US Forces in Yemen

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

Belligerent
US Forces
Country
Yemen
start date
end date
Civilian Harm Status
Belligerent Assessment
Declassified Documents
Strike Status
Strike Type
Infrastructure

Incident Code

USYEM144-C

Incident date

January 19, 2013

Location

وادي عبيدة, Wadi Obeida, Marib, Yemen

Geolocation

15.515556, 45.395278 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

A suspected US drone strike in Wadi Obeida, Ma’rib governorate on January 19th 2013 between 11 o’clock at night and midnight killed up to four civilians, with conflicting reports that in fact up to six Al Qaeda militants were killed. According to Mareb Press, the strike hit and destroyed a vehicle that Al Qaeda seized during clashes with the Yemeni army in the previous month. The air raid was the last of a series of three separate strikes in the same area that day.

AFP initially reported that the strike killed four people from the ‘al Haytak clan, part of the Abida tribe’ without specifying if they were al Qaeda militants or civilians. However the agency subsequently reported five alleged al Qaeda militants perished in the strike, including Hamad Hassan Ghreib (aka Amhed Bin Hassan Ali Gahreib). According to a ‘local source’ his brother Ali Bin Hassan Bin Ghurayib was a non-combatant who was killed, along with a group of militants, in a drone strike in August 2012. Angry tribesmen blocked the main road from Marib to Sanaa in protest the morning after the strike.

The only other source to mention civilian casualties was a Twitter account (Kevin Goztola), reported that four civilians were killed in US drone strikes “yesterday” (posted on January 21, 2023 local time). It is unclear which of the strikes between January 19-20 the tweet is referring to, and have therefore been recorded in this incident.  No other sources mention civilian casualties resulting from this strike. Mareb Press, Almanar, and Almasdar Online corroborated the number of five deaths as well as the killing of Hamad Hassan Ghreib. However, Almasdar Online and Mareb Press did not specify whether the four other victims were militants, saying that the identities are unknown “as a result of the charred corpses.” In contrast, Almanar claimed that two of the passengers were Saudi militants while the majority of sources attribute the two Saudi nationals to another strike earlier that day. Xinhua and Twitter account @news_yemen reported the killing of a total of six people. Xinhua thereby claimed that all six were Al Qaeda operatives.

Local sources referred to the drone strikes as being carried out by the US. The Yemen defence ministry reportedly confirmed the strikes hit Mareb province but would not confirm if the Yemen Air Force or US forces carried out the attacks. The Yemen Air Force has been shown to lack the technical capacity to launch precision strikes, or fly at night.

The incident occured between 11:00 pm and 12:00 am local time.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Wadi Obeida (وادي عبيدة) area, east 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 Wadi Obeida are: 15.515556, 45.395278.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 4
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–6

Sources (51) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 4
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4–6

Sources (51) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM012-C

Incident date

May 24, 2010

Location

مَأْرِب, Marib, Yemen

Geolocation

15.329227, 45.441995 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Province/governorate level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Between three and six civilians died and two to three others were wounded in a botched US airstrike in Marib Province on May 24, 2010, according to local sources. In addition, between one and two militants were killed and another injured in the same incident.

Civilian victims were named as:

Jaber Ben Ali Ben Jaber al-Shabwani, male, deputy governor of Marib (dead)
Abd Al-Majid Said ‘Anij Al-Shabwani, male (dead)
Ali ‘Aziz Al-Ja’uri Al-Dhamari, male (dead)
Fahd, uncle of Jaber al-Shabwani (wounded)
Fahd Ben Saoud Ben Maj’al al-Shabwani (wounded)
Muhammed Ben Said Ben Jamil, brother of Ali Ben Said Ben Jamil who is allegedly an AQAP member (wounded)

The US strike on a convoy of vehicles in the Marib desert reportedly killed Marib Province’s deputy governor, Jaber al-Shabwani, who was a top mediator in the government effort to demilitarize members of AQAP. Al-Shabwani was in a key position to negotiate, given that his brother, Ayad, was the local AQAP leader. On May 24, multiple sources, including Front Page, reported that the deputy governor had been en route to meet Al Qaeda members to seek their surrender. Reuters reported that the strike had meant to hit a farm allegedly harboring Al Qaeda operatives Ayed al-Shabwani and Mohammed Saeed bin Jaradan. Both names have been cited by news sources as alleged intended targets.

Reports on the death toll of the incident vary.

