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 15 civilians, including at least 10 children and four women, were reportedly killed in a US Navy special forces operation in al-Ghayil village, Yakla region of Bayda province – though the reported civilian toll varied considerably.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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
    15 – 56
  • (10–15 children4–10 women1–8 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    5–7
  • 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 (92) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (51) [ 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)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    An alleged child casualty of the January 29th 2017 raid (@doamuslims, January 29th 2017)
  • The Pentagon said that an Osprey helicopter had experienced a "hard landing" during the raid, allegedly shown here (@defence_blog, January 29th 2017)
  • The Pentagon said that an Osprey helicopter, of the type shown here, had experienced a "hard landing" during the raid (@defence_blog, January 29th 2017)
  • "Ryan Owens, left, with his father Bill Owens." (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • "CPO Ryan Owens, a Navy SEAL who died in a raid on al Qaeda in Yemen in January 2017" (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • A map of Yemen, produced by NBC News, showing the location of Yakla, where the January 29th raid took place (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • The interior of a building damaged during the January 29th 2017 raid (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • A building damaged during the January 29th 2017 raid (NBC, October 1st 2017)
  • "Relatives of those who died, including the seven children of Fatim Saleh Mohsen al-Ameri" (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Febuary 9th 2017)
  • Abdallah Mabkhout al-Ameri was killed during the raid. He had survived a previous US strike on his wedding in 2013. (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 9th 2017)
  • Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki was reportedly fatally wounded after US forces fired upon the house she was hiding in during the raid. (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, February 9th 2017)
  • Interior view of a building allegedly destroyed during the raid (Alahd, January 29th)
  • A map of al-Ghayil, published by The Intercept (March 9th 2017), detailing the locations of the raid
  • A girl in the remains of a building, reportedly destroyed during the January 29th 2017 raid (The Intercept, March 9th 2017)
  • Children in the ruins of a house, destroyed during the January 29th 2017 raid (The Intercept, March 9th 2017)
  • The village of al-Ghayil, in which the raid took place (The Intercept, March 9th 2017)
  • "Mabkhout Ali al Ameri stands with his 18-month-old son, Mohammed, in the village of al Ghayil in Yemen’s al Bayda province. Mabkhout’s wife, Fatim Saleh Mohsen, was shot in the back of the head by helicopter gunship fire as she fled with Mohammed in her arms during a U.S. raid on January 29, 2017. The vehicle in the background was also destroyed during the assault." (The Intercept, March 9th 2017)
  • Buildings damaged during the raid (Reprieve, February 2nd 2017)
  • The interior of a building damaged during the raid (@doamuslims, January 29th 2017)
  • Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki was reportedly fatally wounded after US forces fired upon the house she was hiding in during the raid. (Yemenpress, January 29th 2017)
  • Eight-year-old Nawar al-Awlaki was reportedly fatally wounded by US fire during the raid (CNN, January 31st 2017)
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    Video footage of a child allegedly killed during the raid
  • Alleged video footage of al-Ghayil village, showing damage caused in the raid.
  • PBS Frontline visited the site of the Yakla raid, recording interviews with eyewitnesses of the raid
  • Barzan Mohammed Abdullah Mabkhout Al Ameri, 10, the sole surviving member of his family after the January 29, 2017 raid in Al Bayda governorate, Yemen. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • The place where Mursil Abedraboh Masad Al Ameri, 6 years old, was shot and killed during the raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • Location where witnesses reported US forces landed during the January 2017 raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • Damage to the reception room of a Yakla home from the January 2017 raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • A home in Yakla that was attacked and significantly damaged during the January 2017 raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.

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
    15 – 56
  • (10–15 children4–10 women1–8 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    5–7
  • 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 (92) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr096-C

Incident date

August 13, 2017

Location

المرون , بالقرب من الخبر, Al Maroun, in the vicinity of Al Khabr, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.434036, 46.166267 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

In an email to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, US Central Command stated that a strike was conducted against AQAP in Abyan governorate on August 13th 2017, confirming multiple earlier reports that at least two alleged AQAP militants were killed in at least one afternoon US drone strike in Al Maroun, in the Khabr Maraqisha area of Abyan governorate.

However several sources, including Mwatana, insisted the victims were civilians.

While most sources reported at the time that two AQAP militants were killed in the strike, one (@demolinari) suggested that “some locals” had claimed that neither were members of AQAP, raising the possibility of civilian harm, but noted that “some pro-AQAP channels suggest otherwise”. The same source also tweeted a photo of the dead, naming one as Abu Aseed Al-Marqashi, who was however apparently pictured as an active AQAP militant in Mukalla during “the 2015-16 period”.

Several other sources named the two dead as Khidr Saeed Al-Dahl, possibly also known as Al-Zuhal, and Nasser Bin Jarada.

Some suggested that more than two alleged militants were killed in the strike.  According to Xinhua, a Yemeni security source said that “about three wanted al-Qaida elements” were killed after two missiles were fired by a US drone. One local language Twitter source suggested that there were “reports of dozens” of militants killed in the Al-Maroun area. However this is not supported by any other source.

Sources differed on the exact circumstances of the strike. Some suggested that the attack killed two men while they stood next to a water well, while others reported that a vehicle, either a car or a motorcycle, was targeted in the area. One alleged photo of the scene showed a destroyed car. According to Mwatana, the victims “were sitting under a nearby tree when the strike occurred.” Sources reported that the strike took place between 3.30pm and 4pm.

