Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEM016-C

Incident date

June 3, 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

A US drone strike in the city of Zinjibar reportedly killed four civilians in addition to up to eight members of Al Qaeda, according to local sources, on June 3, 2011.

The New York Times reported that a US airstrike in the city of Zinjibar killed Abu Ali al Harithi, a “veteran of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq currently serving as a commander in the al Qaeda affiliated Aden Abyan Islamic Army,” and a number of other militants as well as four civilians, according to witnesses. This was the only report of civilian harm.

According to Almotamar, Abu Ali al-Harithi  was killed alongside “seven other elements [meaning AQAP].”

The New York Times reported that a jet carried out the strike. However, anonymous US officials told ABC News a US military drone ultimately fired the lethal missile but that US jets were nearby but did not release weapons.

However, an AQAP fighter named Abu al Harithi was also claimed to be killed in the first ever US drone strike on Yemen, November 3 2002 (USYEM001-B), as noted by Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen.

Nevertheless, AQAP later confirmed through Inspire magazine the deaths of al-Harithi, Ammar Abadah Nasser al Waeli, a ‘veteran’ of Afghanistan, and Abu Jafar al Adeni, stating that Wa’eli was killed “with his brother” Adeni.

Inspire provided the following details on Harithi’s death: “While fighting in Abyan, his vehicle was struck by a missile from an American drone. Nothing remained from him except small pieces of flesh scattered around. That was the death Abu Ali waited for.”

The Jamestown Foundation identified the June 3rd strike as that which killed al-Harithi and al Wa’eli. And on June 9th 2011, the Yemeni Defence Ministry announced that al Waili (also known as Waeli) and Adeni were killed “in ongoing operations by the Yemeni army against the organization in Abyan province.”

Two weeks earlier, President Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan had spoken by phone with Yemen’s President Saleh, where: “He affirmed the commitment of the United States to stand with the Yemeni government and people as they… combat the security threat from al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula.”

In May 2012, Newsweek reported on a JSOC operation that appears to match this event. Newsweek said: “In May 2011, the [US] military proposed killing 11 AQAP operatives at once, by far the largest request since it stepped up operations in Yemen. The Arab Spring’s turmoil had spread to the country, and al Qaeda was moving quickly to take advantage of the chaos. Gen. James Mattis, who heads U.S. Central Command, warned darkly of an emerging new terror hub in the Horn of Africa. Obama and a few of his senior advisers, however, were wary of getting dragged into an internal conflict—or fueling a backlash—by targeting people who were not focused on striking the United States. Obama and his aides reduced the target list to four people, all of whom were eliminated.”

However Daniel Klaidman reported that the decision to kill a large number of AQAP targets was not taken until 6pm Washington time on June 11th, and that “a few days later all of them were eliminated.” If correct, that indicates either that the June 3rd strike on Zinjibar occurred between June 12-15th, or that another unreported strike at that time killed a number of senior AQAP figures.

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 local time of the incident is unknown.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the town of Zinjibar (زنجبار‎), Abyan province, for which the coordinates are: 13.129059, 45.380422. Due to limited information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–8

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • AQAP operatives Ali Abudullah Naji al Harithi (left) and Ammar Abadah Nasser al Wa'eli, killed in a US military strike on Zinjibar, June 3rd 20117 (via Inspire)

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

However, anonymous US officials told ABC News a US military drone ultimately fired the lethal missile but that US jets were nearby but did not release weapons.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    4
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–8

Sources (12) [ collapse]