Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEM002-C

Incident date

December 17, 2009

Location

المعجلة, Al Majala, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.972421, 46.451482 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

At least forty-seven civilians, including at least twenty-two children and twelve women, were reportedly killed after a US cruise-missile strike targeted an alleged AQAP training camp on the edge of Al-Majala village, Mahfad district of Abyan governorate, at around 6 AM on December 17th 2009. This was the first known strike in Yemen approved by the Obama administration, and the first known strike conducted by the US in Yemen since 2002. The strike came alongside other reported US-Yemeni counter-terror operations in the country on the same day. Later reports suggested that uncleared bomblets continued to constitute a fatal hazard to civilians for years after the strike.

Though the Yemeni defence ministry initially briefed that they had conducted the strike, killing “between 24 and 30 Al-Qaeda militants, including foreigners…while training”, according to AFP, local accounts and investigators into the strike instead highlighted the large number of civilian fatalities. Evidence collected at the strike location, briefings by US officials, and information obtained in the Wikileaks files confirmed that US naval forces had targeted the village with multiple Tomahawk missiles, loaded with cluster munitions, or “bomblets”.

A Yemeni parliamentary commission, which visited the area, reported in February 2010 that forty-one civilians were killed, and at least seven – including women and children – were wounded, in the immediate aftermath of the missile strikes. Those killed that were named by the report were from just two family groups; fourteen were from the Haydara family, and twenty-seven were from the Anbour family.

The report stated that, of those killed, twenty-two were children; the youngest named by the report, Khadija Ali Mokbel Salem, was just one year old when she died. Nineteen of those killed were less than ten-years-old, the report stated. The Al-Karama Foundation also listed twenty-two children killed.

According to the Al-Karama Foundation’s list of casualties, six children were injured by the strike. Two of those who survived the strike were Samia Luqia Al-Anbouri, aged two at the time of the strike, who Al-Karama reported “was hit in the stomach and back by a bomb fragment”, and Nada Luqia Al-Anbouri, aged three in December 2009, who Al-Karama reported was “unscathed”, but nonetheless listed as “injured”.

Human Rights Watch later spoke with three of the four orphaned child survivors of the strike in 2013 – Nada Loqyah Mahdi, Aysha Nassar Mahdi, and Muhammad Ali Loqyah – who were aged five, four, and seven at the time of the interview. “Aysha raised a hand to show a finger she lost in the airstrike. Nada showed the gashes on her stomach from fragments of the ordnance. ‘Nada had been really healthy,” Medhi said. “Now she is very thin and vomits all the time. There may still be some fragments in her stomach but we can’t afford another operation.'”

Dexter Filkins wrote for The New Yorker that, in March 2011, he had “met a fifteen-year-old named Fatima Ali, who rolled up the sleeve of her chador, revealing hideous burns. Another girl showed me her hand, which was missing a finger. She had lost her mother in the raid”. Fatima Ali Muhammed Nasser, aged thirteen at the time of the strike, was listed by the Al-Karama Foundation as one of those injured. The Yemeni parliamentary report indicated that Fatima was the only survivor of the Haydara family, and required medical attention “abroad”. According to the Al-Karama report, three children died on their way to hospital.

The parliamentary report further listed that twelve of those killed were women. Residents later told Human Rights Watch that five were pregnant at the time of the strike, though other sources, such as the Al-Karama Foundation, indicated that as many as seven pregnant women were killed. Some sources indicated that fewer or more women were killed; locals told Human Rights Watch that nine women had died, while the Al-Karama Foundation explicitly listed ten women as deceased, and one as injured.

Seven civilian men were killed, according to the parliamentary report. Aden Press reported that nineteen male “nomads” had been killed, seemingly referring to civilians, though possibly including alleged AQAP militants. From the Anbour family, local residents told the commission, only one male survived, Houssain Abdallah Awad Aabad, a man in his thirties. The Al-Karama Foundation listed one man as injured in the strike.

The report also indicated that three additional civilians – Khaled Mohammed Ali, Nasser Saleh Al-Souedi, and Mithaq Al-Jild – were killed, and nine wounded, by unexploded ordnance on December 21st 2009. The Alkarama Foundation indicated that four had died, and twenty-five had been injured, in this secondary blast.

