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

USYEM038-B

Incident date

September 21, 2011

Location

شقرة, Shaqra, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

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

Airwars assessment

On September 21 2011, alleged US airstrikes on the town of Shaqra in Yemen’s southern Abyan province killed six to seven alleged AQAP militants. One outlet, AFP, stated that three alleged militants were injured in the strike. There are no reported cases of civilian harm.

Aden Online and Long War Journal put the number of alleged militants killed at seven, whereas AFP put the number at six. AFP was the only outlet to report that militants were injured in the strikes.

The outlet Aden Online claimed the strikes were carried out by American warplanes while others, such as Neoclassical Blog citing the news outlet Al Arabiya, stated that the strikes were conducted by US drones. Long War Journal reported that when they contacted the US for comment, the US military officials “would not comment on airstrikes, but said US forces are supporting Yemeni forces”.

The strike in Al-Shaqra corresponded with others throughout Abyan, including the town of Al-Mahfad, where numerous sources claimed that US strikes killed four alleged AQAP militants (USYEM037-B).

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Shaqra (شقرة), for which the generic coordinates are: 13.356639, 45.699426. Due to limited satellite imagery and information 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
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–7
  • Belligerents reported injured
    3

Sources (9) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known 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
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–7
  • Belligerents reported injured
    3

Sources (9) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM039-B

Incident date

September 30, 2011

Location

الجوف, Jawf, Yemen

Geolocation

16.612171, 45.670558 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Province/governorate level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Four AQAP militants were killed in a confirmed CIA drone strike on Jawf, reports said. There are currently no reports of civilian harm from this strike.

Anwar al Awlaki, the US-born cleric, apparently became the first US citizen to be deliberately killed by the CIA in a drone strike, part of Operation Troy. The attack – assisted by JSOC – also killed US citizen Samir Khan, editor of AQAP’s Inspire magazine, Abu Muhsen al Maribi (or Mohammed bin Muhsen) and Salem al Marwani (aka Salem bin Arfaj). Bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri was also initially reported killed in the blast but Associated Press reported he survived.

Al Asiri reportedly made the bomb for the December 2009 “underwear bomber” plot to bring down a jet over Detroit. He is also said to have been behind the devices sent to targets in the US aboard a cargo plane in October 2010. Following this strike al Asiri went to ground, resurfacing more than six months later.

In a May 2013 letter Attorney-General Eric Holder revealed the US deliberately targeted al Awlaki. However Khan was “not specifically targeted by the United States”, Holder added. The letter was a response to requests for information on drone strikes from Patrick Leahy, chair of the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

NBC News journalist Richard Engel tweeted that two cars were struck by “missiles from US aircraft” that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Bin Arfaj, another al Qaeda operative. Al-Awlaki, the New Mexico-born operative was “the leading English-speaking member of Al Qaeda”, according to Time magazine. These English skills made him particularly dangerous and aided him in appealing to disaffected young men. Nidal Hassan, who killed thirteen people at Fort Hood military base was among those who listened to the teachings of al-Awlaki.

According to the Washington Post, after locating al-Awlaki the CIA assembled a fleet of armed drones to target him: “The choreography of the strike, which involved four drones, was intricate. Two Predators pointed lasers at Awlaki’s vehicle, and a third circled to make sure that no civilians wandered into the cross hairs.” Moved from Pakistani to Yemeni territory, two US Predator drones and two larger Reaper drones encircled and then destroyed the car carrying Al-Awlaki.

The Nation reported that even more military hardware was involved: As the vehicles made their way over the dusty, unpaved roads, US drones, armed with Hellfire missiles, were dispatched to hunt them down. The drones were technically under the command of the CIA, though JSOC aircraft and ground forces were poised to assist. A team of commandos stood at the ready to board V-22 helicopters. As an added measure, Marine Harrier jets scrambled in a backup maneuver.

According to the New York Times, the CIA had just finished building a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia and President Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan directed the Agency take full responsibility for killing Awlaki.

