Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEMTr038-C

Incident date

March 5–6, 2017

Location

يكلا, Yakla, Bayda', Yemen

Geolocation

14.594167, 45.067500 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

Several sources reported that brothers Ahmad Abdullah Muhammad Al-Sanbahi Al-Khubezi, aged twelve, and Muhammad Abdullah Muhammad Al-Sanbahi Al-Khubezi, aged ten, were killed by a US strike in Yakla, in the Qifah area of Bayda governorate, overnight from March 5th to March 6th.

According to Hunaradaa, local residents said that an older brother, Omar, survived the strike, which was reported by Al-Masdar Online to have taken place on a mountain road in the village.  Hunaradaa also reported that the US drone strike targeted “a car carrying displaced people”, though no other sources corroborated this claim.

Shafaqna reported that the brothers had been tending a herd of goats at the time of the strike. Sources differed on the exact timing of the action, with some indicating that it occurred late on Sunday and others suggesting early Monday morning. According to Reuters, the road was one used by militants in the Yakla area.

Hunaredaa also reported that the brothers’ father had been killed by a US drone strike in 2014, and that the family had fled to Yakla after Houthis allegedly destroyed their home in Khobza village.

One Twitter source also later reported that “five tribal members and two children” were killed as the result of the “Monday drone strikes” in Yakla. It was unclear whether the five reported tribal members were killed in this strike or in a reported distinct second strike in the Qaifa area later that day, or indeed if they were militants or civilians. As such, Airwars presently assesses that a minimum of two civilian children were killed in the strike, with a maximum of seven civilian deaths.

According to Al-Masdar Online, residents reported that a helicopter launched the strike in the village, though others indicated that a drone was responsible for the death of the brothers. Another Twitter source reported that indiscriminate bombing took place in the village. The strike came amidst the reported displacement of civilians and alleged militants from the Yakla area, due to the frequency of alleged US airstrikes. Hunaradaa reported that “dozens” of families had fled Yakla for nearby mountains and valleys in early March, echoed in reporting by journalist Iona Craig of the Intercept.

US Central Command later told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that “they had looked into the allegations in the Reuters reporting and determined they were not credible in accordance with their established procedures”.

Yakla was the target of several alleged US strikes in early March 2017, several of which reportedly targeted alleged AQAP leader Sheikh Abdul Ilah al-Dhahab, who was claimed killed by another US strike on March 3rd 2017 in Marib. Yakla was also the site of a US special forces raid on January 29th 2017, which resulted in the deaths of at least twenty civilians, including at least eleven children.

This event took place amid a dramatic intensification of US operations against AQAP in March 2017. On March 6th, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis announced that forty strikes had been conducted in Yemen over the previous five nights.  A day earlier, AFP had reported that AQAP militants had begun to withdraw from several areas, including Yakla, in response to US strikes.

In its May 2018 annual civilian casualty report, the US Department of Defense stated that “there were credible reports of civilian casualties caused by U.S. military actions in Yemen against AQAP and ISIS during 2017”, but did not specify which specific actions these reports referred to.  Overall, the Department of Defense assessed that there were credible reports of “approximately 499 civilians killed and approximately 169 civilians injured during 2017”, as a result of US military actions in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen.

Responding to Airwars’ publication of its Yemen dataset and accompanying report in October 2020, CENTCOM dismissed all but two civilian harm claims under President Trump, asserting that “USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020… The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen.   Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review.”

The incident occured in the morning.

The victims were named as:

Family members (2)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Likely strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2 – 7
  • (2 children)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–5

Sources (21) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (5) [ collapse]

  • Two brothers, allegedly pictured here, were reportedly killed by an overnight US airstrike in Yakla from March 5th to March 6th (@akbralyuom, March 6th 2017)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Yakla (يكلا), for which the coordinates are: 14.594167, 45.067500. 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
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Reason for non-credible assessment
    No reason given
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • US Central Command said they were not aware of any credible civilian casualty allegations from the March 6 strike. They did say they had looked into the allegations in the Reuters reporting and determined they were not credible in accordance with their established procedures.

  • Via email: U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) continues to focus on ways to minimize civilian casualties during its military operations. We assess or review all reports of civilian casualties because such assessments or reviews help us identify ways to improve our operations and counter misinformation and propaganda. We routinely share the results of every one of our assessments in Department of Defense (DoD) reports to Congress, including annual reports, many of which are publicly available. We also share the results of our assessments or reviews with the public via the USCENTCOM website and our statements to the media. Individuals wishing to understand U.S. military operations in Yemen more fully should consult these official sources of information. USCENTCOM conducted a thorough review of the information AirWars provided regarding allegations of potential civilian harm caused by USCENTCOM strikes in Yemen from 2017-2020. Of the information AirWars provided, one strike on September 14, 2017, was assessed to have caused injuries to two civilians. Also, as previously released by USCENTCOM to the public in February 2017, USCENTCOM acknowledged there may have been civilian casualties during a raid on January 29, 2017. The bulk of the information asserted by AirWars, however, did not correspond with dates and locations of U.S. military strikes or raids in Yemen. Other AirWars allegations either did not allege civilian harm or were not assessed as credible upon our review. Consistent with our mission, our authorities, and our obligations under the law of war, USCENTCOM will continue to conduct military actions in Yemen when required to protect the Nation and our allies and partners from al Qa’ida and ISIS terror cells that are committed to inflicting terror. In every strike and raid, we take careful measures to minimize civilian harm and take responsibility for our actions. When our military operations result in reports of civilian harm, we will continue to assess the credibility of such reports to help us identify ways to improve our operations and respond as appropriate.

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 – 7
  • (2 children)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    0–5

Sources (21) [ collapse]