Reported fatalities continued for years after the initial strike and the publication of the report. The Al-Karama report stated that, in 2010, a bomblet floated five kilometres down a nearby river, killing two people gathering herbs and injuring four others. Locals, including a relative, told Human Rights Watch that on January 24th 2012 – over two years after the strike – a child brought a bomblet home with him, which detonated, killing the boy’s father, Salem Atef Ali Basyoul, and injuring the boy and two siblings. This was also reported by Yemeni tribal leader, and member of the parliamentary commission, Sheikh Saleh Bin Fareed, to Democracy Now. The Alkarama Foundation and Arij.Net further reported that the mother was also injured in this explosion.

Other sources gave slightly higher estimates of casualty numbers in al-Majala. Human rights activist Abbas Al-Assal, a local resident, denied the existence of an AQAP camp in the area to the Associated Press, and said that sixty-four were killed, including twenty-three children and seventeen women. Alkhaleej similarly reported that, according to a local mosque official, 49 civilians were killed, including 23 children and 17 women. According to Reuters, “residents and opposition groups said about 50 civilians were killed”. In 2012, an Al-Jazeera retrospective reported that forty-six were killed, of which “only three” were young men. Local sources told The Guardian that “about 50 people were killed, and some 60 injured”. According to Aden Press, 62 were killed, including “28 children and a woman”, and 88 wounded, while one Facebook source, Helmy al-Redfani, claimed that, according to news sources, there had been more than seventy “martyrs” and “hundreds” of wounded civilians.

Given that the names and numbers given by the commission were accepted by the Yemeni government on publication, and the later investigations by Human Rights Watch and Al-Karama appeared to broadly corroborate their findings, these figures have been taken by Airwars as minimum alleged civilian casualty figures. Including the findings of the commission, as well as the later post-strike casualties reported by human rights investigators, the minimum number of reported civilian deaths has been assessed by Airwars as forty-seven, including at least twenty-two children, twelve women, and eleven men. The minimum number of civilian injuries has been, similarly, set at twenty-three, including nine children, one woman, and one man. Given the higher reports mentioned above, maximum alleged civilians deaths has been set by Airwars at sixty-four, with a maximum of seventeen women, twenty-eight children, and nineteen male civilians. Maximum alleged civilian injuries have been set at eighty-eight.

The parliamentary commission’s list of named civilian fatalities has also been used as the basis for the names listed below; a variant list provided by the Al-Karama Foundation has been incorporated into the list as a secondary source.

Responsibility for the strike was officially shouldered by the Yemeni government. On December 23rd 2009, the Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security, Rashad al-Alimi, told the Yemeni parliament that the recent air raids had been a “Yemeni decision carried out by Yemeni security units”, almotamar reported. Al-Alimi blamed Al-Qaeda for civilian casualties, describing them as “families of these elements brought to cook for them”. Officials told the New York Times that the US had “provided firepower, intelligence and other support” in the conduct of the mid-December strikes, but otherwise indicated that the Yemeni government was in the lead throughout. President Obama reportedly called President Saleh on the day of the strikes, to congratulate him on the “successful terror raids”, according to state press agency Saba.

On March 3rd 2010, when the findings of the Yemeni parliamentary commission were approved by parliament, “the Yemen government apologized to the victims’ families, describing the killings as a “mistake” during an operation that was meant to target al-Qa’ida militants, and said that committees would be established to provide compensation for the people killed and the property destroyed”, according to Amnesty.

At the time of the strike, however, US officials told ABC and Fox News that, on orders from President Obama, the US military had targeted alleged AQAP sites with cruise missiles on the morning of the Al-Majala strike. In June 2010, Amnesty International published a series of photographs showing the wreckage of a US-made BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile, as well as the BLU 97 A/B cluster munitions carried by it, in the Al-Majala area. These cluster munitions, Amnesty indicated, “are known to be held only by US forces”. The US strikes conducted on December 17th 2009 were codenamed “Copper Dune”, according to Human Rights Watch and other sources.

US responsibility for the strike was confirmed in a series of leaked classified minutes and cables. On December 21st 2009, Ambassador Stephen Seche summarised a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister al-Alimi: “The ROYG views the December 17 CT operations as a success and a benefit to Yemeni national interests, and appears not overly concerned about unauthorized leaks regarding the U.S. role and negative media attention to civilian deaths. ROYG officials continue to publicly maintain that the operation was conducted entirely by its forces, acknowledging U.S. support strictly in terms of intelligence sharing. Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi told the Ambassador on December 20 that any evidence of greater U.S. involvement ) such as fragments of U.S. munitions found at the sites – could be explained away as equipment purchased from the US”.