David Petraeus, then director of the CIA, ordered several drones be relocated from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia. Newsweek later reported that the US had been observing Awlaki at the location for two weeks but did not attack because of the presence of children. On the morning of September 30th, however, Awlaki and several of his companions left the safe house and walked about 700 yards to their parked cars. As they were getting into the vehicles, they were blown apart by two Hellfire missiles fired by Reaper drones.

The killing of Khan and Awlaki – and Awlaki’s 16-year old son a week later – led for calls for the US to publish the legal basis on which it had “extrajudicially executed US citizens”, as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) put it.

On December 20th 2011, the New York Times filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, seeking the release of the Justice Department legal opinion in the Awlaki case, which the department would not disclose. The New York Times had previously reported that the secret memo which authorised the killing stated that it would be lawful “only if it were not feasible to take him alive”.

The memo was “narrowly drawn to the specifics of Mr Alwaki’s case” and circumvented “an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war,” said the New York Times.

In November 2012, it emerged that the US had tried to strip Awlaki of his US passport six months before his death. On the first anniversary of his death, Anwar al Awlaki’s father alleged that Yemen’s government was complicit in his death, saying that ‘there was an agreement between the Yemeni intelligence and the CIA, under which the former abided to submit daily reports on the activities of Anwar al-Awlaki and his movements.’ Dr Nasser al-Awlaki also said that he last met his son in April 2009 after former President Ali Abdullah Saleh had asked him to convince Anwar to return to Sana’a.

But Anwar refused, because the then Interior Minister ordered Shabwah governor and security director to arrest Anwar for no reason.

In April 2014 a US court said that Washington officials could not be held accountable for the death of Anwar al Awlaki, Samir Khan or Abdel Rahman al Awlaki. The court dismissed a suit brought against several officials including then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-CIA Director David Petraeus on behalf of Awlaki’s parents by the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights.

Circuit Court justice Rosemary Collyer said allowing the suit to continue against individual officials “would impermissibly draw the court into “the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation”. She added: ‘“In this delicate area of war-making, national security, and foreign relations, the judiciary has an exceedingly limited role.”

Due to the actions of a federal judge in December of 2010, the Obama administration was cleared to continue to pursue Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen living in Yemen and alleged member of Al Qaeda. Despite the radicalization of Mr. Al-Awlaki, Jameer Jaffer, a lawyer for the ACLU believed that this court decision would allow the American government to potential kill any American citizen deemed a potential threat to the national security.

An ABC News report quoted President Barack Obama as noting that the death of al-Awlaki dealt a “major blow” to al-Qaeda, and Reuters reported that Obama described the strike as a “significant milestone” in the fight against terrorism, but the killing of an American citizen by American military planes raises difficult questions about the significance of personal liberties when weighed against national security. The same Reuters report noted that American officials believed that Al-Awlaki was planning to use ricin and cyanide in attacks upon Westerners.  While earlier reports noted American planes conducted the fatal attack, the BBC reported that American drones killed al-Awlaki.  The American born cleric, who graduated from Colorado State and later San Diego State with a master’s degree in education, had gained increasing popularity with fiery sermons that called for violence, and American officials believed that he was the leader of Al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). He is credited with recruiting Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the infamous “underwear bomber” caught on Christmas day, 2009.  However, the exact role Al-Awlaki played within AQAP is uncertain. Jeremy Binnie, a London-based terrorism analyst said the Al-Awlaki will be “difficult to replace”, while the Reuters article also stated that Al-Awlaki was neither a “commander of AQAP” nor a “senior Islamic cleric”.  The importance of Al-Awlaki remained insignificant to Yemeni citizen Fayza al-Suleimani who said, “Nobody cared about his [al-Awlaki] death. We have bigger problems than Anwar Al-Awlaki.”

