US Forces in Yemen: Trump

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

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

Incident Code

USYEMTr006-C

Incident date

January 29, 2017

Location

الغيل, al Ghayil, Yakla, Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

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

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The victims were named as:

Family members (16)

Family members (4)

Family members (2)

Family members (3)

Family members (4)

Summary

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

Sources (90) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (46) [ collapse]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

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

  • Tagged satellite imagery of the event from The Intercept.

    Imagery:
    The Intercept, 2017

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Civilian casualty statements

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

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

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

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

Summary

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

Sources (90) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr035-C

Incident date

March 4–5, 2017

Location

جعار, Ja'ar, Bayda', Yemen

Geolocation

14.25000, 45.83333 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Multiple sources reported that US airstrikes targeted alleged AQAP militants in or near Ja’ar, in the Sama’a area of Bayda governorate, overnight from March 4th to March 5th. One source reported a single militant casualty, and another reported that “civilians including a child” were killed as the result of overnight strikes in Bayda governorate, of which this strike was one.

According to several local language sources, including Al-Masdar Online, US F-16s conducted several strikes in the region during the night. Other sources indicated that jets were also accompanied by helicopters and drones. Two sources stated that five strikes were reported to have taken place, though another mentioned more than twenty. According to local language Twitter source @zbraqan20, one strike resulted in the death of an AQAP leader.

Another Twitter source stated that “civilians including a child” were killed as a result of overnight US strikes across Bayda governorate, though it was unclear which specific strike(s) were alleged to have resulted in civilian casualties. That alleged civilian harm report is accounted for in this event, and so minimum civilian deaths are set at two, including one child. The allegation is assessed as “weak”, however.

This reported event took place amid the dramatic intensification of US operations against AQAP in March 2017. A US military intelligence source told NBC News that the strikes beginning March 2nd were “part of ‘new directives’ to aggressively pursue the Dhahab and Qayfa clans”.

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

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

The incident occured during the night.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (1 child)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Ja’ar (جعار) located within As Sawma’ah district (مديرية الصومعة), for which the coordinates are: 14.25000, 45.83333. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Civilian casualty statements

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

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea today, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Platoon 501, prepare for an EOD mine-countermeasure exercise with members of a South Korean navy underwater dive team off the coast of Jinhae, South Korea, as part of exercise Foal Eagle 2017, March 3, 2017. Foal Eagle is an annual, bilateral training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces and their ability to work together during a crisis. Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Platoon 501, prepare for an EOD mine-countermeasure exercise with members of a South Korean navy underwater dive team off the coast of Jinhae, South Korea, as part of exercise Foal Eagle 2017, March 3, 2017. Foal Eagle is an annual, bilateral training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces and their ability to work together during a crisis. Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield
Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.

Missiles Land Off Japan’s Coast

The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”

He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”

The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.

U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen

Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.

Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.

The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.

The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.

Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.

Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.

“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (1 child)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr152-C

Incident date

March 5, 2018

Location

مديرية العبر, Al Abr District, Hadhramout, Yemen

Geolocation

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

Geolocation accuracy

District

Airwars assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

Summary

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

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

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

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

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

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

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Civilian casualty statements

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

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

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

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

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

Summary

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

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr124-C

Incident date

December 15, 2017

Location

يكلا‎, Yakla, Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.598056, 45.060000 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

At least two women, and possibly two children, all from the same family, were reportedly killed by a US drone strike on a house in Yakla, in the Wald Rabi area of Bayda governorate, on the evening of December 15th 2017.

On January 10th 2018, a US Central Command statement confirmed that a strike took place in Bayda on this day, and indicated that it had resulted in the death of AQAP “external operations facilitator” Miqdad al-Sana’ani. It made no mention of civilian harm.

