Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEMTr079-C

Incident date

April 23, 2017

Location

الضلعه, Al Dhula'ah, Shabwa, Yemen

Geolocation

14.36518, 47.001057 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

On April 24th 2017, Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis stated that a US strike had killed eight AQAP militants in Shabwa governorate on the previous day, confirming earlier reports that an afternoon US drone strike in Al Dhula’ah, in the Al Said area, had killed eight people. Several sources reported, however, that at least three – and potentially all of those killed – were civilians.

Several sources reported that three civilians were killed in the attack, whom multiple sources named as cousins Mansour Salem Lahoul Al-Barasi Al-Awlaqi; Khaled bin Nasser Lahoul Al-Barasi Al-Awlaqi; and Nasser Muhammed Saeed Lahoul Al-Barasi Al-Awlaqi. According to one source, the cousins were members of the “Southern Resistance of Al Baras tribe”.

According to The Intercept, Mansour was “a former Yemeni Army lieutenant in his late thirties”, while, of his two 23-year-old cousins killed in the strike, Khalid was “home on vacation from Malaysia, where he was studying English”.

Sources differed on the exact circumstances of the reported civilian deaths.  According to Aden Al-Ghad, the cousins were driving behind a car carrying alleged AQAP militants, and were killed when a strike missed the AQAP vehicle and destroyed the civilian vehicle. Reuters reported that, according to residents and local sources, three civilians were killed “who happened to be passing nearby”.

Other sources, including AFP, suggested that the three civilians were killed in a second ‘double tap’ strike after having gone to the aid of those caught in a first strike.

The Intercept instead reported that the three men were at a security checkpoint at the time of the strike, when they were joined by a car full of five “local militants”, and were killed shortly after sending someone to fetch lunch.

According to multiple sources, the US drone strike took place at the Al-Saeed junction.  Most sources agreed that three AQAP militants were additionally killed in the strike, though several indicated that five had died.

However, speaking with The Intercept, Mansour Al-Awlaqi’s nephew, Ammar Salim Farid, denied that any of those killed were current AQAP members. “To be honest, the five people in the car had past links to [terror groups], but they had quit this movement two years ago,” he said.

Yemen Shabab named the dead alleged AQAP militants as Mohammed Awad Barasin; Shawky Awad Barasin; Abdullah Ali Barasin; Muhammad Ali Jaar; and Hamad Ali Jaar, and indicated that they were killed as they travelled to the Habban district.

Mohammed Awad Barasin was also reported to be the “second man” of AQAP in Shabwa governorate. The Pentagon told Fox News that he had “planned external attacks and coordinated the group’s movement of weapons and explosives”. However, Ammar Salim Farid Al-Awlaqi denied this, saying that Mohammed had been a member of both AQAP and the Islamic State, but had since left both groups.

Ammar told the Intercept that he heard the strike from his home. “We went to the cemetery and found Mansoor, Khalid, and Nasir, all but pieces of flesh [so] that we were not able to tell their appearances… It was a shock no human can accept and there’s anger at the U.S. government.”

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism later reported that, following The Intercept article, CENTCOM told the Bureau that “after a thorough review, they concluded the civilian casualty allegations from the strike were not credible”.

On April 24th 2017, the Pentagon announced that the US had carried out over eighty strikes in Yemen since February 28th 2017.

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 afternoon.

The victims were named as:

Family members (3)

Family members (3)

Family members (2)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 8
  • (3–8 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–8

Sources (39) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (8) [ collapse]

  • Khalid Nasir Abdullah Bin Lahul al-Barasi al-Awlaqi was reportedly killed in the April 23rd 2017 US drone, though several sources reported that he was a civilian (@alaqalaq, April 23rd 2017)
  • "This photo supplied by Ammar Salim Farid Alawlaqi shows Mansoor Allahwal Baras, killed in an April 23 drone strike, with a phrase attributed to the Prophet Muhammad that reads, “The eyes are shedding tears and the heart is in grief, and we will not say except what pleases our Lord. We belong to Allah and to Him we return.”" (The Intercept, May 19th 2017)
  • Mansour Salem Mansour bin Lahul Al-Barasi Al-Awlaqi was reportedly killed in the April 23rd 2017 US drone strike. Several sources reported that he was a civilian. (@alawalaq, April 23rd 2017)

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Al Dhua’lia (الضلعه), in the vicinity of Habban (حبان) town. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Al Dhua’lia are: 14.36518, 47.001057.

  • Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Al Dhua’lia (الضلعه), in the vicinity of Habban (حبان) town.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known 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
  • May 4, 2017
  • We can confirm that there was a US strike in Marib on April 19 as well as a strike in Shabwah on April 23. We are aware of the reports of CIVCAS allegations and are looking into them. Regards, CENTCOM

  • Following the Intercept piece, we followed up with US Central Command. They said that after a thorough review, they concluded the civilian casualty allegations from the strike were not credible.

  • 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

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2017 — Coalition and U.S. strikes continue to aid progress against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Iraq and Syria, and against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said here today.
Today is day 65 of the operation to liberate western Mosul in Iraq, he said, and yesterday Iraqi forces gained another 6 square kilometers along the forward line of troops on the axis of attack moving from the south toward Mosul’s old city.
Members of the Iraqi Emergency Response Division and the Federal Police maintained defensive positions along their eastern boundary and the Tigress River. The Counterterrorism Service also gained new ground and the Iraqi army’s 9th Division continued to defend positions west of Mosul. Clearing operations continue in eastern Mosul, Davis reported.
Supporting Iraq Operations
“The total number of munitions delivered since Oct. 17 in support of operations to liberate Mosul is 22,107,” he added.
The munitions destroyed total 259 vehicle-borne bombs, 638 buildings and facilities, 209 tunnels, 684 vehicles, 914 bunkers, 38 anti-aircraft artillery systems, 542 artillery and mortar systems, and 279 boats and barges, Davis said.
On April 23, coalition military forces conducted seven strikes consisting of 49 engagements against ISIS targets.
Near Rawah, a strike engaged an ISIS tactical unit and destroyed an ISIS staging area, according to a statement by Operation Inherent Resolve officials.
Near Mosul, the officials said, six strikes engaged five ISIS tactical units; destroyed 11 fighting positions, eight heavy machine guns, four rocket-propelled grenade systems, two ISIS-held buildings, an ISIS-held bridge and a vehicle-borne bomb; damaged 14 ISIS supply routes and a fighting position; and suppressed four rocket teams, three mortar teams and an ISIS tactical unit.
Operations in Syria
In the fight for Raqqa in Syria, the Pentagon spokesman said, Syrian Democratic Forces have liberated another 2 square kilometers in the Raqqa valley north and Tabqah areas, and in the Raqqa valley north on the western axis.
“The SDF is reporting large numbers of internally displaced persons fleeing ISIS-held areas around there,” Davis added, noting that ISIS does not control the Tabqah dam or the city but the city is almost entirely surrounded.
In Syria yesterday, according to an OIR statement, coalition military forces conducted 24 strikes consisting of 48 engagements against ISIS targets.
Near Dayr Az Zawr, three strikes destroyed three ISIS wellheads. Near Palmyra, two strikes destroyed four fighting positions and two ISIS shipping containers.
Near Raqqa, seven strikes engaged three ISIS tactical units and destroyed three fighting positions, a heavy machine gun, a tactical vehicle and an ISIS wellhead. And near Tabqah, 12 strikes engaged 10 ISIS tactical units and destroyed 12 fighting positions, a tactical vehicle, an ISIS vehicle, a heavy machine gun and a command-and-control node.
Yemen Operations
U.S. forces conducted a strike April 18 in the Ma’rib governorate against three al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists, and another strike yesterday in the Shabwa governorate against eight al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula terrorists, Davis said.
“Since February 28, we've conducted more than 80 precision strikes against AQAP militants, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment, and we'll continue to conduct operations including strikes against known terrorists,” he added.
Davis said U.S. forces are conducting a series of sustained operations in Yemen against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula to degrade the group's ability to coordinate external terror attack operations and limit their ability to hold territory seized from the legitimate government of Yemen and use it as a safe haven for terror plotting.
Centcom is still assessing the results of the most recent strikes, he said.
(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter @PellerinDoDNews)

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 8
  • (3–8 men)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    3–8

Sources (39) [ collapse]