Though most sources attributed the strike to the US, one source suggested that strikes were carried out by the UAE.  Since the US Central Command later confirmed a strike in the area, Airwars has not assessed this strike as Contested.

Xinhua reported that, according to local sources, two other strikes targeted alleged AQAP militants in the same area and time period. According to these sources, “two other hideouts of the al-Qaida group in the area were bombed in an earlier attack that took place at about 2pm local time”. It was not clear whether these were alleged US strikes and no additional details were provided. No other known sources reported these additional strikes.

According to Aden al-Ghad, “dozens” of families were displaced following the attack “for fear of indiscriminate shelling”.

In an email to the Bureau, US Central Command said at the time that it was still assessing the results of the strike.

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.”

In March 2021, in its report death Falling From The Sky, the Yemeni human rights group Mwatana insisted those killed were civilian beekeepers, who looked after approximately 80 hives near the village of Mroun. The men were buried in Hosn Saiid Cemetery, about 7km from their homes. Mwatana insisted that it could find “no credible indication that either El Khodor or Ali were directly participating in hostilities with AQAP or IS-Y, or that they were associated with these groups.”

The area sheikh told the human rights group: ““I have been sheikh to this village for 17 years and I knew those boys who died in the incident. They were two of the finest youth of our village.”

The incident occured between 3:30 pm and 4:00 pm local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (2 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Other
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–3

Sources (37) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (9) [ collapse]

  • Several sources suggested that the strike targeted a vehicle travelling in Al-Maroun, Khabr Maraqisha area (@AwdMohmmed, August 13th 2017). However Mwata's March 2021 report suggests this vehicle was not connected to this event.
  • According to several sources, two alleged militants were killed in a US drone strike on August 13th 2017 (@demolinari, August 13th 2017)
  • One of those reportedly killed, named as "Abu Aseed Al-Marqashi", reportedly pictured as an AQAP fighter in Mukalla during the "2015-16 period" (@demolinari, August 16th 2017).
  • Weapon remnants found after the attack, which a weapons expert identified as likely parts of an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • Weapon remnants found after the attack, which a weapons expert identified as likely parts of an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • The mattress both men were sitting on before the strike, found at the site of the August 13, 2017 strike. Photo taken by a Mwatana field researcher.
  • Debris found at the site of the August 13, 2017 strike. Photo taken by a Mwatana field researcher.
  • The tree where the two men were sitting immediately before the August 13, 2017 strike. Photo taken by a Mwatana field researcher.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the Al Maroun (المرون) area, allegedly in vicinity of Al Khabr (الخبر), south of the Al Maraqisha mountains (جبل المراقشه). Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Al Khabr are: 13.434036, 46.166267.

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.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (2 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected targets
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Other
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–3

Sources (37) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr084-C

Incident date

May 23, 2017

Location

النجاد العذلان, Al Nijad Al Adhlan, Marib, Yemen

Geolocation

15.18779, 45.16637 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Up to five civilians, including a fifteen-year-old boy and man over the age of 70, were reportedly killed in a US special forces ground operation in Al Khthala village, in the Al Jubah area of Marib governorate, beginning at around 1am on May 23rd 2017, though official US accounts of the raid claimed that there were “no credible indications of civilian casualties”. According to US Central Command, the raid instead resulted in the deaths of seven AQAP militants. US forces were also injured in the attack, the Pentagon later said.

Multiple sources, including The Intercept, Reprieve, and Al-Arabi, reported that, according to local sources, a total of five civilians were in fact killed in the raid.  Reprieve and other sources named those civilians killed as Nasser Ali Mahdi Al-Adhal, Al-Ghader Saleh Salem Al-Adhal, Saleh Al-Taffaf, Yasser Al-Taffaf Al-Adhel, and fifteen-year-old Abdullah (nicknamed Shibraeen) Saeed Salem Al-Adhal.

However in March 2011, following an extensive ground investigation, Mwatana said that between two and three civilians had died in the attack, noting: ” According to information collected by Mwatana, two civilians, two men who appeared to be members of the US-aligned Yemeni army, and another man whose status Mwatana was unable to determine were killed during the raid. Another four people were injured, including two civilians and two Yemeni army soldiers.”

Dhabia Ahmed, the mother of Abdullah, told PBS Frontline that he was a conscript in the Yemeni army, and that he and other men were just trying to defend their families that night. When he died, Dhabia said, “He called out to me, “Mom!” “Make peace with God,” I said. His nickname was Shibraeen. I told him, “Shibraeen, my love, make peace with God. Patience, my love.””

According to The Intercept, Abdullah was reportedly shot as he ran from US forces. Murad Al-Adhal, the 22-year-old brother of Abdullah, who was also injured in the raid, told The Intercept that he was woken by gunfire at 1:30am. As helicopters fired on buildings, he said, “my little brother Abdullah ran for his life with the other women and children. They killed him as he was running”.

Mwatana offered a slightly different version of Abdullah’s death, noting: “When the raid began, they heard people speaking English and dogs barking. Abdullah’s mother hurried to grab him and his sister and ran with them towards the bathroom. They hid inside, but the helicopter started shooting at the bathroom from above, so they ran down the hill from the house and hid behind two bushes. Abdullah was behind one, and his mother and little sister were behind another. His mother watched, from about ten meters away, as the helicopter began shooting at the bush where Abdullah was hiding, killing him. “She saw fire falling from the sky and devouring the tree where Abdallah [had] sought shelter. She felt totally paralyzed watching her son die in front of her,” another local resident, who is a relative of the family, told Mwatana.”