Swiss human rights group Alkamara named three who died in the strike in an October 2013 report. Along with deputy governor al Shabwani, the researchers found Abd al Majid Said Anij al Shabwani and Ali Aziz al Jauri al Dhamari were killed. The uncle, Fahed al Shabwani, was injured, according to the report.

Reuters cited a member of the local council in Marib according to whom the pre-down strike on Jaber al-Shabwani’s car killed him and three of his companions, while also wounding two others.

Aletq reported that “Al-Shabwani was killed with four of his bodyguards on Monday night”.

Long War Journal reported that “Jaber al-Shabwani, five of his bodyguards, and two Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives, including a local leader, were killed in an airstrike (…).” Shabwani was killed while meeting with Al Qaeda leader Mohammed Saeed bin Jameel at his farm, the Yemen Observer reported. Jameel, who is also known as Mohammed Saeed bin Jardane, and another al Qaeda operative were reported killed in the strike. The death of Mohammed bin Jameel was also reported by Al Jazeera. However, other sources including BBC News, RTT News and Aletq said that Jameel was only wounded and escaped.

In 2012, Project on Middle East Political Science reported that “The Marib governorate, east of Sanaa, has been wracked with chaos ever since the death of Jaber al-Shabwani, son of prominent Sheikh Ali al-Shabwani, killed by a U.S. drone strike in May 2010.”

Immediately after the strike occurred, Al Jazeera wrote that “Members of Jaber al-Shabwani tribe responded to his killing by attacking the pipeline that carries oil from Marib to Ras Isa, a terminal on the Red Sea coast.” The Nation said that tribesman also opened fire on government buildings and tried to occupy the presidential palace in Marib. “As anti-government protest began sweeping the country, Ali and his tribesmen ramped up their campaign against the government’s infrastructure. The oil pipeline was attacked several more times, and attacks against power stations began”, according to Foreign Policy and POMEPS.

While the Yemeni authorities expressed their regret at the killing of a senior official in the Marib governorate and formed a committee to investigate the incident, Marib Press reported on March 15, 2011, almost a year after the strike occurred, that tribesman once again blew up oil pipelines because the government had still not disclose the exact circumstances of the death of al-Shabwani. In July 2012, Yemen Press reported that oil export still had not resumed “because tribesmen prevented the repair of the main crude pipeline that was sabotaged last year.”

The destruction of oil pipelines led to billions of dollars lost in revenue for the Yemeni government and major fuel shortages, as reported by CS monitor and Yemen Press. Moreover, Alkamara said that the strike on al-Shabwani raised the appeal of Al Qaeda in the region. Similarly, the New York times called the May strike “a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda”. NYT quoted Abdul Ghani al-Eryani, a Yemeni political analyst, according to whom “the civilians deaths gave ammunition to Al Qaeda and the Salafists.” According to the NYT, “It would be 12 months before the US struck again in Yemen.

Sources are conflicted as to who is responsible for the strike. Arab News reported that “A statement from a Yemeni High Security Council source expressed sorrow for the death of Al-Shabwani and called him a martyr, but did not specify who carried out the strike or what type of aircraft was used. However, Ahmed Bin Zabaa, a member of the panel investigating the May 24 strike said that “locals blamed a US drone that has been flying in their area for several months now for the strike.” Similarly, Mareb Press reported that “Sheikh Ali bin Jaber al-Shabwani (…) was killed by a US drone aircraft (…).” US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on questions about the possible US involvement in airstrikes in Yemen, but did confirm that the US continues to provide logistical and intelligence support for Yemeni counterterrorism operations.

In late 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that some current and former US military officials were now claiming that they were fed misleading intelligence which “may have been intended to result in Mr. Shabwani’s death.” But there was also a clear suggestion of incompetence. An official involved in the operation told the paper: “It turned out you didn’t really know who was at all those [Yemeni] meetings. JSOC, frankly, wasn’t as up to speed as they should have been.”

The Yemen government reportedly provided intelligence used in the strike but denied that it had misled the US in any way.

The incident took place in the late evening of Monday May 24th, as reported by Yemen media in the immediate aftermath. According to Alkamara the strike took place at approximately 8pm. Soon afterwards the date of May 25th was more commonly stated.

Due to the nature of both CIA and US military involvement in Yemen, and the lack of official acknowledgement by the CIA for their involvement, Airwars grades this event as “declared” due to the comments made by US government sources to media, in lieu of public reporting on CIA actions. It is unclear if US involvement in the operation was limited to providing intelligence and munitions, or also included more extensive operational actions

The incident occured in the evening.

