Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEMTr034-C

Incident date

March 4, 2017

Location

الرحبة, Al Rahba near Moujan village, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.432500, 46.478333 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Multiple sources reported that a US drone strike killed two alleged AQAP militants travelling on a motorbike in the outskirts of Ahwar, Abyan governorate, on the evening of March 4th 2017. While there were no known initial reports of civilian harm, the Yemeni human rights group Mwatana later said that two civilian honey traders were killed in the attack.

According to Al Khabar Now, local sources reported that the strike took place in the evening, in the al-Rahba area. Reuters cited tribal sources and residents as having reported the strike, while Al-Jazeera and AFP also cited security officials.

According to Rai Al-Youm, the strike targeted the motorcycle on the road linking Khabr Maraqisha and Ahwar.  A local source told the outlet that the targeted militants were moving location in the wake of US strikes in the area over the prior days.

One Twitter source, @DonKlericuzio, tweeted on March 6th that a CIA strike in Zinjibar had killed two alleged AQAP militants. Given that no other known sources reported a unique strike at that time, and given similarities in reported location and casualties, this likely constitutes a late report of this alleged event.

This reported action took place amid a dramatic intensification of US operations against AQAP in March 2017.  A US military intelligence source told NBC News that the strikes beginning March 2nd were “part of ‘new directives’ to aggressively pursue the Dhahab and Qayfa clans”.

In March 2021, Mwatana published a comprehensive review of the case, concluding that the two victims were in fact civilian bee keepers who it named as Salem Ahmed Saleh Bileidi, 34 years old, and his nephew, Hadi Ali Ahmed Bileidi, 28 years old. It reached this conclusion after “Mwatana visited the site on May 8, 2017 and conducted in-depth interviews with five people, including four relatives of the men killed and one resident of their village. In some cases, Mwatana conducted follow-up interviews with these people to gather further information. Mwatana also collected documents related to the two men, including their death certificates, identification cards and a medical report indicating their bodies had been received at a hospital after the strike.”

The attack which killed the men reportedly took place at around 5.30pm local time, at a location on a main road about 22 kilometres from Moujan village. The bodies of the two men were taken to Al Khubar hospital, where a certificate records their deaths and that “their bodies were torn apart due to the faulty aerial bombing.”

Salem’s wife, at the time pregnant, told Mwatana: ““I was crying hysterically, and I broke down. Hadi was so thrilled with my pregnancy.” Hadi’s father (and Salem’s brother) said, “We tried more than once to make our voice heard, saying that there are no terrorists in our village and asking them [the US] to come and check… but nobody wanted to hear us. I hope that our voices will be heard. We have lost a lot and do not want to lose more.”

The incident occured at approximately 5:30 pm local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

  • Salem Ahmed Saleh Bileidi 34 years old male Uncle of Hadi killed
  • Hadi Ali Ahmed Bileidi 28 years old male Nephew of Salem killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (2 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–2

Sources (37) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (4) [ collapse]

  • Impact of the strike on the asphalt road. Photo taken by a Mwatana researcher.
  • Medical report issued on March 15, 2017 noting that the bodies of the two men were received at Al Khubar Hospital and that the men were dead on arrival and their bodies torn apart as a result of ‘faulty aerial bombing’ (via Mwatana)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the Al Rahba (الرحبة) area, on the outskirts of the village of Ahwar (أحور). Some sources suggest the generic coordinates for this area are: 13.432500, 46.478333. However, due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

Defense Department officials detected and tracked multiple missile launches out of North Korea today, four of which landed in the Sea of Japan, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis told reporters this morning.

Explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Platoon 501, prepare for an EOD mine-countermeasure exercise with members of a South Korean navy underwater dive team off the coast of Jinhae, South Korea, as part of exercise Foal Eagle 2017, March 3, 2017. Foal Eagle is an annual, bilateral training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces and their ability to work together during a crisis. Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield
Explosive ordnance disposal technicians assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, Platoon 501, prepare for an EOD mine-countermeasure exercise with members of a South Korean navy underwater dive team off the coast of Jinhae, South Korea, as part of exercise Foal Eagle 2017, March 3, 2017. Foal Eagle is an annual, bilateral training exercise designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and South Korean forces and their ability to work together during a crisis. Navy Combat Camera photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Alfred A. Coffield
Davis said the four medium-range ballistic missiles were launched from the northwest corner of North Korea, traveled over the Korean Peninsula and out into the sea, totaling about 1,000 kilometers in distance, or more than 620 miles.

Missiles Land Off Japan’s Coast

The missiles landed in the vicinity of Akita Prefecture off the coast of Japan near that nation’s exclusive economic zone, he said. The EEZ is defined as a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

“The North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that the missiles from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” Davis said. “This [North Korean missile launch] is very similar in terms of the path and the distance of the three missiles that flew into Japan’s EEZ in September 2016.”

He added, “These launches, which coincide with the start of our annual defensive exercise, Foal Eagle, with the Republic of Korea’s military, are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior, often timed to military exercises that we do with our ally,”

The United States stands with its allies “in the face of this very serious threat and are taking steps to enhance our ability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missiles, such as the deployment of a [Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense] battery to South Korea, which will happen as soon as feasible,” Davis said.

U.S. Strikes AQAP in Yemen

Also overnight, the United States made an airstrike on Yemen’s Abyan Governorate against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighters, bringing to 40 the strikes there in the past five nights, Davis said.

Since the first airstrike against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen on Feb. 28, “We will continue to target [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] militants and facilities to disrupt the organization’s plot and protect American lives,” the captain said.

The strikes have been coordinated with and done in full partnership with the government of Yemen with the goal of denying al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists’ freedom of movement within traditional safe havens, Davis emphasized.

The captain also confirmed the deaths of three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula operatives in March 2 and 3 airstrikes in Yemen.

Usayd al Adani, whom Davis described as a longtime al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organization’s emir, was killed in a U.S. airstrike March 2 within the Abyan Governorate. Killed with him was former Naval Air Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detainee Yasir al Silmi.

Killed March 3 was al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula fighter and communications intermediary for Adani, Harithah al Waqri, Davis said.

“[Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula] has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the United States and our allies,” he said. “And we will continue to work with the government of Yemen to defeat [al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula].

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • (2 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–2

Sources (37) [ collapse]