Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEM082-C

Incident date

May 15, 2012

Location

جعار, Ja'ar, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.223161, 45.305486 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Between 13 and 26 civilians – 14 of whom were named – died and 21 other civilians were injured in two or more alleged US, Yemeni, or Saudi airstrikes on the same location in Jaar on May 15, 2012, according to sources. An additional three to 25 AQAP members were also killed in the strikes.

Reports said that two or more strikes in quick succession reduced an entire block to rubble. Initial reports from government sources claimed two or three senior Al Qaeda militants were killed as well as at least eight civilians. This changed as more details emerged in subsequent reports.

Amnesty International identified 14 civilian victims by name – including a pregnant woman: 33 year old taxi driver Nuweir al-Arshani and the 12 others that died in the second strike as Majed Ahmed Abdullah Awad, aged 26; Salem Mohsen Haidar al Jalladi, aged around 35; Adeeb Ahmed Ghanem al-Doba’i, Mohammed Abdullah Saleh Hussein, Munir bin al-Haji bin al Assi, Ahmed Abdullah Ahmed al-Shahari, Salem Abdullah Ahmed Abkar, Hussein Mubarak Ahmed, Abd al-Rahman Motahhar, Hafez Abdullah Mubarak, Mohsen Ali Salem and Amir al-Azzani. Mariam Abdo Sa’id, aged in her thirties and pregnant, was reportedly a passer-by hit by flying shrapnel and died. Samir al-Mushari, 31, was wounded in the strike and suffered burns. Survivor Samir al-Mushari told USA Today 26 civilians died.

The strike was variously labelled as the work of US drones or a “botched” Yemen Air Force raid. Witnesses told NPR they were sure the strike was carried out by a US jet that was grey and “looked like an eagle”. And in January 2013 an investigation by the London Times reported the strike as a possible attack by a Saudi Arabian bomber. One resident described the aircraft he saw: “It wasn’t Yemeni. It was a black plane. It was Saudi.”

There was a consensus among reports that there were more than one strike on at least one house and possible also on some vehicles.

Al-Haidari reported that eight bodies were initially found and twenty-five people were hurt. Four of those twenty-five later died from their injuries.

CNN reported militants were killed in the first strike and civilians who gathered at the scene were killed in the second.

The BBC reported that civilians “were hit as they were trying to dig out the bodies of those killed in the initial attack.” Abdullah was badly burnt in the second strike. He told NPR the man who died in the first strike was just an ordinary citizen. The second strike killed at least 12 people instantly. ‘”They were cut…in pieces,” he said. “A wall where the second strike hit is still covered in blood.”

The owner of the house Nouir Muhammad Abdullah al Arshani, 33, (aka Nuweir al Arshani) was killed in the initial strike. Thirteen more died in the second attack “a few minutes” later.

Amnesty noted that residents and relatives vouched that al Arshani was unrelated to AQAP while some residents claimed that the house behind him had been rented to AQAP. His brother insisted that this was not the case. Witness accounts said that  “At around 8am or 8.30am, an aircraft flying low over Jaar roared towards al Hurur…and bombed Nuweir’s home. I saw pieces of the house flying through the air and thick dust… I and others ran to the site to help. The house was reduced to rubble and I could hear women screaming from the house just behind it… we helped around five to seven women and children get out of that house, and then a child saw parts of Nuweir’s body amid the rubble. We dug in and removed his body and placed it in the car of someone who took him to the [MSF] medical centre.” He continued that AQAP militants in an ambulance arrived and then left but an argument developed over their presence and the strike. That was when the second strike occurred.

Passers-by gathered at the scene and the aircraft “returned and bombed and fired into the crowd.” Nour Awad Haydara al Hawla, 60, was among the wounded. She suffered a stroke at the shock of the explosions near her home.

Amnesty and Swiss rights group Alkarama, who independently investigates the strike, also published the names of 12 men killed in the follow-up attack. Hassan Ahmed Abdullahs brother died in the strike. He told al Akbar:

“About 15 minutes later [after the initial strike], another plane suddenly struck the same building killing 15 people, including my brother. He was wounded by shrapnel in his chest, liver, and neck. He also had burns on 50 percent of his body.”

