Yemen defense officials announced that an alleged American unmanned drone allegedly struck a car that included a number of Ansar al Sharia and Al Qaeda members in the al Zahir district of Bayda province on April 14, 2012, killing between three and eight militants. The nighttime raid turned the car into a “collection of charred bodies” according to one witness, but there have been no reports of any civilian deaths.
Initial reports on Twitter, including @AidenLang, @marebpress, and @akbidaweb, noted that the airstrike hit a car with Al Qaeda militants on board. There were initial discrepancies concerning the number of dead, with @albidaweb noting five dead and @YamaanNA reporting eight people killed. Sky News Arabia later reported that two Yemeni military officials released a statement saying that seven Al Qaeda members were killed by a US drone. Yemen Press reported a detailed depiction of the targeting of the vehicle which included the killing of Abu Hamza Al-Sabri, also known as Abu Hamza. In a summary of the strike, Yemen Press reports described him as “one of the most prominent leaders of Al Qaeda in [the] Al-Bayda governorate”. However, al-Arabiya.net initially reported that “at least three’ militants had been killed, quoting a Ministry of Defense statement, which also included the reiteration of Yemeni military protocol that only its aircraft conduct such strikes. Reuters from England was the first to reference Ansar al Sharia, a smaller terror cell associated with Al Qaeda, but also reported that three militants were killed when their vehicle was struck. The New Times out of Rwanda reported that five Al Qaeda operatives were killed in the strike, adding to the continued inconsistency of the number of dead.
Ansar al Sharia later said that three of its fighters had died in a US drone strike.
The Associated Press released a more detailed account of the strike, saying that “seven suspected Al Qaeda members” were killed by an unmanned U.S. drone. The AP report included a statement from the Yemeni Ministry of Defense that stated that a jet fired a missile at “a vehicle carrying Al-Qaeda members, destroying it and the people inside”. One witness, Abdel-Salam Al-Ansi, described the car as a “ball of fire” following the missile strike.
Associated Press cited two Yemen military officials as saying that US drones had carried out the attack in Bayda province, with a security official telling AFP the same. Yemen’s air force reportedly lacked the ability to launch precision strikes on moving vehicles.
The incident occured in the evening.
Sources (19) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention that a moving vehicle was targeted in the Az Zahir (الزاهر) district of the governorate Al Bayda (ٱلْبَيْضَاء). The generic coordinates for the Az Zahir (الزاهر) district are: 13.95865, 45.419055. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.