Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEM128-B

Incident date

September 10, 2012

Location

وادي العين, Wadi Al Ain, Hadramaut, Yemen

Geolocation

15.489268, 48.425239 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Subdistrict level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Between six and seven militants including AQAP’s second-in-command Said al Shehri (aka al Shihri) were reportedly killed in an alleged US or Yemeni strike on a car and house in Hadramout, eastern Yemen on September 12, 2012, according to US and Yemeni officials. However, it is unclear at what point Shehri was killed as his death was not announced by AQAP until July 2013.

Residents in the Wadi al Ain village believe the missile struck a home in which numerous men were meeting while CNN reported that the strikes were against a car. Nasser Arrabyee @Narrabyee tweeted that six individuals were killed and Reuters reported that among the dead were a Saudi and an Iraqi.

Al Shehri “was prisoner number 327 at Guantanamo Bay, captured as he tried to cross the border into Pakistan from Afghanistan late in 2001.” In 2007 he was released, returning to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, where he was put through a rehabilitation program. However within months he reportedly absconded, becoming a founding member of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was suspected of involvement in a 2008 car bomb attack on the US embassy in Sanaa. Sixteen died, including the six attackers.

A diplomat told the FT al Shehri was “the senior leadership figure in AQAP who was involved in external attack planning.” Katherine Zimmerman said al Shehri’s death would have a medium-term impact on AQAP but it “still has room to maneuver in Yemen” and “its operational network is largely intact.”

The Press Association initially reported Yemeni military officials as saying that “a local forensics team had identified al Shehri’s body with the help of US forensics experts on the ground.” The agency added: “Yemeni military officials said they had believed the United States was behind the operation because its own army does not have the capacity to carry out precise aerial attacks and because Yemeni intelligence-gathering capabilities on al Shehri’s movements were limited.”

However an anonymous Yemeni official subsequently told Asharq al Awsat: “Saeed Ali al Shehri was not killed in the raid that targeted a number of Al-Qaeda’s fighters in Dadramawt a few weeks ago.”

The source told the London-based paper DNA tests had shown a corpse was not that of al Shehri. He said authorities “were confused because of a wound on the leg of the deceased that matched a wound that al Shehri has that requires him to use a walking stick.”

The paper reported that DNA samples were taken but it was subsequently claimed that DNA tests had not yet been carried out. An “American-German” team was said to have been coming to Yemen to carry out the tests.

Sources in Abyan also told the Yemen Observer al Shehri was still alive, 10 days after the strike. One said al Shehri was not at the scene of the strike. A second said “I am one hundred percent sure he [al Shehri] is alive. So close sources from al Shehri have also affirmed he is still alive.”

The following month, October 2012, a recording purporting to be al Shehri emerged, in which he claimed the false rumours of his death were “to cover up the killing of innocent Muslim civilians” and in April 2013, AQAP released a statement from al Shihri, and referred to him as if he was alive. AQAP announced the death of al Shihri in a video that was released on July 16, 2013 according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which obtained the video. However, the statement does not specify when he was killed, only that it was by US drones.

The incident occured in the morning.

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the Al Ain river valley (وادي العين) in Hadhramout governorate, for which the coordinates are: 15.489268, 48.425239. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Contested strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Yemeni Air Force
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–7

Sources (43) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • Deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula, Said al-Shehri, a Saudi national identified as Guantanamo prisoner number 372, speaks in a video posted on Islamist websites, in this 2009 file image. (NBC News)

US Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces 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, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Suspected attackers
    US Forces, Yemeni Air Force
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–7

Sources (43) [ collapse]