The incident occured at 09:55:00 local time.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the governorate of Jawf (الجوف), for which the generic coordinates are: 16.612171, 45.670558. 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
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4

Sources (98) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (11) [ collapse]

  • Anwar al Awlaki (via AQAP's Inspire 6)
  • "American-Born Qaeda Leader Is Killed by U S Missile in Yemen" 9( via Getty/AP)
  • Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent, killed by US drones on September 30, 2011. (Image posted by BBC)
  • Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent, killed by US drones on September 30, 2011. (Image posted by Islamist Movements)
  • Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent, killed by US drones on September 30, 2011. (Image posted by Islamist Movements)
  • Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent, killed by US drones on September 30, 2011. (Image posted by Islamist Movements)
  • Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent, killed by US drones on September 30, 2011. (Image posted by Islamist Movements)
  • Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent, killed by US drones on September 30, 2011. (Image posted by New York Times)
  • Samir Khan, killed by US drones on September 30, 2011. (Image posted by Long War Journal)
  • Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American Muslim cleric of Yemeni descent, killed by US drones on September 30, 2011. (Image posted by Long War Journal)

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

Dear Mr. Chairman:

Since entering office, the President has made clear his commitment to providing
Congress and the American people with as much information as possible about our
sensitive counterterrorism operations, consistent with our national security and the proper
functioning of the Executive Branch. Doing so is necessary, the President stated in his
May 21, 2009 National Archives speech, because it enables the citizens of our democracy
to "make informed judgments and hold [their Government] accountable."

In furtherance of this commitment, the Administration has provided an
unprecedented level of transparency into how sensitive counterterrorism operations are
conducted. Several senior Administration officials, including myself, have taken
numerous steps to explain publicly the legal basis for the United States' actions to the
American people and the Congress. For example, in March 2012, I delivered an address
at Northwestern University Law School discussing certain aspects of the
Administration's counterterrorism legal framework. And the Department of Justice and
other departments and agencies have continually worked with the appropriate oversight
committees in the Congress to ensure that those committees are fully informed of the
legal basis for our actions.

The Administration is determined to continue these extensive outreach efforts to
communicate with the American people. Indeed, the President reiterated in his State of
the Union address earlier this year that he would continue to engage with the Congress
about our counterterrorism efforts to ensure that they remain consistent with our laws and
values, and become more transparent to the American people and to the world.

To this end, the President has directed me to disclose certain information that until
now has been properly classified. You and other Members of your Committee have on
numerous occasions expressed a particular interest in the Administration's use of lethal
force against U.S. citizens. In light of this fact, I am writing to disclose to you certain
information about the number of U.S. citizens who have been killed by U.S.
counterterrorism operations outside of areas of active hostilities. Since 2009, the United
States, in the conduct of U.S. counterterrorism operations against al-Qa'ida and its

associated forces outside of areas of active hostilities, has specifically targeted and killed
one U.S. citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi. The United States is further aware of three other U.S.
citizens who have been killed in such U.S. counterterrorism operations over that same
time period: Samir Khan, 'Abd al-Rahman Anwar al-Aulaqi, and Jude Kenan
Mohammed. These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States.

As I noted in my speech at Northwestern, "it is an unfortunate but undeniable
fact" that a "small number" of U.S. citizens "have decided to commit violent attacks
against their own country from abroad." Based on generations-old legal principles and
Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during the
current conflict, it is clear and logical that United States citizenship alone does not make
such individuals immune from being targeted. Rather, it means that the government must
take special care and take into account all relevant constitutional considerations, the laws
of war, and other law with respect to U.S. citizens -- even those who are leading efforts to
kill their fellow, innocent Americans. Such considerations allow for the use of lethal
force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-
Qa'ida or its associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill
Americans, in the following circumstances: (1) the U.S. government has determined,
after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of
violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is not feasible; and (3) the operation
would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.

These conditions should not come as a surprise: the Administration's legal views
on this weighty issue have been clear and consistent over time. The analysis in my
speech at Northwestern University Law School is entirely consistent with not only the
analysis found in the unclassified white paper the Department of Justice provided to your
Committee soon after my speech, but also with the classified analysis the Department
shared with other congressional committees in May 2011 -- months before the operation
that resulted in the death of Anwar al-Aulaqi. The analysis in my speech is also entirely
consistent with the classified legal advice on this issue the Department of Justice has
shared with your Committee more recently. In short, the Administration has
demonstrated its commitment to discussing with the Congress and the American people
the circumstances in which it could lawfully use lethal force in a foreign country against
a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa'ida or its associated forces, and
who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans.