Two sources, Yemen Shabab and @marib_alward, stated that at least two women were killed, and other civilians injured, in the attack. As the former noted [translation]: “Private local sources told Yemen Shabab Net, that at least two women were killed about half an hour previous to now, in an American drone airstrike in the area of ​​Yakla, in the Directorate of Ould Rabee, affiliated to Qayfah, in Al Bayda Governorate. The sources confirmed that the raid targeted a house inhabited by two civilians in the area, which resulted in the death of two women and the injury of others, whose identity and number have not been known until now.”

Reprieve shared their findings on this event with Airwars, suggesting that two women were killed alongside a male doctor affiliated with AQAP. Reprieve suggested that this doctor was potentially Miqdad al-Sana’ani.

Other local-language Twitter sources, including @SUHFNET and @ataqpress, reported that a family of three women and two children were killed.

Bar Reprieve, no known sources corroborated CENTCOM’s claim that Miqdad al-Sana’ani, an alleged militant, was killed in the strike. However several sources mentioned that the identity of some victims was unknown. Since there were no other known reports of a US strike on December 15th, this event is treated as declared.

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

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

The incident occured at approximately 7:45 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 5
  • (2 children2–3 women)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (16) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Yakla (يكلا‎), within the Wald Rabi district (بمديرية ولد ربيع). Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Yakla are: 14.598056, 45.060000.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Civilian casualty statements

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

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

U.S. air strikes kill senior AQAP militants
TAMPA, Fla. – U.S. air strikes in Yemen recently resulted in the death of key Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders.

U.S. forces continue sustained counterterrorism operations in Yemen against AQAP and ISIS, in coordination with the Government of Yemen, to degrade these groups’ ability to hold territory and coordinate external attacks.

External operations facilitator Miqdad al Sana’ani was killed in an air strike Dec. 15 in al-Bayda governorate.

Habib al-Sana’ani, AQAP deputy arms facilitator, who was an intermediary with ties to senior AQAP leadership and was responsible for facilitating the movement of weapons, explosives and finances into northern Marib and al-Bayda governorates, was killed in an airstrike Dec. 19 in Marib governorate.

Abu Umar al-Sana’ani, an AQAP Dawah committee member, was killed in an air strike Nov. 20 in al-Bayda governorate.
-30-

Follow CENTCOM on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 5
  • (2 children2–3 women)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1

Sources (16) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr163-C

Incident date

April 22–23, 2018

Location

مفقه ,الحزم, Mafqa, Al Hazma, Shabwa, Yemen

Geolocation

14.79049, 45.71084 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Two young men, who pro-AQAP feeds indicated may have been civilians, were reportedly killed by a US drone strike in Al Hazm, in the Beihan area on the borders of Shabwa and Bayda governorates, overnight from April 22nd-23rd 2018. It was later suggested that they were instead killed by a Houthi landmine.

Local language news outlet @HdrmutAlhadath named the dead as Ammar Yasser Al-Duwail aged 22, and Abdullah Mohammed Farid, aged 30.  A local security official told Al-Masdar Online that the two “suspected” AQAP members were killed by a US drone, which targeted them as they travelled through the area on a motorcycle.

According to Dr Elisabeth Kendall, however, pro-AQAP feeds instead described them as “citizens”, not “brothers”, and suggested that they were workers at a livestock market. Some other sources were ambivalent about the status of the dead; @HdrmutAlhadath identified those killed as “youths”.

“The plane was flying at low altitude in the skies of Beihan city before it hit the two men, allegedly belonging to al-Qaeda, in one of the sandy roads in Mafqa area in west of the city”, eyewitnesses told YP Agency.

While only one source (@Dr_E_Kendall) explicitly indicated that the dead were potentially civilians, the ambivalence of other sources has led Airwars to assess the claim of civilian harm as “fair”.