The victims were named as:

Family members (6)

Adult male deputy governor of Marib killed
Adult male Reported injured by Alkarama killed
Adult male injured
Adult male injured
Adult male Reported killed by Alkarama killed
Adult male Reported injured by Alkarama injured

The victims were named as:

Adult male killed
Adult male Reported injured by Alkarama, brother of Ali Ben Said Ben Jamil who is allegedly an AQAP member killed
Adult male Reported killed by Alkarama killed

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention Marib (مَأْرِب) province, for which the generic coordinates are: 15.329227, 45.441995. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

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Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 6
  • (3–6 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (103) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Tribal leader Jaber al-Shabwani (shown second from right) participating in a seminar on development in Ma’rib in March 2010, two months before he was killed in a U.S. drone strike. (Photo: Nadwa Al-Dawsari, posted by POMED)

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

In late 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that some current and former US military officials were now claiming that they were fed misleading intelligence which “may have been intended to result in Mr. Shabwani’s death.” But there was also a clear suggestion of incompetence. An official involved in the operation told the paper: “It turned out you didn’t really know who was at all those [Yemeni] meetings. JSOC, frankly, wasn’t as up to speed as they should have been.”

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 6
  • (3–6 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (103) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM127-B

Incident date

September 8, 2012

Location

المناسح, Manaseh, Bayda', Yemen

Geolocation

14.579762, 44.750219 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Local sources reported that an alleged US drone strike had killed four militants, including the brother of an Al Qaeda leader the US had attempted to kill days earlier, in Qaifa near Radaa on September 8th 2012, according to a security official. There were no known associated reports of civilian harm.

The security source cited by The Yemen Observer reported that Abdulraouf al Dahab “along with three other [Al Qaeda] members were killed” while al Dahab was driving his car outside Radaa. According to the officer, the attack took place in Almansih area of Qaifa, Al Qaeda’s main stronghold.

Yobserver referred to Abdulraouf as the “brother of Al Qaeda leader” and then went to explain that he is “the actual Al Qaeda leader after his brother, Tariq, was killed in a family dispute in February 2012.” Abdulraouf was reportedly the intended target of the botched strike just days earlier on September 2, 2012 which resulted in the death of at least 11 civilians (USYEM124-C). However, Abdulraouf al Dahab was later reportedly killed during a US special forces raid on September 19, 2017 (USYEMTr006-C). Tweets from @alhayatdaily and @meffleh refer to the killing of the leader of Al Qaeda without specifying who by name.

All of the local sources that reported on the incident attributed the strikes to an American drone.

The incident occured in the morning.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Manaseh (المناسح), for which the generic coordinates are: 14.579762, 44.750219. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Summary

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

Sources (8) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

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

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr102-C

Incident date

September 14, 2017

Location

القوز, Al Qawz junction, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.908586, 46.137140 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Street level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

A US drone strike killed at least two alleged AQAP militants on a motorcycle at Al Qawz junction, Mudiyah district of Abyan governorate, on the night of September 14th 2017. However it was also reported that a passing vehicle was damaged, causing civilian injuries.

More than three years later, in response to Airwars publishing its Yemen findings, CENTCOM confirmed that two civilians had been injured in the event.

A local security official and residents told Reuters at the time that three suspected militants were killed in the strike.  According to one source, this was also reported to Xinhua, though the original Xinhua report could not be found.

One Twitter source, @demolinari, instead suggested that two militants were killed in the strike, and named those killed as local AQAP leader Ali Saleh Al-Buhaith Al-Fathani and Haritha Al-Waqari.

@demolinari also reported that a passing vehicle was damaged, causing injuries.  As such, Airwars has assessed that at least one civilian was reportedly injured in the strike.

On November 5th 2020, CENTCOM confirmed that it had injured two civilians in this incident, noting that “Of the information AirWars provided, one strike on September 14, 2017, was assessed to have caused  injuries to two 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.

The incident occured during the night.

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck at the junction near Al Qawz (القوز) village, east of Mudiyah (موديه). Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for the Al Qawz junction are: 13.908586, 46.137140.

  • Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck at the junction near Al Qawz (القوز) village, east of Mudiyah (موديه).