Anwar al-Aulaqi plainly satisfied all of the conditions I outlined in my speech at
Northwestern. Let me be more specific. Al-Aulaqi was a senior operational leader of al-
Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the most dangerous regional affiliate of al-
Qa'ida and a group that has committed numerous terrorist attacks overseas and attempted
multiple times to conduct terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland. And al-Aulaqi was
not just a senior leader of AQAP -- he was the group's chief of external operations,
intimately involved in detailed planning and putting in place plots against U.S. persons.

In this role, al-Aulaqi repeatedly made clear his intent to attack U.S. persons and
his hope that these attacks would take American lives. For example. in a message to

Muslims living in the United States, he noted that he had come "to the conclusion that
jihad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding upon every other able
Muslim." But it was not al-Aulaqi's words that led the United States to act against him:
they only served to demonstrate his intentions and state of mind, that he "pray[ed] that
Allah [would] destro America and all its allies." Rather, it was al-Aulaqi's actions --
and, in particular, his direct personal involvement in the continued planning and
execution of terrorist attacks against the U.S. homeland -- that made him a lawful target
and led the United States to take action.

For example, when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- the individual who attempted
to blow up an airplane bound for Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 -- went to Yemen in
2009, al--Aulaqi arranged an introduction via text message. Abdulmutallab told U.S.
officials that he stayed at al-Aulaqi's house for three days, and then spent two weeks at
an AQAP training camp. Al-Aulaqi planned a suicide operation for Abdulmutallab,
helped Abdulmutallab draft a statement for a video to be shown after the
attack, and directed him to take down a U.S. airliner. Al-Aulaqi's last instructions were
to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil. Al-Aulaqi also played a key role
in the October 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S.-bound cargo planes:
he not only helped plan and oversee the plot, but was also directly involved in the details
of its execution to the point that he took part in the development and testing of the
explosive devices that were placed on the planes. Moreover, information that remains
classified to protect sensitive sources and methods evidences al-Aulaqi's involvement in
the planning of numerous plots against U.S. and Western interests and makes clear
he was continuing to plot attacks when he was killed.

Based on this information, high-level U.S. government officials appropriately
concluded that al-Aulaqi posed a continuing and imminent threat of violent attack against
the United States. Before carrying out the operation that killed al-Aulaqi, senior officials
also determined, based on a careful evaluation of the circumstances at the time, that it
was not feasible to capture al-Aulaqi. In addition, senior officials determined that the
operation would be conducted consistent with applicable law of war principles, including
the cardinal principles of (1) necessity -- the requirement that the target have definite
military value; (2) distinction -- the idea that only military objectives may be intentionally
targeted and that civilians are protected from being intentionally targeted; (3)
proportionality -- the notion that the anticipated collateral damage of an action cannot be
excessive in relation to the anticipated concrete and direct military advantage; and (4)
humanity -- a principle that requires us to use weapons that will not inflict unnecessary
suffering. The operation was also undertaken consistent with Yemeni sovereignty.

While a substantial amount of information indicated that Anwar al-Aulaqi was a
senior AQAP leader actively plotting to kill Americans, the decision that he was a lawful
target was not taken The decision to use lethal force is one of the gravest that our
government, at every level, can face. The operation to target Anwar a1--Aulaqi was thus
subjected to an exceptionally rigorous interagency legal review: not only did I and other
Department of Justice lawyers conclude after a thorough and searching review that the

operation was lawful, but so too did other departments and agencies within the U.S.
government.

The decision to target Anwar al-Aulaqi was additionally subjected to extensive
policy review at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, and senior U.S. officials also
briefed the appropriate committees of Congress on the possibility of using lethal force
against al--Aulaq i. Indeed, the Administration informed the relevant congressional
oversight committees that it had approved the use of lethal force against al-Aulaqi in
February 2010 -- well over a year before the operation in question -- and the legal
justification was subsequently explained in detail to those committees, well before action
was taken against Aulaqi. This extensive outreach is consistent with the Administration's
strong and continuing commitment to congressional oversight of our counterterrorism
operations -- oversight which ensures, as the President stated during his State of the
Union address, that our actions are "consistent with our laws and system of checks and
balances."