Al-Alimi also told Seche that, alongside some compensation, “the ROYG has recruited a number of local political and religious leaders to visit the ares affected by the air strikes in Abyan to explain o the people the need for the operation and the danger that AQAP poses to all Yemenis”. Al-Alimi assured Seche that “the Governor of Abyan visited the site after the operation and confirmed that there were no villages, houses, or civilian institutions that were damaged, only the training camp, and the encampments of the non-combatant Bedouin population”. Any civilians killed were acting in “collusion” with AQAP, Seche was told.

In January 2010, Yemeni President Saleh and US Central Command’s General Petraeus held a meeting, the minutes of which were published online by Wikileaks. “‘We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,’ Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG”, the minutes read. During the meeting, Saleh told Petraeus that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in Abyan. Petraeus responded only that “the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site”.

Shortly after the strike, Yemeni security and administrative sources, including the deputy governor of Abyan, indicated that the target had been suspected AQAP leader Mohammed Saleh al-Kazemi, also known as Mohammed Saleh al-Anbouri, who was killed in the strike. According to Al-Jazeera, al-Kazemi was “a Saudi who had resided in the country since fighting in Afghanistan. He was imprisoned in Yemen for two years before being released in 2005”. A Yemeni official told CNN that al-Kazemi “was implicated in planning the July 2007 suicide attack that killed nine people, including seven Spanish tourists at the Sun temple in the province of Marib”, and that he “also provided safe haven to foreign al Qaeda militants operating in Yemen”.

While Yemeni government sources initially stated that at least twenty-four AQAP militants in the “training camp” had been killed by the strike, other sources gave varying assessments of the numbers of alleged militants killed. Ahmad Al-Mayssary, governor of Abyan, told the Yemeni parliamentary committee that al-Kazimi had opened a “training camp” in Al-Majala, where over twenty “Saudi, Emirati and Pakistani Al-Qaeda members” trained, including “a Pakistani expert in poisons and explosives”. The commission’s final report, however, indicated only that, according to the Abyan governor and security leaders, fourteen AQAP members had been killed, and seven injured. Only two suspects, al-Kazimi and Abdul Rahman Ka’ed Al‐Thamary, were named by the report.

According to The Guardian, Deputy Prime Minister Al-Alimi stated that twenty-four AQAP suspects were killed, including “two Saudis, two Pakistanis and an unknown number of Egyptians, as well as five other unidentified foreigners”. A security source further indicated that five were wounded, and later arrested in Aden.

In a January 3rd report, from state news agency Saba, security sources named AQAP militants killed in the strike as “Mohammad al-Kazimi, Mithaq al-Jaled, Ubad Salem Muqbel, Samir Sheikh Mohammad Amqida (a cousin of terrorist Abdul-Mune’m al-Qahtani), Saudi Mohammad al-Thara’an and another Saudi element called al-Kindi”, as well as further unidentified persons. The report also indicated that “five terrorists” had been injured, named as “Abdullah Salem Ali, Haidrah Ali, Mohammad Salem, Abdurrahman Mohammad Qayed and Fattah al-Amri”. The report also stated that AQAP militants had “booby-trapped” the area after the strike, leading to post-strike fatalities that many blamed, instead, on unexploded ordnance.

At the time of the strike, however, local sources told Al-Masdar Online that only six Al-Qaeda members had been killed, and four wounded. Local sources, likewise, told Al-Sahwa Net that, in addition to al-Kazimi, Munir al-Ambouri and four other AQAP members had been killed. These numbers are taken by Airwars as the minimum alleged militant casualties in the strike.

Further reporting, however, raised considerable doubts over the belligerent status of these alleged militants. Locals told the parliamentary commission that twenty days before the strike, al-Kazimi and six others not from the local area, including Al‐Thamary, had begun work on a well near the Anbour family residential area, which was observed by the parliamentary commission. “They cooked their own food and lived in a small tent… We will not allow the erection of a camp in our neighbourhood which would harm our children,” the report quoted the locals as saying. After being released from prison, Al-Kazimi had obtained sheep and goats from local tribal leaders in exchange for his commitment not to involve himself with Al-Qaeda, the commission heard. He lived with his family on the edge of the residential area – all were reportedly killed in the strike. Members of the parliamentary commission later told Amnesty International that they had observed no evidence of a training camp in the area.