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–3

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (5) [ collapse]

  • 'Ali Saleh al-Fathani along with his companions killed in a US airstrike in Abyan. They were in a motorcycle in the al-Qoz in eastern Moudiya'
  • According to one Twitter source, alleged AQAP militant Harithah al-Waqari was one of those killed in a reported US drone strike on September 14th 2017 in Abyan (@demolinari, September 16th 2017).
  • According to one Twitter source, alleged AQAP leader Ali Al-Buhaith was one of those killed in a reported US drone strike on September 14th 2017 in Abyan (@demolinari, September 16th 2017).

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Credible / Substantiated
    The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties regrettably occurred.
  • Given reason for civilian harm
    No reason given
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    2

Civilian casualty statements

US Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • 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.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–3

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM143-B

Incident date

January 19, 2013

Location

وادي عبيدة, Wadi Abida, Marib, Yemen

Geolocation

15.515556, 45.395278 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

On January 19th 2013, before 11pm, the second of three alleged US drone strikes hit the  Al Shabwan Wadi Abidah region of the Marib governorate, killing as many as three militants.

Marib Press, Yemen Observer, and Enduring American World View corroborated that one of the reported militants killed was Ismaeel Bin Saeed Bin Jameel and referred to Ismaeel as a local AQAP chief, while Al Masdar Online reported that Ismaeel belonged to the valley tribes and that his brother, a leader in Al Qaeda, Ali Saeed Jamil, was also killed in clashes between Government forces and Al Qaeda fighters in July 2011 in Abyan Governorate. However, local man Raed Fad Abdullah said he was not a senior militant.

Long War Journal linked the other two bodies to two Saudi nationals called Abu Ali Abdullah al-Suweed and Abu al-Zubeir al-Qassimi as per a “Jihadist biography”.AQAP declared a low level Saudi fighter was killed in a US strike in Marib. Abdullah al Ali al Suweed was killed ‘with a group of his brothers in the month of Safar 1434’. According to the Long War Journal this corresponds to December 2012 to January 2013.

AQAP also announced the death of a senior militant from Saudi Arabia. Abu al Zubeir al Qassimi was an inmate in the al Safra prison in Saudi Arabia before moving to Yemen for training. He commanded militants in Abyan province before taking command of fighters in Marib province. According to the Long War Journal al Qassimi was killed in Abyan province in an unspecified strike. However SITE Intelligence in a March 6 post said he died in Marib on an unspecified date (link unavailable). SITE also gave al Qassimi’s alias as Walid al Harbi. A Walid Jarbou’ Al-Harbi – a failed student of Qassim University – was reportedly arrested in connection to an April 2005 gun battle with Saudi security forces. He was jailed for over a year before fleeing to Yemen in 2009. He has been listed as a wanted terrorist by the Saudi ministry of interior.

Other sources claimed that the two other bodies could not be identified as they were charred.

The suspected AQAP militants were allegedly traveling in a Vitara car between 2 km (Marib press) and 8 km in the Ghodaigah area (Yemen Observer) away from the first strike in Al-Masil which hit an orange farm. Xinhua however reported that the same drone fired a second strike and killed two militants inspecting the car that was hit by the first strike. A witness quoted in multiple news sources said that the car was engulfed in flames. Yemen Observer referenced an earlier strike that missed the car and allowed the passengers to flee.

Local sources referred to the drone strikes as being carried out by the US. The Yemen defence ministry reportedly confirmed the strikes hit Mareb province but would not confirm if the Yemen Air Force or US forces carried out the attacks. The Yemen Air Force has been shown to lack the technical capacity to launch precision strikes, or fly at night.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Wadi Obeida (وادي عبيدة) area, east 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 Wadi Obeida are: 15.515556, 45.395278.

Summary

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

Sources (57) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • Two Saudi operatives, Abdullah al Ali al Suweed (left) and Abu al Zubeir al Qassimi (right), died in suspected U.S drone attacks on Wadi Abadi, January 19th (via Long War Journal)
  • A Saudi man, Walid Jarbou Eid Al-Jaleedi Al-Harbi, was documented as killed in suspected U.S drone strikes on Wadi Abadi January 19th. The Saudi Gazette alleged he was part of a terrorist network. (via Saudi Ministry of Interior)

US Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

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

Sources (57) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr152-C

Incident date

March 5, 2018

Location

الرويك, 60km from Al Ruwayk IDP Camp, Hadhramout, Yemen

Geolocation

16.039178, 46.632381 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In March 2021 in its report Death from the Sky, Mwatana published a comprehensive review of the event, which it said was based upon “two visits to the area, one on March 15, 2018—about ten days after the strike—and another on October 16, 2019. Mwatana interviewed five people: Hassan (the boy who was wounded), three relatives of the boys, and the teacher of Amer, the 12-year-old boy who was killed. In some cases, Mwatana conducted follow-up interviews to gather further information.”