Both Reprieve and The Intercept reported that Nasser Ali Mahdi Al-Adhal, aged at least 70 and partially blind, was killed by US SEALs while attempting to greet the troops, having allegedly mistaken them for guests. According to Reprieve, “four other villagers were killed when they started to argue with the US soldiers after the shooting of Nasser al-Adhal”.

Most reports suggested that six civilians were injured in the raid, including a 69-year-old “who was shot in the leg”, according to Reprieve. The Intercept, however, gave a figure of five wounded civilians, based on conversations with village residents. Local sources told Al-Arabi that seven civilians, all from the Al-Adhal family, were wounded, naming three of the victims as Murad Saeed Salem Al-Adhal, Othman Muhammad Salih Al-Adhal, and Mabkhoot Ali Ali Arfaj Al-Adhal.  According to The Intercept, Murad was shot in the leg, and Othman was aged twelve.

PBS Frontline also reported that then-six-year-old Mujahid al-Adhal’s back and hearing were injured when a block of cement fell on him during the raid. His uncle, Al-Ghader Saleh Salem Al-Adhal, was one of those killed. Mwatana instead described Mr al-Ghader as a serving member of the Yemen armed forces, noting: “Al Ghader, a soldier in the Yemeni military, was sleeping in his room when the raid began. He was shot in the chest and kidney. His wife tried to close his mouth so that those attacking the village would not hear his moaning. He remained alive throughout the night, but when his family tried to send him to a nearby hospital in the morning he died along the road.”

Statements by US Central Command and from Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis indicated that seven AQAP militants were killed in the raid against an AQAP “compound”, through a combination of “small arms fire and precision airstrikes”.  According to Davis, the raid targeted “a headquarters, a place to meet and plan for external operations and to lead [AQAP]”, and aimed at gathering intelligence on AQAP, including laptops and cellphones.

However, reports that civilians were killed in the raid cast doubt upon this figure, particularly given that, according to a US Department of Defense statement, “no civilian casualties were reported, and based on observations on the ground and in the sky, there are no credible indications of such casualties”.

According to Reprieve, “at least two” AQAP militants were in fact killed in the raid, having joined the firefight after US troops landed. The Intercept reported that, according to a senior figure in the village, seven men who were guests in one house were killed, possibly accounting for the seven militants reported killed by the US. The report did not identify the seven, nor were they described as either civilians or militants. Anatolia Agency reported that six “tribal gunmen” from the Al-Adhal family were killed and eight wounded, though stated that it was unknown whether they were noncombatant civilians or militants.

Long War Journal reported that “no senior al Qaeda leaders or operatives” were killed in the raid. According to one Twitter source, locals claimed that seven reported deaths were all members of the “Saudi-paid anti-Houthi resistance”, though it was unclear if this was incompatible with also being an AQAP member. Reporter Iona Craig tweeted that one of the village’s dead was a “serving soldier” with the Saudi-led Coalition, likely referring to fifteen-year-old Abdullah, though there were no indications that he was on military duty at the time of the raid.

According to Al-Arabim, Abdul Rahman Al-Adhal, leader of the Salafi Rashad party in Marib, denied any AQAP presence in the village, saying that one person, seemingly describing an AQAP member, was “advised and moderated”.

A local tribesman told Nadwa Dawsari, for her report Foe Not Friend, that three members of the al-Adhal clan, part of the Murad tribe, had been previously recruited by AQAP. After one was killed by a US strike in April 2017 (USYEMTr081-C), Dawsari wrote, “tribal leaders asked the clan to take strict action against the two surviving men, giving them the option to leave AQAP or to leave the area. The leaders stated that if the men chose to remain with AQAP, their tribe would disown them. The two men reportedly decided to leave AQAP but feared that the group would target them, since it kills those who leave it after swearing allegiance. ‘If we stayed with the tribe, al-Qaeda will kill us. If we stay with al-Qaeda, the Americans will kill us,’ one reportedly said”. Both were reportedly killed in the course of this raid.

A maximum of twelve civilian deaths are recorded for this event, inclusive of the possibility that the seven “guests” reportedly killed were civilian casualties additional to the five minimum civilian dead widely agreed upon. A minimum of two militant deaths have been recorded, based on the Reprieve report and the possibility that the US claim of seven AQAP deaths included the minimum five reported civilian deaths. The maximum has been set at seven, reflecting US claims.

The minimum number of reported civilian injuries has been set at five, drawing on the reporting of The Intercept. The maximum has been set at ten, including the eight potential civilian “gunmen” wounded according to the Anatolia Agency, along with two children. The minimum number of reported militant injuries has been set at zero, given that no sources explicitly mentioned injured militants, with a maximum of eight, accounting for the possibility that all of the eight injured “gunmen” referred to by Al-Arabi were in fact civilian combatants.

A local source told Al-Arabi that US forces sustained “deaths and injuries”. Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis told the press, including the Military Times, that US SEALs sustained “ambulatory” wounds during the raid, but that there were no known US deaths. To reflect these claims, both alleged military deaths and injuries have been set at two.