Local residents told Human Rights Watch that “they were not aware that [al-Kazimi] was engaged in military operations and had not seen a training camp, but added that they could not be sure”. “I challenge anybody in the United States of America, especially the American government, to prove that there was anybody from al-Qaeda at that site at all,” Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, a member of the parliamentary committee, told Democracy Now. As Jeremy Scahill noted in The Nation, “whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested”. Nasser Mahdi, a local, told Aden Press that the villagers “knew nothing about Al Qaeda in the first place… no one has ever invited us to join Al Qaeda”.

In the aftermath of the strike, local sources reported to the parliamentary commission, armed persons came at 3 PM and took away six dead bodies to an unknown location. Medical officials in Abyan told the commission that, soon after the strike, seven wounded and five dead individuals were escorted to the Mahnaf Hospital, in Lawdar district, but that the escorts prevented the identification of the dead. Names provided at the hospital were believed to be fictitious. These people prevented anybody from entering or leaving the hospital, until the dead and wounded were moved to another unknown location at 7 PM.

Whether al-Kazimi was or was not an active AQAP member, locals consistently indicated that an indiscriminate cruise missile salvo was wholly unnecessary.  Mohammed Nasser Ali, a member of the Anbour family, told the parliamentary commission that, as to al-Kazimi, “if the government wants him it could have found him somewhere else; he was moving from Modiya to Mahfad to Shabwah. And if he committed murders in another location, killing everybody is a shame and a sin towards us and towards our children”.  The director of Mahfad district told the commission, similarly, that al-Kazimi moved “freely” between Mahfad, Mudiyah, and Ataq, and could have been arrested at any time. “Grave mistakes occurred in the operation due to failures of information, which led to a large number of civilian deaths,” a provincial security official told Al-Jazeera. “If [al-Kazemi] was wanted, why didn’t the authorities come and arrest him all this time?”

“Kazimi has the right to live with his family, and if he is a member of al-Qaida then he should have been punished alone,” Mukbel Ali al-Anbour, a tribal leader, told The Guardian. “But 45 women and children and more than 1,000 animals were killed.”

The parliamentary report specified that the strike targeted two residential areas in the pastoral Katana valley, the first around a kilometre east of the second, both approximately three kilometres north of Al-Majala. The easternmost area was reported to have been home to the Haydara family for decades, while the other had been home to the Anbour family for three years. The families tended sheep and bees, with no contact from the state. The Governor of Abyan told the commission that residents had reported an aircraft flying low in the area, allegedly taking pictures, for over two months prior to the strike.

According to Jeremy Scahill, writing in the The Nation, at least one Tomahawk missile was launched from a submarine off the coast of Yemen that morning. The munitions found at the strike location were identified as BLU 97 A/B bomblets, which, The Nation reported, “explode into some 200 sharp steel fragments that can spray more than 400 feet away” – one Tomahawk missile can carry over 160 bomblets, which can also contain incendiary material. The number of missiles deployed by the US was unclear. According to Al-Karama, four missiles hit the Haydara tribal area, while another hit the Anbouri tribal area. “Authorization for the strikes was rushed through Saleh’s office because of ‘actionable’ intelligence that Al Qaeda suicide bombers were preparing for strikes in Sana,” Jeremy Scahill wrote.

“I thought a petrol tanker had exploded, but the mountains around me shook so hard,” a local resident, away from the village at the time of the strike, told Guardian journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. Abdul Mutalib, another witness, said that he saw people and animals burning: ” “A woman was burning in her tent. I tried to get her out but I couldn’t”. While observing the debris of the strike, including melted shoes amid remnant bright-yellow cluster munitions, another, Muqbel al-Kazimi, repeated that “there were fewer than ten men, and they lived in a couple of tents on the edge of Ba Kazim camp… The fighters told the Bedouin they would dig a well for them to get water”.

Dexter Filkins, published in The New Yorker, spoke with survivors of the strike in March 2011. “Hussein Abdullah, a herdsman, told me that he had been tending a herd of goats and camels when Al Majalah was hit. He recalled lying in his tent at sunrise, half-awake, when there was an enormous flash. ‘The sky turned white,’ Abdullah said. ‘Everything suddenly disappeared.’ He was knocked unconscious, and when he came to, he told me, he saw his wife running toward him. ‘And when she threw her arms around me I felt blood all over me,’ he said. She died, as did his daughter; only his infant son survived”.