The Supreme Court has long "made clear that a state of war is not a blank check
for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens." Hamdi v.
Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507, 536 (2004); Youngstown Sheet Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S.
578, 5 87 (1952). But the Court's case law and longstanding practice and principle also
make clear that the Constitution does not prohibit the Government it establishes from
taking action to protect the American people from the threats posed by terrorists who hide
in faraway countries and continually plan and launch plots against the U.S. homeland.
The decision to target Anwar al-Aulaqi was lawful, it was considered, and it was just.



This letter is only one of a number of steps the Administration will be taking to
fulfill the President's State of the Union commitment to engage with Congress and the
American people on our counterterrorism efforts. This week the President approved and
relevant congressional committees will be notified and briefed on a document that
institutionalizes the Administration's exacting standards and processes for reviewing and
approving operations to capture or use lethal force against terrorist targets outside the
United States and areas of active hostilities; these standards and processes are either
already in place or are to be transitioned into place. While that document remains
classified, it makes clear that a cornerstone of the Administration's policy is one of the
principles I noted in my speech at Northwestern: that lethal force should not be used
when it is feasible to capture a terrorist suspect. For circumstances in which capture is
feasible, the policy outlines standards and procedures to ensure that operations to take
into custody a terrorist suspect are conducted in accordance with all applicable law,
including the laws of war. When capture is not feasible, the policy provides that lethal
force may be used only when a terrorist target poses a continuing, imminent threat to
Americans, and when certain other preconditions, including a requirement that no other
reasonable alternatives exist to effectively address the threat, are satisfied. And in all
circumstances there must be a legal basis for using force against the target. Significantly,

the President will soon be speaking publicly in greater detail about our counterterrorism
operations and the legal and policy framework that governs those actions.

I recognize that even after the Administration makes unprecedented disclosures
like those contained in this letter, some unanswered questions will remain. I assure you
that the President and his national security team are mindful of this Administration's
pledge to public accountability for our counterterrorism efforts, and we will continue to
give careful consideration to whether and how additional information may be declassified
and disclosed to the American people without harming our national security.

Sincerely,



Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General

Summary

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

Sources (98) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM040-B

Incident date

October 5, 2011

Location

زنجبار‎, Al Arqoub, east of Zinjibar, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.194872, 45.446574 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Subdistrict level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Between five and 10 militants, reportedly members of Al Qaeda, were killed and seven more were wounded in a US strike or strikes on Arqoub, east of Zinjibar on October 5, 2011, sources said. There are currently no known reports of civilian harm.

The strike reportedly targeted alleged militant hideouts in al Arqoub, east of Zinjibar, the embattled provincial capital of Abyan in southern Yemen. Officials told the Associated Press that the strike killed five militants and injured seven.

The Long War Journal stated that the exact target of the strikes was not disclosed, and no “senior Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders have been reported killed”.

According to the New York Times, “A strike by an American drone on Wednesday [Oct 5th] killed five militants connected with Al Qaeda in southern Yemen, officials said. A Yemeni official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comply with military rules, said the drone attacked militant hide-outs in an area east of the city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan Province”.

The Yemen Observer said “the drone strike in Abyan killed five and injured seven”. The highest casualty count was provided by @abyanboard, which reported that 10 Yemeni militants were killed.

All of the sources reported that the United States was responsible for the drone strike.

The incident occured around dawn.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the area of Al Arqoub east of the town Zinjibar (زنجبار‎), in the Abyan (أبين‎) governorate. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available, Airwars wasn’t able to locate the Al Arqoub area. The generic coordinates for the area east of Zinjibar (زنجبار‎) are: 13.194872, 45.446574.