A few social media sources also claimed, in the immediate aftermath of the raid, that an “American statement” had announced that two US soldiers were killed, which one source named as Robert Akashi, aged 29, and George Bell, aged 24. The source, @greeb32165, also claimed that a second lieutenant, Randy Kilonne, was wounded. However, no statement or any other sources could be found that mentioned these names, and this specific claim may have been fabricated.  A single Twitter source, @MasadryNet, indicated that, according to an “agency”, seven American soldiers had been killed; this likely reflects a misquote of the US claim that seven AQAP militants had been killed.

Sources reported that the raid, which most suggested lasted for around an hour, began at around 1am on May 23rd. According to the Associated Press, helicopters landed troops on the outskirts of Juba, before becoming engaged in a firefight. Local sources reported to The Intercept that between 40 and 60 troops attacked the village, alongside “eight or nine attack helicopters and other aircraft”.

A villager, Abu Mujahid, told PBS Frontline that “[Americans] came on foot when people were sleeping. Some came from the valley. Others from this side. Everywhere. The top of the hill was full of them”. Dhabia Ahmed said that “missiles fell at the front and back of the house. We woke up covered in broken glass and bullet shells. My children and I tried to run away so they wouldn’t capture us. They even had dogs”.

PBS Frontline also reported that, amongst US-issue equipment left in the village after the raid, a medical backpack was found that contained a list of twenty-two names and two dogs. PBS Frontline confirmed that the names listed were of Navy SEALs.

According to a tweet from Dr Elizabeth Kendall, an AQAP statement claimed that the raid targeted the home of “M. Sa’id al-A’dhal al-Muradi”, allegedly killed in a US drone strike in the area one month earlier (USYEMTr081-C), and that US SEALs fired indiscriminately when they couldn’t enter a house, killing five people including a man aged around 80.

The World Socialist Website reported that, according to local media, 30 troops were involved in the raid, mostly American but “including some from the Saudi-led force”.  The Intercept also reported that, according to local sources, Emirati special forces were involved in the raid.

Sources reported that the raid was preceded by air strikes, carried out by drones and helicopters. According to Al-Arabi, seven strikes took place before or during the arrival of troops. Air support continued throughout the operation; CENTCOM stated that strikes were carried out by an AC-130 gunship in support of the raid. According to Al-Arabi, 60  missiles were reportedly fired at the village during the clashes. The Intercept reported that airstrikes resulted in the deaths of many livestock in the area.

Locals told Al-Masdar News that the raid focused on four houses, including that of Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Athal, the leader of the Salafi Rashad Party in Marib. Four homes were reportedly destroyed in the operation, possibly “burned”, alongside further damage to other buildings in the area. According to Al-Arabi, a number of families were displaced as a result of the raid.

According to Al-Masdar News, Sputnik Arabic had claimed that the operation targeted twelve AQAP members, principally Saudis, who had arrived from Shabwa some hours before the raid. This report suggested that US forces, landing in “the areas of Jaw Al Melah and Najd Maqad”, captured twelve militants, and became engaged in a firefight with local tribesmen who were sheltering AQAP members. The reported Sputnik Arabic article could not be found.  One other source mentioned “unconfirmed reports” that between six and nine Saudi AQAP militants were captured, though no other known sources reported this.

The Al-Adhal family reportedly belongs to the Murad tribe, the largest tribe of Marib governorate, with around 60,000 members. According to The Intercept, the village was in the midst of a long-running “confrontation” over the issue of locals sheltering AQAP militants, with a “senior figure” telling the outlet that “I just needed more time to save my own people from this. There was a collective effort to kick out Al Qaeda”.  On May 26th, Adhal tribesmen reportedly staged a protest, using the Arabic hashtag “Al-Adhal are not Al-Qaeda”.

The Al-Jubah area was, one month earlier, the target of a previous reported US airstrike, on April 30th (USYEMTr081-C), which allegedly killed at least two civilians. On May 26th, locals protested the latest US attack and the killing of civilians.

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.”

In a comprehensive report into Trump-era actions in Yemen, the human rights organisation Mwatana said that two civilians had died along with a possible third – with two civilians additionally injured. It noted that it had “conducted in-depth interviews with six people, including with two wounded survivors and four relatives of those killed and wounded. In some cases, Mwatana conducted follow-up interviews by phone to gather further information. Mwatana also took or collected about three dozen photos, including photos of the wounded child, the invitation to the village-organized protest after the raid, medical reports and identification cards of those killed and wounded, military IDs, death certificates, and of bullets and other physical remnants found at the site after the raid.”

 

The incident occured at 1:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (11)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground), Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 12
  • (1 child4–11 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–10
  • 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
    4–9
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–10

Sources (72) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (31) [ collapse]