The report noted: “The strike killed 12-year-old Amer and destroyed the pick-up truck. Hassan [aged 17] said that he was hit with fragments in different parts of his body, including his head, his stomach, and his arm, thigh, and leg on the right side of his body. Hassan lost consciousness and was taken to Karaa Hospital in Ma’rib governorate by a woman and an old man who had driven past Hassan and Amer after the attack. Hassan said he woke up in the hospital. The hospital treated his wounds, which included a few operations to remove the shrapnel from his body and to treat the wounds in his legs and hands. He stayed in the hospital for about a month and then stayed at home in recovery for a few months.”

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

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

10-13 years old male killed
17-19 years old male injured

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Al Abr (العبر), approximately 60km from the Al Ruwayk IDP camp, west of Ghwayraban (غويربان), the generic coordinates for this possible location are: 16.039178, 46.632381. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Al Abr (العبر), approximately 60km from the Al Ruwayk IDP camp, west of Ghwayraban (غويربان).

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 child)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (6) [ collapse]

  • Amer Ali al-Saqra Huraidan, reported to be between ten- and thirteen-years-old, was reportedly killed instantly when a US drone strike targeted a car in which he was travelling (AP, November 14th 2018)
  • Amer was reportedly returning from visiting family in Marib province with his cousin, who was also reportedly injured in the strike (@abdrabboh_79, March 11th 2018)
  • Amer and his family were reportedly among a group of internally-displaced persons from Al-Jawf (The Intercept, March 26th 2018)
  • Amer Mohammad Ali Al Saqra’s school certificate from 2012 to 2013. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Hassan Saleh Hassan Al Huraidan, 17, injured on March 5, 2018 in Hadramawt governorate, Yemen. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US 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

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

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

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 child)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces

Sources (13) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr159-C

Incident date

March 29, 2018

Location

العقلة, Al Uqlah, Al Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

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

Airwars assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In its report Death from the Sky, published in March 2021, the Yemeni human rights group Mwatana said that four civilians died in the attack with a fifth person injured. While the deaths of the four named men was confirmed by Mwatana, it noted the following about the injured man: “The only survivor of the attack was the driver, whose status Mwatana could not determine based on the facts available. He was wounded in the strike, and owned the four-wheel-drive vehicle which the strike destroyed. He had used it as a taxi to drive people to and from the village for a fee.”

“A mother of one of the civilian men who was killed told Mwatana: ‘My son left the house quickly after lunch to go to the As Sawma’ah area…Half an hour after he left the house, I received a call that he had been targeted by a drone. I couldn’t believe it. Is it possible that the United States killed my son? What crime did he commit to be killed in this manner? I still can’t believe that one of my sons will not return… His image never leaves my mind and sorrow engulfs me. I don’t know who will make up the loss of my son for me.'”

The Intercept published a story May 18, 2022 that included an update on one of the victims, Adel Al Manthari, who had been injured in the strike: “The only survivor, Adel Al Manthari, may soon become the fifth fatality of that U.S. drone strike. Al Manthari’s feet and legs have recently blackened due to restricted blood flow, and this week a doctor told him he’s at imminent risk of developing gangrene. Al Manthari needs emergency medical care that he can’t afford. His future now rests with a GoFundMe campaign.” The Intercept included a summary of his injuries: “THE MARCH 29, 2018, drone strike left Al Manthari, then a civil servant in the Yemeni government, with severe burns to the left side of his body, a fractured hip, and serious damage to the tendons, nerves, and blood vessels in his left hand. The injuries left him unable to walk or work, plunged him into debt for medical treatment, and caused his daughters — aged 8 and 14 at the time of the strike — to drop out of school to care for him.”

The local time of the incident is unknown.

The victims were named as:

Family members (5)

43 years old male head of a transport syndicate of drivers in Aden killed
51 years old male Retired Yemen army soldier killed
43 years old male Painter and decorator killed
35 years old male Sheikh. Later died of injuries in hospital. killed
Adult male injured

Geolocation notes

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (4 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–4
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–3

Sources (57) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (11) [ collapse]

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

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US 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

US 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

US Forces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • (4 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1–2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–4
  • Belligerents reported injured
    2–3

Sources (57) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEMTr166-C

Incident date

May 14, 2018

Location

وادي الخورة, Wadi Khora, Shabwah, Yemen

Geolocation

14.61063, 46.21792 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

At least two men were reportedly killed by a US drone strike in Wadi Khora, Merkhat area of Shabwa governorate, overnight from May 14th-15th 2018. Though most sources suggested that those killed were AQAP militants, a brother of one of the dead denied to Associated Press that either were members of AQAP or ISIS.

