Two bodies of alleged AQAP militants, reportedly killed by a US drone strike, were found in or near Al-Abr district, in Hadramout governorate, at some time from March 4th to March 5th. There were no known associated reports of civilian harm.
Local sources told Elganob that two AQAP members had been killed by a US drone in Al Khudaira district, near Al-Abr, on March 5th. Facebook user @mukallatgm3na further suggested that a US strike had taken place in Al Khudaira on the evening of March 4th.
According to both sources, as well as others including @tarebhtoday and @Ryad_Alhrde, the two unidentified bodies were found some time after the strike, and reportedly transferred to the Sayun General Hospital on March 5th. One source, @RepYemenEnglish, indicated that the bodies were found “two or three days” after the strike had taken place.
The Yemen, quoting a source speaking to Anatolia Agency, further suggested that four fighters killed on March 5th were members of the Al-Muhashimah tribe, possibly referring to those killed in this strike and others in the same time frame. The original Anatolia Agency report could not be found by Airwars.
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 another reported strike at around the same time (USYEMTr150). This single-source allegation is also captured in a separate event (USYEMTr153).
@RepYemenEnglish posted an alleged image of the targeted vehicle, though an image from another source, @egl3000, appeared to show the same vehicle from another angle. This second source suggested that the pictured vehicle had been targeted in another reported strike in the area from around the same time (USYEMTr150).
A US Central Command spokesperson later told the Long War Journal that two US strikes had taken place in Hadramout on March 4th and one on March 5th 2018. Since it was suggested that this strike took place on the evening of March 4th, this event has been treated as one of those declared March 4th strikes.
It is possible that some reports that two were killed in a US drone strike in Hadramout may have referred to another reported strike later on March 5th (USYEMTr152-C), though sources suggested that only one person, a child, died in this later strike.
The local time of the incident is unknown.
Sources (13) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the Al Khudaira (الخضارة) village for which the generic coordinates are: 15.42361, 48.05694. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
US Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
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.