  • The May 23rd 2017 raid reportedly resulted in the destruction of four buildings in the Al-Jubah area (Reprieve, May 23rd 2017)
  • Nasser Al-Adhal, aged over seventy and partially-sighted, was reportedly killed by US SEALs as he mistakenly attempted to greet them as guests (@Reprieve, May 24th 2017)
  • In a statement, AQAP stated that the area was not the site of an AQAP base, and that US forces fired "indiscriminately", killing civilians (@terror_monitor, May 26th 2017)
  • On May 26th 2017, members of the Al-Adhal tribe protested against the US raid, with the Arabic hashtag "Al-Adhal are not al Qaeda" (@Dr_E_Kendall, May 26th 2017)
  • AQAP propaganda exploited the May 23rd raid (@Dr_E_Kendall, May 31st 2017)
  • PBS Frontline visited the village targeted by the raid, interviewing multiple villagers including Dhabia Ahmed and Mujahid al-Adhal
  • Othman Mohammed Saleh Al Athal, 12, injured during the May 23, 2017 raid in Marib governorate, Yemen (via Mwatana)
  • Othman Mohammed Saleh Al Athal, 12, injured during the May 23, 2017 raid in Marib governorate, Yemen. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher on June 16, 2017
  • The back of Othman Mohammed Saleh Al Athal’s hand, which shows the scar from one of his injuries from the raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • The front of Othman Mohammed Saleh Al Athal’s hand showing the scar from one of his injuries in the raid. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • Othman Mohammed Saleh Al Athal’s discharge papers from 26th September Hospital. Informal translation: Patient Full name: Othman Mohammed Saleh Al Athal 88 Sex: Male Age: 14 years Department: Men File number: 430 Admition date: May 24 2017 Discharge date: May 25 2017
  • Othman Mohammed Saleh Al Athal Medical Report From 26th September hospital. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher. Informal translation: Republic of Yemen Ministry of Public Health and Population Public Health in Population Office, Marib province 26 September Hospital, Al Joubah MEDICAL REPORT Name: Othman Mohammed Saleh Al Athal Age: 12 years Address: Al Joubah Diagnosis: Both forearm GSW This patient was admitted to the hospital on 22.05 2017 [sic] and he was suffering from gunshot injuries in the right and left hand in the forearm leading to fracturing of the left forearm bone. He was given proper treatment and an external fixator set. Therefore, we recommend that he continues the use of the prescribed medications for two months, i.e., until 22 July 2017. Treating physician Hospital Manager
  • Mabkhout Ali Arfaj Al Athal’s college identification card. Photo taken by Mabkhout. Informal translation: Name: Mabkhout Ali Ali Arfaj Nationality: Yemeni Department: Accounting Level: First. Student number: 2017318t College record Deputy Dean for Students Issues [Signed and stamped]
  • Mabkhout Ali Arfaj Al Athal’s medical report. Photo taken by Mabkhout. Informal translation: Republic of Yemen Marib General Hospital Authority MEDICAL REPORT Name: Mabkhout Ali Ali Arfaj Age: 20 years Section: Surgery The above patient arrived at the hospital having underwent an operation for plantation of rear left leg artery. The nerves were affected. Surgical dressings were made until his condition improved and then skin transplantation was conducted. The patient requires an orthopedic surgery in the left wrist with continuous follow up from a neurologist. This report was issued based on the request of the patient. The Authority does not any responsibility whatsoever. Entered in the record of medical reports under No. 4579/2017 on 28.11.2017. Chairman [Signed and stamped]
  • Mabkhout’s wounded leg after surgery in Marib General Hospital. Photo taken by the doctor. (via Mwatana)
  • Basheer Ali Ahmed Al Athal’s discharge form from Marib Hospital. Photo taken by a relative. Informal translation: Patient’s name: Basheer Ali Ahmed, File number: 38530, Section: Surgery and bones. Admission Date: May 23, 2017, Exit date: May 31, 2017. (Signed)
  • Vehicle that was damaged by the raid. Photo sent to Mwatana by a relative
  • Vehicle that was damaged by the raid. Photo sent to Mwatana by a relative.
  • Invitation to the village-organized protest after the attack. Informal translation: On Thursday afternoon, 25 May, the funerals of the martyrs from Athlan Murad tribe will march from the 26 September Hospital, Wasit area, Al Joubah district. Prayer ceremony will be conducted at Al Najad village, Al Athlan. After that, there will be a vigil to remember the crime of shelling, killing and terrorizing civilian children, women and elderly people. We invite all sheiks, dignitaries and all honorable people in the governorate, media, all activists and human rights organizations to attend this vigil to communicate the true picture of this region and its people. Please share. #AdhlanTribeAreNotQaeda [via Mwatana]
  • Marks left from the aircraft which fired on the village. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • Items left behind after the operation by the soldiers that conducted the raid. Photos taken by a relative (via Mwatana)
  • Items left behind after the operation by the soldiers that conducted the raid. Photos taken by a relative (via Mwatana)
  • Items left behind after the operation by the soldiers that conducted the raid. Photos taken by a relative (via Mwatana)
  • Items left behind after the operation by the soldiers that conducted the raid. Photos taken by a relative (via Mwatana)
  • Items left behind after the operation by the soldiers that conducted the raid. Photos taken by a relative (via Mwatana)
  • Items left behind after the operation by the soldiers that conducted the raid. Photos taken by a relative (via Mwatana)
  • Items left behind after the operation by the soldiers that conducted the raid. Photos taken by a relative (via Mwatana)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the area occupied by the Al Adhlan (العذلان) tribe in the vicinity of Al Khathla (الخثلة) village. A possible location for this area is Al Nijad Al Adhlan (النجاد العذلان), for which the coordinates are: 15.18779, 45.16637. 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

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • May 23, 2017
  • May 23, 2017
  • "No civilian casualties were reported, and based on observations on the ground and in the sky, there are no credible indications of such casualties, Davis said."

  • "Reprieve, a London-based human rights organization, said five civilians had been killed in the raid, including a 70-year-old, partly blind man who was shot when he tried to greet the Navy SEALs, mistaking them for guests arriving in the village. But Captain Davis said, “We don’t have reason to believe that’s the case.”"

  • 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

Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is a formidable terror group that remains intent on attacking Americans and the U.S. homeland, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, director of Pentagon press operations, told reporters today.