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
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–10
  • Belligerents reported injured
    7

Sources (4) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known 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
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–10
  • Belligerents reported injured
    7

Sources (4) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM041-C

Incident date

October 14, 2011

Location

عزان, Azzan, Shabwa, Yemen

Geolocation

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

Airwars assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The incident occured in the evening.

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

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

Geolocation notes

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

Summary

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

Sources (60) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (7) [ collapse]

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

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

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

Summary

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

Sources (60) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM042-C

Incident date

October 14, 2011

Location

حريب, Harib district, Marib, Yemen

Geolocation

14.901509, 45.379398 Note: The accuracy of this location is to District level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Saleh Qaid Toayman and his 14-year-old son Jalal were reportedly killed in an alleged overnight US airstrike in Azzan on October 14, 2011, according to local reports.

Saleh and Jalal were grazing camels “in an area known to be controlled by Al Qaeda,’” and had then slept by a mosque, according to Toayman’s 15-year-old son Azzedine, who survived the strike. One strike hit their car and was quickly followed by a second attack, Azzedine told NPR: “I heard a huge explosion. But I stayed where I was, hidden under a tyre. I did not move until the morning. Then, when I woke up, I was scared. I went to see my father and my brother. They were scattered into pieces.”

Saleh Toayman had fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s but the family claimed that he had recently renounced ties with the group, adding that he had been employed by Yemeni intelligence for a time. “If they wanted to arrest him – or even kill him – they knew where he lived,” one relative stated. “Why did they have to kill him like this?” Toayman’s eldest son was reported to have joined Ansar al Sharia following the strike.

According to The Guardian, “Saleh, and his 17-year-old son Jalal were killed in a drone strike after they drove into the desert to find some missing camels. Another brother who was with them – Ezzaldeen, 14 – escaped the blast and hid until morning, when he found the two shattered bodies.” The Guardian added that Saleh Toayman left behind three wives and 27 children. One of Saleh’s children, Meqdad, told The Guardian: “After our father died, Al Qaeda came to us to offer support. But we are not with them.”

US Central Command and the CIA declined comment on the Toaymans’ case. A Pentagon spokesman said that Yemen had not yet been designated a formal battlefield. “Day-to-day US operations in Yemen are authorized by the commander, US Central Command, based on authorities granted by the president and secretary of defense,” said Christopher Sherwood, the spokesman.

The incident occured during the night.

The victims were named as:

16 years old male Son of Saleh Qayed Taeiman killed
65 years old male killed

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the Hareeb/Harib (حريب) district in the governorate of Ma’rib (مَأْرِب) in Yemen. The generic coordinates for the Harib (حريب) district are: 14.901509, 45.379398. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available, Airwars was unable to verify the location further.

  • Harib (حريب) district in Ma’rib governorate.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (1 child1 man)
  • 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.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (3) [ collapse]

  • Azzedine Saleh Qaid, 15, witnessed the killing of his father and brother in an airstrike last Oct. 14. Azzedine says he now wants revenge against America for the deaths. Kelly McEvers/NPR
  • Some of the 26 children of Saleh Qaid Toayman, who was killed with one of his sons in an airstrike on Oct. 14, 2011. The family says the eldest son, Azzedine, has joined an al-Qaida-affiliated group to avenge the father's death. The group's black banner hangs in the family's home. The family says the militant group gives them a monthly stipend. Kelly McEvers/NPR

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
    2
  • (1 child1 man)
  • 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.
  • Suspected attacker
    US Forces

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM043-B

Incident date

October 27, 2011

Location

شقرة, Shaqra, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

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

Airwars assessment

Three militants, reportedly members of Al Qaeda, were killed and six more wounded in a suspected US airstrike or drone strike on Shaqra, east of Zinjibar, on October 27th, 2011, sources said. There are currently no known reports of civilian harm.

The strike reportedly hit alleged militants in Shaqra, east of Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan in southern Yemen. According to Reuters, the town had been seized by Islamists in August of the same year, a few months before the strike, and a local official told AFP that “the militant group has been carrying out military training exercises in the area, adding that near-by residents had reported sounds of gunfire and explosions in recent days”. Local officials told Reuters that the strike killed three Al Qaeda fighters and injured six.