A confirmed US strike took place in Shabwa on that date, a US Central Command spokesperson later told the Long War Journal. Since there were no other known reported strikes in Shabwa on May 14th, this event is treated as declared.

Associated Press and Twitter user @3nadoalaqi named the dead as Hussein Bakhash Al-Dayani Al-Awlaki and Abdullah Ruwais Al-Karbi Al-Ahmadi Al-Awlaki. Hussein’s brother, Khaled, told AP that neither were militants, but that his brother was a member of a militia fighting Houthi forces. “We are against those people,” Khaled said, regarding AQAP.  It was unclear whether Abdullah was also a militia member.

A May 15th tweet from Al-Masdar Online suggested that two civilians were killed in a Shabwa drone strike, though the original linked article could not be found by Airwars.  Another article from Al-Masdar from the same time indicated only that two people had been killed in the strike, whom local residents “suggested” to be AQAP members passing through the area.

Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars; a trusted source indicated to Reprieve that the strike had killed two.

Several sources, such as Yemen Shabab, Khabar Agency, and SMA News, reported that the strike had instead killed alleged or suspected AQAP militants, according to tribal and local sources. While some, including Yafa News and the Al-Masdar Online article mentioned above, indicated that two militants had been killed, most suggested that three militants had died. A security official told Xinhua that “at least four” militants had died.

The strike reportedly targeted a car with two consecutive missiles in front of the Al-Ghadeenah Dam, according to Al-Masdar Online, killing all of those inside. While most suggested that a single car was targeted, a security official and local residents told Xinhua that two vehicles were in fact destroyed. Apparent images of the strike location, however, appeared to show only one destroyed vehicle. Multiple sources, including Yemen Shabab and @egl3000, indicated that the vehicle was transporting ammunition and explosives, leading to continued explosions after the initial reported strikes.

Since AP reported that at least one of those killed was an active (if ‘friendly’) combatant, and since the circumstances of the strike appeared to indicate that he was on-duty at the time of the strike, Airwars has assessed that a minimum of one, and a maximum of two, civilians were reportedly killed. Similarly, accounting for the possibility that two were killed, neither affiliated with AQAP, but at least one a militia-member, a minimum of one combatant is assessed as being reportedly killed, with a maximum of four.

Most sources suggested that the strike took place late on March 14th, though some instead indicated early on March 15th. One local news outlet, @AlRayan_News, specified 11:05pm local time – posting its first tweet on the attack just eleven minutes later.

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 23:05:00 local time.

The victims were named as:

Adult male Reported to be a militia-member killed
Adult male Unclear whether a militia member killed

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the Wadi Khora (وادي الخورة) area within the Merkhat (مرخة) districts of Shabwa (شبوة) governorate. It is unclear whether this refers to an area or a settlement, however we have located the Wadi within the district with undefined boundaries. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Wadi Khora are: 14.61063, 46.21792.

  • Reports of the incident mention the Wadi Khora (وادي الخورة) area within the Merkhat districts of Shabwa governorate. It is unclear whether this refers to an area or a settlement, however we have located the Wadi within the district with undefined boundaries.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 2
  • (1–2 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (50) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (9) [ collapse]

  • The strike reportedly targeted a car as it travelled by a dam in the Khora area (@AHMED1OS, May 14th 2018)
  • Sources suggested that the car was carrying weapons and ammunition, leading to prolonged explosions in the aftermath of the strike (@salmalaalge, May 14th 2018)
  • At least two men reportedly died in the strike; Xinhua suggested that two vehicles were targeted, though available alleged images and other reports indicated that one was destroyed (@egl3000, May 15th 2018)
  • Hussein Al-Dayani's brother said that he was a member of a militia fighting Houthi forces, and denied that any of those killed were affiliated with AQAP or ISIS (AP, November 14th 2018)

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US 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

US 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

US Forces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Jun. 2018: No strikes to date.

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

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

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

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

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1 – 2
  • (1–2 men)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–4

Sources (50) [ collapse]