In February 2013, investigators for the Al-Karama foundation, on a joint mission with the HOOD human rights organisation, visited Al-Majala.  “In the early morning, while I was on my way back, I heard explosions in the distance. I hurried home and when I saw the massacre, I was in shock. It was horrible: flames everywhere, bodies, tree and cars burning. The survivors were trying to rescue the injured and take stock of what had happened. Around 8:30am people came together and gathered the remains of the bodies that had been scattered in the trees and on the ground. Most homes and properties were destroyed. Many animals; goats, sheep, and camels had perished,” Muqbil Salem Luqia Al-Anbouri, who reportedly lost children, grandchildren, and three wives in the strike, told the investigators. “I found my beautiful daughter holding her youngest girl Khadidja. They were still burning even though their bodies were already completely carbonized,” he added.

Several sources reported that the devastation inflicted by the strike necessitated the opening of a mass grave near the village. “The residents picked up the shredded body parts of those killed without being able to distinguish one from another. The limbs were often mixed with those of animals that exploded at the same time. Without the ability to identify individuals, families buried their loved ones in a shared grave,” Al-Karama reported. The Yemeni parliamentary commission found that explosives had been spread over 1.5 kilometres of the strike site.

Saleh bin Fareed told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that “the clothes of the women and children were hanging from the treetops with the flesh on every tree, every rock. But you did not know if the flesh was of human beings or animals. Some bodies were intact but most, they melted”. Locals indicated to HRW that all thirty houses in the area had burned on the day of the strike, of which twelve were destroyed. Days after the incident, Al-Jazeera published video that apparently showed several civilians killed during the raid.

The strikes prompted a considerable public reaction in Yemen. Al-Jazeera reported that, in response to the strikes, “dozens” of Yemenis protested in the streets in Abyan governorate on December 18th 2009. On December 19th 2009, Aden Aden reported that cities in Shabwa and Abyan governorate saw the displacement of “a number of northern families”, “against the background of the Majala massacre”. One local-language Facebook source, “Helmy Al-Redfani”, indicated that a meeting of tribal sheikhs and leaders of the “Southern Movement” were meeting on Mahfad district on December 21st 2009. According to the Yemeni parliamentary report, it was at a gathering on that day that unexploded ordnance in the area detonated, killing and wounding several; Al-Karama reported that “hundreds” of tribal members had gathered on that day.

According to one Facebook user, “Bakr Ahmed”, the tribal National Solidarity Council condemned the strike, saying that it was “brutally unlawful and indiscriminate in the manner of its implementation, while the authority could use another method to achieve its goal without causing such destruction and destroying these innocent souls”.

Al-Qaeda members also sought to exploit the strike. A few days after the strike, The Guardian reported, AQAP leadership figures Nasser Wahayshi and Saeed al-Shihri travelled to Abyan to mourn al-Kazimi, while “al-Qaida member Mohamed Saleh al-Awlaki urged a gathering of thousands of tribesmen to stand by al-Qaida”. At the December 21st 2009 protest, Human Rights Watch reported that an AQAP operative declared: “Soldiers, you should know we do not want to fight you. There is no problem between you and us. The problem is between us and America and its agents. Beware taking the side of America!” According to The Guardian, the AQAP members were then tracked to Rafd, Shabwa governorate, where an alleged December 24th 2009 drone strike killed at least five.

Despite accepting the recommendations of the parliamentary report, the Yemeni government did not immediately implement its recommendations on clearing the Majala area of munitions and granting compensation to survivors, according to Human Rights Watch. According the leaked cable from US Ambassador Seche, the Yemeni government initially gave the Governor of Abyan 20 million rial to compensate the families of those killed and wounded.

A second Yemeni government offer of 5.5 million rials for each civilian killed was rejected by the villagers. A local told Human Rights Watch that the government “offered us 10 Toyota Hiluxes as a down payment if we agreed to the 5.5 million rials. We refused. We have said to the government from the start, we want 10 billion rials [$51,000] compensation. We were flexible. We could have agreed on a lower sum. But the government refused”. Some families finally received some compensation, for property damage only, in mid-2013, dividing 37 million rials between ten households. In 2012, according to al-Masdar Online, Akhbar Al-Youm reported that a US official had secretly supplied $1m in compensation for each person killed; no other known sources reported this.

