor of his family

Family members (4)

Maryam Mokbel Salem Louqye
38 years old female pregnant Listed by Al-KArama as 28, and as pregnant killed
Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh
3 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
‘Aisha Nasser Mahdi Ahmed Buh
1 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured
Nasser Mahdi Ahmed Buh
38 years old male Listed only by Al-Karama, and not explicitly as deceased

Family members (7)

Amina Abdullah Awad Sheikh
27 years old female pregnant Listed by Al-Karama as 28, and as pregnant killed
Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
12 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama, as daughter killed
Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
9 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama, as daughter killed
Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
4 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama, as daughter killed
Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
2 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Saleh Muhammad Saleh
11 years old male Listed by Al-Karama injured
Jamila Muhammad Saleh
1 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured

Family members (5)

Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali Basyul
62 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as killed in 2012 killed
Nur Sa’id Salem Lathaf
55 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured
Warda Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali
13 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured
Khaled Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali
12 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured
‘Ali Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali
10 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured

The victims were named as:

Khaled Mohammed Ali
Adult male Reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance killed
Nasser Saleh Al-Soueidi
Adult male Reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance killed
Mithaq Al-Jild
Adult male Reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance killed

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Al Majala (المعجلة), for which the generic coordinates are: 13.972421, 46.451482. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    47 – 64
  • (22–23 children12–17 women11–19 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    23–88
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–24
  • Belligerents reported injured
    4

Sources (66) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (24) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The al-Majala cruise missile strike resulted in the deaths of almost fifty civilians, including several women and children (al-Jazeera, December 17th 2009)
  • Video and images broadcast in the aftermath of the strikes showed a considerable death toll (Al-Jazeera, December 17th 2009)
  • Video and images broadcast in the aftermath of the strikes showed a considerable death toll (Al-Jazeera, December 19th 2009)
  • Pictures taken at the scene of the strike showed unexploded BLU 97 cluster bomblets and Tomahawk cruise missile wreckage, which only the US has the known capability to deploy (via Amnesty International)
  • The wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile chassis, reportedly pictured at the site of the strike (via Amnesty International)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Unexploded cluster munitions, which may have held incendiary material, continued to kill civilians years after the strike (Arabsgate, January 28th 2011)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The dead, from the initial strike, were from just two family groups, according to a Yemeni parliamentary commission (Arabsgate, January 18th 2011)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The number of dead, and the impossibility of identification in some cases, necessitated the opening of a mass grave near the strike location (Arabsgate, January 28th 2011)
  • Yemeni journalist Abd al-Ilah Haidar al-Shayi', who initially reported on US involvement in the al-Majala strike, was imprisoned soon after on terrorism charges (The Nation, March 13th 2012)
  • Al-Shayi's sentence was due to be commuted in 2011, but US pressure allegedly led to his continued imprisonment (Associated Press, July 24th 2013)
  • Images of remnant munitions, pictured in Al-Majala by Al-Karama Foundation investigators (Al-Karama, September 2013)
  • Nada, a young girl who survived the al-Majala strike, in February 2013 (Al-Karama, September 2013)
  • Moqbil Boulquish reportedly lost twenty-eight members of his family in the strike (Al-Karama, September 2013)
  • Yemeni opposition groups, including exiled separatist leader Ali Salem al-Bayd, were outraged by the strikes (al-Jazeera. December 19th 2009)
  • Nada Mobqil Loqyah, 5, with her guardian Salaha Moqbil Loqyah. Nada was orphaned in the 2009 strike on al-Majalah. (via Human Rights Watch, 2013)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Sumaya Muhammad al-Anbouri, 9, was among 41 civilians killed in a US cruise missile strike that also killed 14 alleged AQAP militants in al-Majalah on December 17, 2009. (via Human Rights Watch, 2009)
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    A number of children reportedly died from their injuries while on their way to hospital (Shabwa Press, December 17th 2014)
  • Yemeni officials described the target of the strike as Saleh Mohammed Ali al-Anbouri, also known as al-Kazemi, allegedly an AQAP leader. Locals, however, indicated that he had committed not to involve himself with AQAP after being recently released from prison. Him and his family all died in the strike. (CNN, December 19th 2009)
  • Moqbil Abu-Lukaish sits on remnants of one of the Tomahawk cruise missiles launched by the US Navy that struck al-Majalah on December 17, 2009. (via Human Rights Watch, 2012)
  • Wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile, reportedly pictured in al-Majala (via Amnesty International)
  • Wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile, pictured in al-Majala (via Amnesty International)
  • Wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile, pictured in al-Majala (via Amnesty International)