Alarabiya News also reported that the strike killed three Al Qaeda fighters and wounded six. The source reported that the Yemeni government “denied direct U.S. involvement in the fight against Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch,” but that local residents and officials insisted that U.S. drones regularly carry out strikes in the area. @Wassm3, @4adencom, and @yosfgfx reported that 3 Al Qaeda fighters were killed by an “American” strike.

@AdenLang reported that the strike impacted the “poultry area” in Shaqra.

None of the sources reported that civilians were harmed. At least one source referred to “an unmanned aircraft, likely American” being used to carry out the strike.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Shaqra (شقرة), for which the generic coordinates are: 13.356639, 45.699426. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian infrastructure
    Agriculture
  • 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
    3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    6

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 infrastructure
    Agriculture
  • 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
    3
  • Belligerents reported injured
    6

Sources (8) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM044-N

Incident date

November 8, 2011

Location

الرميلة, Rumeila, north of Ja’ar, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.2489860, 45.3005280 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

The militant stronghold of Rumeila was targeted by “five US drone strikes,” according to an unnamed Yemeni official based in Jaar. There are currently no known reports of civilian harm.

According to AFP: “Meanwhile, Rumeila, north of Jaar, which itself is an Al-Qaeda stronghold, was also targeted Tuesday by ‘five US drone strikes,’ the same official said, adding no information was yet available on casualties. Yemen’s army, backed by US drones, have been battling militants of the Qaeda-linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) group who have held the Abyan provincial capital since May.”

Some local sources, including @AJABreaking, mention that “8 killed and dozens of al-Qaeda members wounded on the outskirts of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan Governorate” but do not specify if they were killed in airstrikes.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the area or village of Rumeila (الرميلة), north of the town of Ja’ar (جعار) in the Abyan governorate. The coordinates for the village Rumeila (الرميلة) are: 13.2489860, 45.3005280. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Summary

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

Sources (5) [ collapse]

US Forces Assessment:

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

Summary

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

Sources (5) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM045-B

Incident date

December 22, 2011

Location

زنجبار‎, Zinjibar, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.129059, 45.380422 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Up to five people, allegedly members of Al Qaeda, were killed in an alleged US drone strike or naval shelling on an extremist site in Bagdar neighborhood in the city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province in southern Yemen on the evening of December 22nd, 2011 according to local sources and news outlets.

One of the casualties, Abdulrahman al Wuhayshi, was reportedly a relative of Nasser al Wuhayshi, a Yemeni who lead AQAP and was once Osama bin Laden’s personal aide in Afghanistan according to the sources. Local journalist Mohamad gad (@mohamadgad0) and other sources such as USA Today claimed that Abdulrahman was Nasser’s brother, however others such as Reuters reported that a security source said he was related to Nasser but “not a brother or a member of Nasser al-Wuhayshi’s immediate family circle”. According to the Long War Journal, the role of Abdulrahman in AQAP is unknown, and his death has not been confirmed by AQAP. Reuters also mentioned that “there was no word of any death of a leading militant on Islamist websites where al Qaeda often announces such news”.

Regarding the type of the attack, Almasdar online, Adengad and other local sources reported that five members of Al Qaeda organization were killed in a US naval shelling on a site near the city of Zinjibar. Whereas, other sources including Reuters and National Yemen who were reporting the death of Abdulrahman claimed that he was killed by a US drone strike. On the other hand, USA today said that according to AP “Yemeni security and military officials say a brother of Yemen’s Al Qaeda leader was among five people killed in the latest of a series of battles raging for days in the south of the country”.

The incident occured in the evening.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that a district in the town of Zinjibar (زنجبار‎) in the Abyan governorate was targeted. It is unclear which district is referred to. The generic coordinates for the town of Zinjibar (زنجبار‎) are: 13.129059, 45.380422. 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, Naval bombardment
  • 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
    5

Sources (13) [ 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, Naval bombardment
  • 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
    5

Sources (13) [ collapse]