Fearing that a government clearance effort would hide evidence of the strike, villagers told Human Rights Watch that they had called for an international site clearance team.

Yemeni journalist Abd al-Ilah Haidar al-Shayi’, who initially reported on the US role in the al-Majala strike, was imprisoned in February 2011 on terrorism charges for a term of five years. According to Jeremy Scahill, writing in the New Yorker and speaking with Democracy Now, it was al-Shayi’ who provided the first images of the munitions wreckage to Amnesty International, enabling the identification of a US involvement in the strike.

In Democracy Now, al-Shayi’ was quoted as saying, from a cage in a Yemeni courtroom: “When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwa and Arhab, when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me. You noticed in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions and quotations to international reporters and channels into accusations. Yemen, this is a place where the young journalist becomes successful, he is considered with suspicion”.

In February 2011, when President Saleh agreed to pardon al-Shayi’, President Obama called Saleh and “expressed concern” regarding his release from prison, leading to the pardon being scrapped. In July 2013, al-Shayi’s sentence was commuted to two year’s house arrest by President Hadi. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that the US was “concerned and disappointed by his early release”, according to the Associated Press.

When Al-Karama investigators visited the area, locals reported to them that several residents exposed to the strike had gotten cancer in the subsequent years, and wanted to know whether there might have been a link with the munitions used.

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.

The incident occured at approximately 6:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (5)

Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala
60 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Nousa Mohammed Saleh El-Souwa
30 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Nasser Mohammed Nasser
6 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Arwa Mohammed Nasser
4 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Fatima Mohammed Nasser
2 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed

Family members (7)

Ali Mohammed Nasser
35 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Qubla Al-Kharibi Salem
25 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as 30 years old killed
Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser
9 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser
7 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser
5 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser
4 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Fatima Ali Mohammed Nasser
13 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama injured

Family members (3)

Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala
30 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as 32 years old killed
Qubla Salem Nasser
21 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as 25 years old killed
Mouhsena Ahmed Adiyou
50 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as 67 years old killed

Family members (7)

Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
37 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Saleha Ali Ahmed Mansour
30 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant killed
Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
13 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as 12 years old killed
Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
9 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
4 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
3 years old female Also listedby Al-Karama killed
Sumia Abdallah Muqbil Salem Luqia
1.5 years old female Listed only by Al-Karama killed

Family members (7)

Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye
36 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Hanaa Abdallah Monser
28 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant killed
Moheile Mohammed Saeed Yaslem
30 years old male Not listed by Al-Karama killed
Safaa Ali Mokbel Salem
25 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as aged 2.5 years killed
Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye
1 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye
6 years old female Not listed by Al-Karama killed
Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye
4 years old male Not listed by Al-Karama killed

Family members (5)

Fatima Yaslem Al-Rawami
67 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Maryam Awad Nasser
43 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant killed
Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye
15 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as aged 1.5 years killed
Muqbil Salem Luqia
Adult male Listed by Al-Karama injured
Nada Muqbil Salem Luqia
2.7 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured

Family members (4)

Abdullah Awad Sheikh
65 years old male killed
Maryam Saleh Nasser
54 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured
Muqbil Abdallah ‘Awdh Shikh
22 years old female Listed only by Al-Karama killed
Ahmed Abdallah ‘Awdh Shikh
18 years old female Listed only by Al-Karama killed

Family members (5)

Hanane Mohammed Jadib
25 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant, but not explicitly as deceased killed
Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad
2 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad
1 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Khadija Husain ‘Abdallah ‘Awdh
2 years old female Only listed by Al-Karama killed
Husain Abdallah ‘Awdh Shikh
30 years old male Listed by Al-Karama, and not explicitly as deceased; Yemeni parliamentary report described as only survivor of his family

Family members (4)

Maryam Mokbel Salem Louqye
38 years old female pregnant Listed by Al-KArama as 28, and as pregnant killed
Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh
3 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
‘Aisha Nasser Mahdi Ahmed Buh
1 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured
Nasser Mahdi Ahmed Buh
38 years old male Listed only by Al-Karama, and not explicitly as deceased

Family members (7)

Amina Abdullah Awad Sheikh
27 years old female pregnant Listed by Al-Karama as 28, and as pregnant killed
Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
12 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama, as daughter killed
Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
9 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama, as daughter killed
Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
4 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama, as daughter killed
Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
2 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Saleh Muhammad Saleh
11 years old male Listed by Al-Karama injured
Jamila Muhammad Saleh
1 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured

