Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEM073-C

Incident date

May 6, 2012

Location

وادي رفض, Wadi Al Abyadh, Rafd valley, Shabwa, Yemen

Geolocation

14.215432, 46.99306 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

On the 6th of May 2012 at approximately 5:30pm local time a drone strike, allegedly carried out by the CIA, killed up to six people, including one civilian, in Wadi Al Abyadh in Shabwa governorate.

A drone struck and killed Fahd al-Qasaa (37) along with at least one more individual in the Shabwa governorate of southern Yemen. Recently Fahd al-Qasaa had reportedly become the head of external operations for Ansar al-Sharia which remains loyal to Al Qaeda and was wanted by the US in connection to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 which killed 17 U.S sailors.

According to several news outlets such as the Los Angeles Times and Reuters, al-Qasaa was struck by two missiles when exiting his car whilst he was travelling in the Rafd Valley close to his farm in the village of Wadi Al Abyadh. This has become a common area for Ansar al-Sharia militants to seek refuge. A spokesperson from Ansar-Al Sharia claimed that another individual named Fahed Salem al-Akdam was also killed by the strike. However, a local resident, Abu Baker Aidaroos (30), stated that his nephew, Nasser Salim (19), who was not a member of Al Qaeda, was also killed by the strike – Nasser Salim was tending to his farm when al-Qasaa arrived in his vehicle. Al-Qasaa knew Salim’s family and was greeting him when the missiles landed. His uncle told the Washington Post that “He was torn to pieces. He was not part of Al Qaeda. But by America’s standards, just because he knew Fahd al-Qasaa, he deserved to die with him.” A tweet from @gregorydjohnsen, a reporter based in Yemen, stated that Ansar al-Shariah was also claiming that a civilian was killed in the strike, in addition to the two members that they admitted were killed.

Further, confusion exists regarding whether al-Qasaa was accompanied by guards and whether they also died in the strike. France 24 reports that two guards were killed meaning that it is possible that up to four people died in the strike. No information is known on the identity of the guards.

Al-Resala Net provided the highest casualty number, quoting a Yemeni official who reported that al-Qasaa and 5 others were killed, adding that “4 rockets [hit] the wanted Fahd Al-Saqaa and his companions in his hometown in Shabwa.”

A tribal leader told Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee that “ Fahd Al-Qasaa arrived in Rafadh on Sunday at 10 am and stayed in the mosque nearby his house where he had lunch with his friend Nasser Salim Ali Al Akdam.” Airplanes were flying over the area all the time since he arrived,” said Salfoh. At about 5 pm they started to walk out from the mosque in the direction of the farm of Fahd in Wadi Al Abyadh which was only 1 km away. At about 5:30 pm and when al-Qasaa and his friend Nasser were about to arrive the farm, two missile were fired at them killing both of them.” One of the missiles hit Fahd directly cutting his body into pieces,” said Salfoh. “But the dead body of his friend Nasser was found as a whole, but also completely burnt,” he said.

For some background, in 2003, al-Qasaa was imprisoned by Yemeni authorities for his role in the bombing of the USS Cole but was able to briefly escape before being re-imprisoned to serve the rest of his sentence. In 2007 however, despite US objections, Yemeni authorities released him. Despite this defeat, US authorities are believed to have continued their search for him. Previously, it was believed that al-Qasaa was killed alongside al-Awlaki, another prominent al-Qaeda member, in 2009 but they both resurfaced later. However, after the strike on the 6th of May in 2012, al-Qasaa’s death was confirmed by Ansar al-Sharia themselves. Apparently, the drone strike came after an extensive surveillance program which was aided by a British agent embedded in Ansar al-Sharia. The undercover agent was tasked by Ansar al-Sharia to plant a non-metalic bomb on a U.S airliner but instead delivered the device directly to intelligence officials. This agent was also able, due to his central position in the organisation, to provide intelligence making the strike on Fahd al-Qasaa possible.

However, the cooperation between British and American intelligence services, which led to the information on al-Qasaa’s whereabouts, was not without controversy. Apparently according to Reuters, an unintentional leak emanating from Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan, led to the story of the of the undercover agent in Ansar al-Sharia becoming public. Because of the leak, the plug had to be pulled on the continuance of the intelligence operation leading to frustration from British authorities.

Confirming the US role in the attack, an official told news agencies: “Fahd al-Quso was a senior terrorist operative of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was deeply involved in ongoing terrorist plotting against Yemeni and U.S. interests at the time of his death. He was also involved in numerous attacks over many years that murdered Americans as well as Yemeni men, women and children.”

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 17:30:00 local time.

The victims were named as:

Nasser Salim
19 years old male killed

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike happened close to Fahd Al Qusu’s farm in the village of Wadi Al Abyadh in the Rafd valley (وادي رفض) in Shabwah (شبوة‎) province. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location of the Wadi Al Abyadh village. However, the coordinates for the Rafd valley (وادي رفض) are: 14.215432, 46.99306.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 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.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–5

Sources (47) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (7) [ collapse]

  • Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, killed in an alleged US drone strike on Wadi Rafad on May 6th 2012 (via New York Times).
  • Fahd al-Quso seen during his trial over the USS Cole bombing. He has allegedly been killed by a US air strike on May 6th 2012 (via the Guardian).
  • Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, killed in an alleged US drone strike on Wadi Rafad on May 6th 2012 (via LA Times).
  • Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, killed in an alleged US drone strike on Wadi Rafad on May 6th 2012 (via BBC).
  • Fahd Mohammed Ahmed al-Quso, killed in an alleged US drone strike on Wadi Rafad on May 6th 2012 (via Alahale).

US Forces Assessment:

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

Original strike reports

US Forces

Confirming the US role in the attack, an official told agencies:

"Fahd al-Quso was a senior terrorist operative of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was deeply involved in ongoing terrorist plotting against Yemeni and U.S. interests at the time of his death. He was also involved in numerous attacks over many years that murdered Americans as well as Yemeni men, women and children."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 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.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–5

Sources (47) [ collapse]