Air commandos from the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron fulfill their duties at Hurlburt Field, Fla., July 7, 2016, by working on a AC-130U Spooky gunship. The AC-130's main mission is to provide close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance and was used in the May 22, 2017, counterterrorism raid against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in the Marib governorate of Yemen.

Davis addressed yesterday’s U.S. Special Operations counterterrorism raid that killed seven al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in Yemen’s Marib governorate, located about 150 miles north of Aden, the country’s capital.
Special Forces raided an al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula compound comprising a few buildings, he said, adding, “[al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was] using this as a headquarters, a place to meet and plan for external operations and to lead the group.”
First Raid Deep In Yemen
The raid marked the first time the United States conducted an operation into Marib governorate, and the location was the deepest the military has gone into Yemen to fight al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, Davis said.
“The intent of the raid was to disrupt AQAP operations,” he said, noting that “at least” seven al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula militants were killed with small-arms fire and precision airstrikes from an AC-130 gunship.
No civilian casualties were reported, and based on observations on the ground and in the sky, there are no credible indications of such casualties, Davis said.
Dangerous Terrorists
“AQAP has significant amounts of American blood on its hands,” he said. “It is an organization that has used the ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terrorist attacks against America, our citizens and our allies around the world.”
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula attacked the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, in 2008; attempted to down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day in 2009; and conspired to send explosive-laden parcels to Chicago in 2010, he said.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula's English-language magazine, Inspire, also has been used to encourage attacks against the West, Davis said, citing multiple attacks that include the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, the Fort Hood mass shooting in 2009 and other lone-wolf attacks in the United States and Europe.
Yemen Authorized Operation
Yesterday’s raid was conducted under the same U.S. authorities as those granted in advance of the earlier, Jan. 28 raid, which included authorities for airstrikes and follow-on action, he said.
The operation had the support and cooperation of the Yemen government, and was done in conjunction with U.S. partners, the spokesman said.
“We will continue to support Yemen in bringing stability to the region by fighting known terrorist organizations like AQAP,” Davis said.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground), Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 12
  • (1 child4–11 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–10
  • 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
    4–9
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–10

Sources (72) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr177-C

Incident date

August 1, 2018

Location

الروضة, Al Rawda, Marib, Yemen

Geolocation

15.448882, 45.345554 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

A US drone strike reportedly targeted a house in the Al Rawda area of Marib governorate on August 1st 2018, killing four and wounding others.

One source, The Yemen, indicating that those killed were civilians: “Today, Wednesday, local sources said that four civilians were killed and others wounded, following a US air strike on a drone that targeted them in the Rawdah neighborhood, south of Ma’rib Governorate. The sources pointed out that a drone strike hit a house in the neighborhood of Rawda, south of the city of Marib, killing four people and wounding others.”

Other sources suggested that the house was inhabited by AQAP militants.

The reports bore a resemblance to those of another alleged strike in the same area on July 22nd (USYEMTr174-C), and may possibly reflect late reporting of that earlier event.

On August 30th 2018, US Central Command stated that “six counterterrorism air strikes” against AQAP had been conducted since May 16th 2018, in “Shabwah, Hadramawt and Al-Bayda governorates”. The declared strikes did not include an August 1st strike; it is possible that this event constituted an undeclared CIA strike.

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

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • 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)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a house being struck in the Al Rawda (الروضة) area, south of Mar’ib (مأرب) city. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Al Rawda are: 15.448882, 45.345554.

  • Reports of the incident mention a house being struck in the Al Rawda (الروضة) area, south of Mar’ib (مأرب) city.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

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.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    No reason given
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • 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.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • 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)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr098-C

Incident date

September 9, 2017

Location

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

Geolocation

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

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The incident occured in the afternoon.

Summary

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

Sources (51) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (6) [ collapse]

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

Geolocation notes

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

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

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

Civilian casualty statements

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

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

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

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

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

Summary

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

Sources (51) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr155-C

Incident date

March 8–9, 2018

Location

على الحدود بين مديرية خب و الشعف و مديرية العبر, At the border between Khab wa Ash Sha'f the and the Al Abr district , Hadramout/Al Jawf, Yemen

Geolocation

16.180272, 46.832936 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Six civilians, including a teenage boy, were reportedly killed by a US drone strike while driving in the border region between Al-Jawf and Hadramout governorates, at around 3pm on March 8th 2018. The Yemeni Minister of Human Rights, Mohamed Askar, condemned the attack as “extrajudicial killings”.

A US Central Command spokesperson later told the Long War Journal that a strike had taken place in Hadramout on March 8th 2018. Since there were no other known reports of a US strike on that day, this event is treated as a declared strike.

Mwatana for Human Rights named the dead as Muhsin bin Ali Hadi Al Wahair (52 years old); Hizam Abdullah Saeed Al Wahair (40 years old); Shaji’ Abdullah Saeed Al Wahair (32 years old); Muhammad Abdullah Saeed Al Wahair (37 years old); Mahdi Saeed Abdullah Al Wahair (15 years old); and Abdullah bin Hasan Hamad Hiraidan (22 years old). All were reported to be from the Al-Wuhair family, a part of the Al-Mahashima tribe. The targeted members of the Al-Mahashima tribe were reportedly internally-displaced persons fleeing fighting in Al-Jawf, with tribespeople allegedly targeted by at least two other US strikes in early March 2018.