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the time of the strike, however, US officials told ABC and Fox News that, on orders from President Obama, the US military had targeted alleged AQAP sites with cruise missiles on the morning of the Al-Majala strike.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    47 – 64
  • (22–23 children12–17 women11–19 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    23–88
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–24
  • Belligerents reported injured
    4

Sources (66) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM007-B

Incident date

January 15, 2010

Location

الاجاشر, Al Ajashar, Saada, Yemen

Geolocation

17.183333, 44.800000 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

An alleged Yemeni security forces strike or US airstrike reportedly struck two vehicles in Al Ajasher between Sa’ada and Jawf province. Multiple sources reported the alleged air strike took place in the afternoon of January 15th 2010. Initially sources reported that up to seven alleged AQAP militants had been killed in the strike. However later sources disagreed on belligerents being killed, with an AQAP source stating that militants were only injured. No civilian harm was reported.

Al- Arabiya reported: “Two cars carrying eight dangerous Al Qaeda members were hit in an area between Saada and Al-Jawf,” the source said, adding, “Perhaps two survived and managed to escape.”

Al-Arabiya named Ayed al-Shabwani and Abdullah Hadi al-Tais as being killed in the incident. Almotamar added the names of Ammar Ubada Al-Waili and Saleh Al-Tais as hit in the strike but Al- Arabiya quoted a Yemeni security source who said that Ammar and Saleh survived the strikes.

Critical threats journalists also named Abu Ayman al Masri as being killed in the alleged strike however Jamestown later reported he had survived and later been arrested in August 2010: “Kuwaiti daily recently published a transcript of the interrogation of Shaykh Ibrahim Muhammad Salih al-Banna (a.k.a. Abu Ayman al-Masri), the Egyptian former intelligence chief of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) who was arrested in early August (al-Jarida, November 4; almethaq.net, August 16).”

Initial sources also named Qassem Al-Rimi as being killed in the alleged strike however it was later reported by multiple sources that he also survived.

Multiple sources corroborated that the named belligerents were high profile men in the Al Qaeda network however Reuters reported that the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda denied that any of their men had been killed in the alleged strike: ‘”The latest of these claims is that it killed six of them between the provinces of al-Jawf and Saada. We assure our Muslim nation that none of the Mujahideen were killed in that strike, but some have suffered mild injuries.”’ Given this, the number of belligerents reported to have been killed is between 0-7.

The Novak blog added “AQAP alleged the Yemeni government was engaged in a propaganda campaign to deceive the United States in order to justify increased counter-terror funding from the US and other Western nations.”

Involvement of the US has been questioned in multiple sources. The NYtimes reported: “It was not clear whether the airstrike was carried out with help or coordination from the United States, which has provided firepower and intelligence for some recent raids on Al Qaeda’s Yemen-based affiliate.” The source added context that the US involvement in Yemen had been complicated due to “the specter of American intervention arouses anger in Yemen and has been used by Al Qaeda to recruit new members.” The Long War Journal reported that: “Intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the strike.” Given the precision nature of the strike on two moving vehicles, and the limitations of the Yemeni air force, it seems unlikely that the Yemeni air force carried out the strikes.

The incident occured at approximately 2:30 pm local time.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the area of Al Ajashar (الاجاشر), for which the generic coordinates are: 17.183333, 44.800000. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Yemeni Air Force
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–7
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–3

Sources (18) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Abu Hurayrah Qasim al Raymi (Long War Journal, January 15, 2010)

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Yemeni Air Force Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Yemeni Air Force
  • Yemeni Air Force position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Yemeni Air Force
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–7
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–3

Sources (18) [ collapse]