In an email to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, US Central Command stated that a strike had targeted four “AQAP terrorists” in Marib governorate on April 29th 2017. This confirmed reports that a US drone strike had killed at least two alleged AQAP militants in Al Jayf area, Al Jubah district of Marib governorate, early on April 30th 2017.
Some sources claimed that at least two of those killed in the strike, possibly brothers, were members of the “Popular Resistance” from the Murad tribe, and were not members of AQAP. According to later reporting on a separate incident (USYEMTr084-C) by The Intercept, a senior villager in the area said that two brothers killed in the strike “were not Al Qaeda but had been living alongside them”, raising the possibility that at least two of those killed were civilians.
The Intercept report stated that the two killed were the brothers of Murad al-Adhal, who survived a later US ground operation on May 23rd 2017 (USYEMTr084-C). According to this report, Murad left the targeted vehicle shortly before the strike took place. Dr Elisabeth Kendall, an academic, tweeted that a later AQAP statement named one of the dead brothers killed in the raid as Mohammed Sa’id Al-Adhal Al-Muradi.
A local tribesman told Nadwa Dawsari, for her report Foe Not Friend, that three members of the al-Adhal clan, part of the Murad tribe, had been recruited by AQAP, of whom one was killed in this strike. After the strike, Dawsari wrote, “tribal leaders asked the clan to take strict action against the two surviving men, giving them the option to leave AQAP or to leave the area. The leaders stated that if the men chose to remain with AQAP, their tribe would disown them. The two men reportedly decided to leave AQAP but feared that the group would target them, since it kills those who leave it after swearing allegiance. ‘If we stayed with the tribe, al-Qaeda will kill us. If we stay with al-Qaeda, the Americans will kill us,’ one reportedly said”. Both were reportedly killed by an alleged US special forces raid in May 2017 (USYEMTr084-C).
Some, including the Associated Press, reported that four people were killed in the strike, though most indicated that five had died. According to Yemenat, a local security official stated that five AQAP members were killed. Some sources suggested that one of those killed was an AQAP leader.
Several sources also reported that at least one of the dead had ties to Abdel Wahab Al-Hamayqani, an adviser to President Hadi and leader of the Salafi Rashad Party, who had sanctions imposed upon him by the US in 2013 due to alleged links to AQAP. Some suggested that his son was among the dead, while Almrasel and al Arabi reported that two of the victims were his brothers.
Most sources indicated that the strike took place at dawn on April 30th. According to al-Jazeera however, local news site Yemen Ajel had claimed that a drone had fired three consecutive missiles at 12:30am on April 30th.
Though most named the location as Marib, one source reported that the strike instead took place in Bayda governorate. Yemenat and others indicated that the target was a car transporting weapons to Yakla, in Bayda governorate.
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 at approximately 12:30 am local time.
The victims were named as:
Family members (2)
- Mohammed Sa'id Al-Adhal Al-Muradi Adult male One of two brothers, for whom it was unclear whether they were civilian, AQAP militant, or non-AQAP militant killed
- Brother of Mohammed Adult male Contested combatant status
Sources (30) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck within the Al Jayf (الجيف) area, for which the generic coordinates are: 15.080000, 45.275556. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
US Forces Assessment:
Civilian casualty statements
Nov 5, 2020
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
U.S. forces conducted two strikes against AQAP in Yemen April 29. The first strike targeted three AQAP terrorists in Shabwah Governorate and the second strike was against four AQAP terrorists in Marib Governorate.
U.S. forces are conducting a series of sustained operations in Yemen against AQAP 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 safe space for terror plotting.
Since Feb. 28, the U.S. has conducted more than 80 precision strikes against AQAP militants, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment. We'll continue to conduct operations - including strikes - against known terrorists.
AQAP is one of the terrorist groups most committed to and capable of conducting attacks in America, as assessed by the intelligence and defense communities. In recent years, AQAP has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against America, its citizens and allies around the world.