A Reprieve caseworker, Baraa Shiban, later tweeted that the two were not killed by a US drone, but by a Houthi landmine planted earlier in 2018. However, a later US Central Command press release stated that an airstrike in Bayda governorate on April 23rd had targeted “an AQAP checkpoint for asserting regional control and raising illegal revenue”, which the Long War Journal was told was in Bayda. Since there were no other known reports of a US strike in either Shabwa or Bayda on April 23rd, and given that reports indicated that a strike took place in the border region, this event is treated as declared.

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

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

The incident occured during the night.

Summary

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

Sources (15) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • A US drone strike reportedly killed two men in Beihan area, Shabwa/Bayda border area, overnight from April 22nd-23rd (@Dr_E_Kendall, April 23rd 2018)

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the Mafqa (مفقه) area, west of the village of Al Hazm (الحزم), for which the generic coordinates are: 14.79049, 45.71084. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • Reports of the incident mention the Mafqa (مفقه) area, west of the village of Al Hazm (الحزم).

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Civilian casualty statements

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

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

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

Sources (15) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr040-C

Incident date

March 5, 2017

Location

جبل نوفان, Jabal Novan, Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.493551, 44.760258 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Multiple sources reported that US drone strikes targeted alleged AQAP militant positions in Novan, in the Qaifa area of Bayda governorate, on the evening of March 5th. There was one known report of possible civilian injury due to the strike.

Local language Twitter sources reported that airstrikes targeted AQAP militants in the Novan mountains. The timing of local reports suggested that the strikes took place around 10.30pm local time.

According to Reuters, an airstrike hit the “home of a suspected al Qaeda member in the village of Noufan”. According to Elwatan News, local sources said that only civilians were wounded in the course of both this strike and a second overnight attack on al-Saeed, Shabwa. Though it was unclear which specific strike(s) resulted in civilian injury, the claim has been accounted for in this event.  A minimum of two civilian injuries has been set, and the claim assessed as “weak”.

This reported event took place amid a dramatic intensification of US operations against AQAP in March 2017. On March 6th, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis announced that forty strikes had been conducted in Yemen over the previous five nights. A day earlier, AFP reported that AQAP militants had begun to withdraw from several areas in response to US attacks.

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

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

The incident occured at approximately 10:30 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Jabal Novan (جبل نوفان), north from the town of Rada’a (رداع), within the Qifah (قيفه) district, for which the coordinates are: 14.493551, 44.760258. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Civilian casualty statements

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

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea today, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Platoon 501, prepare for an EOD mine-countermeasure exercise with members of a South Korean navy underwater dive team off the coast of Jinhae, South Korea, as part of exercise Foal Eagle 2017, March 3, 2017. Foal Eagle is an annual, bilateral training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces and their ability to work together during a crisis. Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Platoon 501, prepare for an EOD mine-countermeasure exercise with members of a South Korean navy underwater dive team off the coast of Jinhae, South Korea, as part of exercise Foal Eagle 2017, March 3, 2017. Foal Eagle is an annual, bilateral training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces and their ability to work together during a crisis. Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield
Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.

Missiles Land Off Japan’s Coast

The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”

He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”

The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.

U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen

Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.

Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.

The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.

The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.

Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.

Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.

“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Sources (14) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr154-C

Incident date

March 7, 2018

Location

الهدي, Al Hudhi, Hadhramout, Yemen

Geolocation

16.30299, 47.24515 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Nearby landmark level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Nearby landmark

Airwars assessment

One civilian was reportedly killed by a US drone strike in Al Hudhi, Hadhramout, at around 5pm on March 7th 2018, “a member of his family and independent observers” told The Intercept. Saleh al-Wuhair was reportedly killed as he stood on a hill in the area, looking for a mobile phone signal. No other known sources specifically reported this strike.

As The Intercept report noted: “Two days after Amer was killed [on march 5th], a man named Saleh al-Wuhair stood on top of a hill in al-Hudhi, looking for cell service to make a call. At around 5 p.m., a missile came flying down and killed him, according to a member of his family and independent observers in Yemen. Because the area was targeted twice in two days, tribe members drove out to al-Hudhi to urge residents to relocate to a safer place.”

Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars. An on-the-ground investigator reported that a strike had killed a twenty-year-old man while he was walking, likely referring to Saleh al-Wuhair, but suggested that the strike took place on March 8th.

Saleh was reportedly a member of the Al-Mahashima tribe, whose members were allegedly targeted by multiple strikes in March 2018. He was among a group of internally-displaced persons, who had fled fighting in Al-Jawf.

Local sources denied that Saleh had any affiliations to either AQAP or ISIS. One of his relatives told The Intercept that Saleh’s uncle was an AQAP leader killed by a drone strike around five years previously. Writing in The Guardian, Yemeni Human Rights Minister Mohamed Askar said that a government committee had collected evidence that the target of strikes in the area at the beginning of March were civilians, but did not specifically mention this alleged event.

A US Central Command spokesperson later told the Long War Journal that a strike had taken place in Hadhramout on March 7th 2018. Since there were no other known reports of a strike on that day, this event is treated as confirmed. US Central Command also told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that allegations of civilian harm in this strike were ‘non-credible’, due to what it said was a lack of available evidence.

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

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

The incident occured at approximately 5:00 pm local time.

Summary

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

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention Al Hudhi (الهدي) without specifying whether it is an area or a settlement. One possible location for this incident is within the vicinity of the Hudhi (هدي) hill, for which the generic coordinates are: 16.30299, 47.24515. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Civilian casualty statements

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

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

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

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

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

Summary

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

Sources (6) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr129-C

Incident date

January 1, 2018

Location

ذي كالب , Dhi Kalib, Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.555183, 44.882332 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Two civilians were allegedly killed by a US drone strike in Dhi Kalb, in the Qayfa area of Bayda governorate, on the afternoon of January 1st 2018, according to multiple sources.

In an email to the Long War Journal, a US Central Command spokesperson confirmed that a strike took place “against AQAP” in Bayda on that day. Since there were no known local reports of other US strikes on January 1st; this event is therefore treated as declared.

Sources, including Yemen Shabab, named those killed as relatives Mohammed Mansar Abu Sarima and Mohammed Naji Ahmad Abu Sarima. Most suggested that the former was a 70-year old and the latter a 40-year old, though one local language Twitter source (@m_alsallaly) gave ages of 50 and 25 respectively.

Two sources, @almasdaronline and @MrsdYem, suggested that those killed were “militants of the Popular Resistance”, indicating that they were among those who militarily opposed Houthi forces in the area.

The pair were reportedly targeted as they sat together in a farm in Dhi Kalb. Tribal sources told Yemen Shabab that they were killed while in a tribal meeting with “the people of Al-Wasat”, which had been called to consider a disputed plot of land in the Dhi Kalb area. A relative of those killed, Mohammed Abu Sarimah, similarly told Associated Press that they had just returned from “mediating a local dispute”.

Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars. Witnesses told an investigator that the two men, an elderly man and a man in his early thirties, were unaffiliated with AQAP. Both were reportedly the first to arrive at a tribal meeting on farmland approximately 300 metres from their house; as they arrived, at around 2:30 PM, they were killed by the drone strike.

According to the AP report, tribal mediations “involve large gatherings of tribesmen who are often armed, potentially raising drone operators’ suspicions”. Mohammed Abu Sarimah told AP that “We don’t have any affiliation. They are simple farmers who don’t know how to read or write… We live in fear. Drones don’t leave the sky.”.

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

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

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

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

Summary

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

Sources (10) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • The Sarima family provided AP with this image, showing a photo of Mohammed Abu Sarima, reportedly killed in the strike (AP, November 14th 2018)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Dhi Kalib (ذي كالب ) for which the generic coordinates are: 14.555183, 44.882332. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Civilian casualty statements

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

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Jun. 2018: No strikes to date.

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

Sources (10) [ collapse]