Family members (5)

Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali Basyul
62 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as killed in 2012 killed
Nur Sa’id Salem Lathaf
55 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured
Warda Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali
13 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured
Khaled Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali
12 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured
‘Ali Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali
10 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured

The victims were named as:

Khaled Mohammed Ali
Adult male Reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance killed
Nasser Saleh Al-Soueidi
Adult male Reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance killed
Mithaq Al-Jild
Adult male Reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance killed

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Al Majala (المعجلة), for which the generic coordinates are: 13.972421, 46.451482. 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 and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    47 – 64
  • (22–23 children12–17 women11–19 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    23–88
  • 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
    6–24
  • Belligerents reported injured
    4

Sources (66) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (24) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The al-Majala cruise missile strike resulted in the deaths of almost fifty civilians, including several women and children (al-Jazeera, December 17th 2009)
  • Video and images broadcast in the aftermath of the strikes showed a considerable death toll (Al-Jazeera, December 17th 2009)
  • Video and images broadcast in the aftermath of the strikes showed a considerable death toll (Al-Jazeera, December 19th 2009)
  • Pictures taken at the scene of the strike showed unexploded BLU 97 cluster bomblets and Tomahawk cruise missile wreckage, which only the US has the known capability to deploy (via Amnesty International)
  • The wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile chassis, reportedly pictured at the site of the strike (via Amnesty International)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Unexploded cluster munitions, which may have held incendiary material, continued to kill civilians years after the strike (Arabsgate, January 28th 2011)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The dead, from the initial strike, were from just two family groups, according to a Yemeni parliamentary commission (Arabsgate, January 18th 2011)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The number of dead, and the impossibility of identification in some cases, necessitated the opening of a mass grave near the strike location (Arabsgate, January 28th 2011)
  • Yemeni journalist Abd al-Ilah Haidar al-Shayi', who initially reported on US involvement in the al-Majala strike, was imprisoned soon after on terrorism charges (The Nation, March 13th 2012)
  • Al-Shayi's sentence was due to be commuted in 2011, but US pressure allegedly led to his continued imprisonment (Associated Press, July 24th 2013)
  • Images of remnant munitions, pictured in Al-Majala by Al-Karama Foundation investigators (Al-Karama, September 2013)
  • Nada, a young girl who survived the al-Majala strike, in February 2013 (Al-Karama, September 2013)
  • Moqbil Boulquish reportedly lost twenty-eight members of his family in the strike (Al-Karama, September 2013)
  • Yemeni opposition groups, including exiled separatist leader Ali Salem al-Bayd, were outraged by the strikes (al-Jazeera. December 19th 2009)
  • Nada Mobqil Loqyah, 5, with her guardian Salaha Moqbil Loqyah. Nada was orphaned in the 2009 strike on al-Majalah. (via Human Rights Watch, 2013)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Sumaya Muhammad al-Anbouri, 9, was among 41 civilians killed in a US cruise missile strike that also killed 14 alleged AQAP militants in al-Majalah on December 17, 2009. (via Human Rights Watch, 2009)
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    A number of children reportedly died from their injuries while on their way to hospital (Shabwa Press, December 17th 2014)
  • Yemeni officials described the target of the strike as Saleh Mohammed Ali al-Anbouri, also known as al-Kazemi, allegedly an AQAP leader. Locals, however, indicated that he had committed not to involve himself with AQAP after being recently released from prison. Him and his family all died in the strike. (CNN, December 19th 2009)
  • Moqbil Abu-Lukaish sits on remnants of one of the Tomahawk cruise missiles launched by the US Navy that struck al-Majalah on December 17, 2009. (via Human Rights Watch, 2012)
  • Wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile, reportedly pictured in al-Majala (via Amnesty International)
  • Wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile, pictured in al-Majala (via Amnesty International)
  • Wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile, pictured in al-Majala (via Amnesty International)

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the time of the strike, however, US officials told ABC and Fox News that, on orders from President Obama, the US military had targeted alleged AQAP sites with cruise missiles on the morning of the Al-Majala strike.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    47 – 64
  • (22–23 children12–17 women11–19 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    23–88
  • 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
    6–24
  • Belligerents reported injured
    4

Sources (66) [ collapse]