Local sources told both The Intercept and the Associated Press that the six casualties were civilians. No known sources suggested that those killed were militants.  Mwatana similarly found that, though those killed carried weapons, there was “no credible indication” that any were associated with any extremist militant groups.

Relatives told Mwatana that Muhammad and Muhsin were truck drivers; that Hizam and Shaji’ were resident in Saudi Arabia; and that Abdullah and Mahdi were enlisted border guards in the Yemeni government army’s First Brigade. The Intercept reported that four of those killed had previously been fighting alongside the pro-Hadi military. Mohamed Askar, writing in The Guardian, said that a government committee had collected evidence that the dead were civilians: “The Yemeni National Committee, the official body tasked with documenting abuses, employed a team of investigators to establish the facts of the missile strikes on 5 and 8 March. They interviewed locals and collected signed statements, categorically stating that none of the men killed had any ties to al-Qaida.”

Saleh Al-Wuhair, the brother of one of those killed, told Associated Press that “I saw it before my eyes… Bodies were ripped apart”. Abdullah bin Saeed Al-Wuhair, the sheikh of the tribe, told Mwatana that three of the dead were his sons, and two were his grandsons. “[W]e got none of the security that we were looking for…   All of them were killed in a horrible manner… They were good people and supported large families”, he said.

Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars. An on-the-ground investigator reported that the strike had killed six, including two brothers aged forty and thirty-three, as well as a fifty-five-year-old, a thirty-year-old, a twenty-year-old, and an eighteen-year-old.

While most indicated that six people had died, some, including Al-Masdar Online and Salmashhad, suggested that eight tribesmen had died in the strike on March 8th, naming two additional individuals: Amer Ali Muhammad al-Saqra Haridan Al-Mahashima, and Saleh Ali Al-Wuhair Al-Mahashima. However, these reports appear to have included the named alleged victims of two prior strikes in the same area (USYEMTr152-C, USYEMTr154-C) in the death toll of this event. These reports are therefore not accounted for in this event. One Twitter source, @MohammedSailan1, suggested that five tribesmen had died, including one “young man”.

A few sources, including Yemeni journalist @mareb_alward and government minister Mohamed Askar,  indicated that one of the six reportedly killed in the strike was aged thirteen or younger; it is possible that this also reflects reporting of a previous alleged child casualty on March 5th (USYEMTr152-C). An image of a child, posted by these sources, was also indicated by another source to be Amer Huraidan, reportedly killed in the earlier strike (USYEMTr152-C). Associated Press reported that a fourteen-year-old and an eighteen-year-old died in the strike, but did not name them.

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. A Yemeni intelligence official, however, indicated that those members of the tribe had been killed a considerable time ago.

Sources all appeared to indicate that the strike took place in the border region between the Al Jawf and Hadramout governorates, though disagreed about the specific location.  Most sources indicated that a car was targeted in the  Al-Abr desert area, Hadramout, though eyewitnesses told Mwatana that the attack took place in  Al Khab Wal Sha’f, Al-Jawf, as those targeted travelled to Al-Abr. Though most, including Mwatana, suggested that the strike took place on March 8th, both The Intercept and Associated Press instead indicated March 9th.

A US Central Command spokesperson later told the Long War Journal that a strike had taken place in Hadramout on March 8th 2018. Since there were no other known reports of a US strike on that day, this event is treated as a declared strike. CENTCOM also  told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that allegations of civilian harm in this strike were non-credible, due to a lack of available evidence.

“Our lives and the lives of our children and women have become in constant danger because of these repeated attacks that have killed innocents without any justification. If we keep quiet about this, these drone strikes will only continue in this manner because the Yemeni government’s abandonment of us”, Sinan Abdullah Al-Wuhair told Mwatana.

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 3:00 pm local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (6)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    6
  • (1 child5 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

Sources (21) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • The strike reportedly targeted a vehicle, killing all of those inside (@YemenAskar, March 9th 2018)
  • Mohamed Askar, Yemeni Minister for Human Rights, condemned the strike, and tweeted this image of a thirteen-year-old allegedly killed in the strike. However, this picture was also reported by another source to show a child killed in a previous strike on March 5th 2018. (@YemenAskar, March 9th 2018)

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck at the border between Khab wa Ash Sha’f (مديرية خب و الشعف) the and the Al Abr district (مديرية العبر).Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for this area are: 16.180272, 46.832936.

  • Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck at the border between Khab wa Ash Sha'f (مديرية خب و الشعف) the and 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
  • 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 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
    6
  • (1 child5 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

Sources (21) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr180-C

Incident date

September 18, 2018

Location

العشار, Al Ashar, Al Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

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

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Two Yemeni National Army soldiers, including a Colonel, were reportedly killed by a US drone strike in Al Ashar, Yakla area of Bayda governorate, on the evening of September 18th 2018, according to multiple sources. Some however instead variously indicated that the strike killed two AQAP members, or two civilians.

In a later press release, US Central Command confirmed that a strike had targeted AQAP in Bayda on September 18th. Since there were no other known reported strikes at that time, this event is treated as confirmed.

Military sources told SMA News that Colonel Salem Abdullah Ahmad Al-Taysi, the commander of the second battalion of the local Radaa Brigade, and Ahmed Abbad Al-Taysi, variously described as a “companion” or “companion soldier”, were killed while travelling through the area in a car. According to several sources, including @BelqeesTV, Salmashad, and Yemeni News, the pair were reportedly on their way to meet the Chief of the General Staff in Marib governorate.