Ahmed Abdullah Awads son Majed was injured in the follow-up attack. In June 2013 he told Code Pink activists in Aden what happened:

“Majed was burned over 50 percent of his body…But there is only an emergency clinic in Ja’ar, and they said he was too seriously injured to be treated there. The nearest hospital is in Aden, and the main road was closed. It took four hours to get there. I held him in my arms while we were driving, and he kept bleeding. On the third day in the hospital, at 2:30 a.m., Majed’s heart stopped and he died.”

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Alkarama and HOOD submitted testimony of victims and witnesses of strikes in Yemen to an April 2013 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing. The submission included testimony from taxi driver Muhammad Salih Abdullah al Amri, 65. He said:

“I was working on my car when I heard the sound of an explosion…I asked the people in the area what happened and they said that a strike had targeted the al Ashrani house. My house is adjacent to the al Ashrani house. I came and found that my house had been destroyed. Three members of my family had been in the house. One of them was injured, while the other two were not hurt. I took all of them and moved them to the house of one of my relatives in the city…The aircraft returned to bomb the people who had gathered to aid the wounded from the first strike. Rockets fell a few meters away from me. I was in my car and saw that it was on fire. I quickly got out of the car and saw a number of people in front of me lying on the ground. They were burning without any clothes. I saw at least seven or eight of them die at that moment.”

The Red Cross said it was “extremely concerned” at possible airstrikes on civilian locations and urged all warring parties to protect civilian life. The civilian death toll was the highest attributed to US action in Yemen since an attack on a former police station in Mudiya killed up to 30 civilians on July 14 2011 (USYEM022-C).

In April 2013, the US State Department’s annual report on Yemen’s human rights practices was published. In a section titled Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life, the report noted: “Attacks by government forces targeting AQAP and other non-state actors resulted in the deaths of civilians and bystanders, according to Amnesty International (AI). For example, on May 15, an air strike killed a civilian in his home in Jaar, and a second airstrike on the same location reportedly killed at least 13 civilians who gathered at the scene.” The State Department made no mention of possible US involvement in the attack.

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

The victims were named as:

Mariam Abdo Said
35 years old female pregnant Pregnant killed
Nour Awad Haydara al Hawla
60 years old female injured
Majed Ahmed Abdullah Awad
26 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Salem Mohsen Haidar al Jalladi
35 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Adeeb Ahmed Ghanem al Doba’i
18 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Mohammed Abdullah Saleh Hussein
30 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Munir bin al Haji bin al Assi
25 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Ahmed Abdullah Ahmed al Shahari
26 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Salem Abdullah Ahmed Abkar
40 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Hussien Mubarak Ahmed
40 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Abd al Rahman Motahhar
23 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Hafez Abdullah Mubarak
25 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Amir al Azzani
45 years old male Reportedly killed in the follow-up attack killed
Hassan Ahmed Abdullah‘s brother
Adult male killed
Ahmed Abdullah Awad‘s son, Majed
Adult male injured

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that a double airstrike targeted suspected militant vehicles and a building in a residential neighbourhood of the town of Ja’ar (جعار), in the Abyan (أبين‎) governorate. The first strike hit around 9 in the morning, the second 15 minutes later, killing civilians who had rushed to the site of the first strike. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for the town of Ja’ar (جعار) are: 13.223161, 45.305486.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    13 – 26
  • (1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    21
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Saudi-led Coalition, Yemeni Air Force
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–25

Sources (59) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • A boy stands next to his grandmother, Noor Awad al-Houla, 60, at their house in the southern Yemeni town of Jaar on February 1, 2013. The woman suffered a stroke that left her paralyzed after an air strike hit a neighboring house last year that was targeting al Qaeda-linked militants. (Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi/Reuters)
  • Damage caused by alleged US, Saudi, or Yemeni airstrikes in Jaar on May 15, 2012 (Image posted by NPR)

US Forces Assessment:

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

Saudi-led Coalition Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Saudi-led Coalition
  • Saudi-led Coalition position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Yemeni Air Force Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    Yemeni Air Force
  • Yemeni Air Force position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    13 – 26
  • (1 woman)
  • Civilians reported injured
    21
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Saudi-led Coalition, Yemeni Air Force
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–25

Sources (59) [ collapse]