Others suggested that those killed were either civilians or AQAP members. Following the strike, a local source told Al-Masdar Online that the airstrike had killed two civilians from the Al-Taysi family as they drove in a car, reportedly on their way to Marib [note that this is the same family name as the Colonel, leaving open the possibility that his companion in the vehicle was a non combatant relative]. According to Hunaa Radaa, a local source also reported the deaths of civilians to Yemen Shabab. The original Yemen Shabab article could not however be found by Airwars.

Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars, which indicated that two members of the Al-Taysi family, also related to the Al-Ameri family previously targeted by multiple alleged US strikes, were killed while travelling to Marib. An on-the-ground investigator spoke with members of the same tribe as the victims, and saw pictures of those killed taken prior to the strike.

Two local-langage social-media sources, @akhbar and @alteef_news, instead claimed that those killed were AQAP members. AQAP forces have previously been reported to have fought alongside, and integrated into, pro-Hadi government forces.

While most suggested that the strike took place on September 18th, a few later reports suggested that it instead occurred on September 30th; this appears to reflect erroneous reporting of other sources.

It is worth noting that no US airstrikes were reported in Yemen between September 18th and November 2nd – perhaps indicative of a local partner backlash against the apparent killing of a senior commander.

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 in the evening.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 2
  • (1–2 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 (23) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (7) [ collapse]

  • The strike reportedly targeted two men of the Al-Taysi family as they travelled to Marib (Yemeni News, September 30th 2018)
  • Multiple sources suggested that those killed in the strike were members of the Yemeni National Army, including Colonel Salem Abdullah Ahmad Al-Taysi (Salmashad, September 30th 2018)
  • The strike reportedly took place in Al-Ashar area of Yakla, Bayda governorate (@belqeesTV, September 30th 2018)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Al Ashar (العشار) area, allegedly in or around the village of Yakla (يكلاء), within the Wald Rabi (ولدربيع) district. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Yakla are: 14.499999936, 45.09999993.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • 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. – U.S. Central Command conducted two counterterrorism air strikes targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen in September, bringing the total number of air strikes to 36. In October, there were zero air strikes.

September strikes include Sept. 9 in Abyan and Sept. 18 in Al-Bayda governorates.

"Despite a decline in counterterrorism air strikes against AQAP, they continue to pose a significant threat," said Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a USCENTCOM spokesman. "We remain vigilant and will continue to work by, with and through our regional partners to disrupt, deter and destroy AQAP."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 2
  • (1–2 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 (23) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr115-C

Incident date

November 11, 2017

Location

خبران, Khabran, Al Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.514783937, 44.885372917 Note: The accuracy of this location is to District level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

District

Airwars assessment

Multiple sources reported that a US drone strike in Qayfa, in Bayda governorate, killed one civilian and seriously injured another on the morning of November 11th 2017.  Some other sources suggested that at least one alleged ISIS militant was killed in the strike.

US Central Command later confirmed that a strike took place in Bayda governorate on that day, killing one alleged ISIS militant it said. Since there were no other known reports of a US strike on November 11th, this event is treated as declared.

According to local language news sites, including Al-Khabar Now and Yemen Shabab, the strike targeted a car, killing civilian Dares Ahmed bin Ahmed Jaraoun immediately and seriously injuring his brother, Saeed Ahmed bin Ahmed Jaraoun. These sources indicated that the targeted were the children of Ahmed bin Ahmed Jaraoun. The ages of the dead were unclear, although Al-Khabar Now described Ahmed as a “student”.

These sources suggested that the strike took place in the Al-Areen area of Qayfa Radaa, at around 10am.

An on-the-ground investigator told Reprieve that one adult civilian was killed and another injured, both sons of Ahmed bin Ahmed Jaraoun. Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars.

Some sources instead claimed that those killed in the strike were ISIS militants. One Twitter source, @demolinari, reported that a strike against a motorbike killed one “suspected ISIS militant” and injured another near Khabran village, Qayfa, while @new_24_7 claimed that two were killed.

Another outlet, @ANews_Arabic, said that according to a Yemeni government source, at least three militants were killed.

Airwars has assessed that a minimum of one civilian was reportedly killed in the strike, with another wounded.  Between one and three militants were reportedly killed, in addition to one reportedly wounded.

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 10:00 am 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 man)
  • 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
  • Suspected target
    ISIS - Yemen
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the village of Khabran (خبران), allegedly located within the Al Areen (العرين) area, in the Al Quraishyah (القريشيه) district. Research shows a Wadi Al Arin (وادي العرين), located 25KM to the south-east of Khabran at 14.464648924, 45.103944956, however, we are unable to confirm whether this is the same area mentioned in the sources. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Khabran are: 14.514783937, 44.885372917.

  • Reports of the incident mention the village of Khabran (خبران), allegedly located within the Al Areen (العرين) area, in the Al Quraishyah (القريشيه) district. Research shows a Wadi Al Arin (وادي العرين), located 25KM to the south-east of Khabran, however, we are unable to confirm whether this is the same area mentioned in the sources.

    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.
  • 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

We conducted three strikes against ISIS in al-Bayda Governorate, Yemen Nov. 10-12.
· 10 Nov – 1 strike – 2 EKIA
· 11 Nov – 1 strike – 1 EKIA
· 12 Nov – 1 strike – 2 EKIA

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • 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
  • Suspected target
    ISIS - Yemen
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (12) [ collapse]