On June 20th 2017, US Central Command announced that US forces had carried out an airstrike that had targeted and killed three AQAP militants in Shabwa governorate on June 16th 2017. This confirmed earlier reports that a US drone strike killed three alleged militants driving in Al Naqba, in the Habban district of Shabwa governorate, on that evening. There were no known associated reports of civilian harm.
While some initial reports suggested that two men were killed in the strike, most reported that, according to local and Yemeni security sources, three had died. According to US Central Command, the strike killed Abu Khattab al-Awlaqi, the “emir for AQAP’s terrorist stronghold in Shabwah Governorate”, alongside two other militants.
However, according to one Twitter source (@demolinari), local reports suggested that Abu Khattab al-Awlaqi was instead the deputy leader of AQAP in Shabwa. According to this source, Saad bin Atef Al-Awlaqi led AQAP in Shabwa at that time, having survived previous alleged US strikes against him in early March.
@demolinari also named the two others killed in the strike as Mohammed Alawi Al-Bubakri al-Awlaqi and Warad Ali Nasser al-Abdali. Other sources including Yemenat further reported that one of those killed was the brother of Saad bin Atef Al-Awlaqi.
Al Masdar Online reported that the strike took place at 9.30pm, with two missiles fired from a US drone. According to Alkhabar Now, these targeted a car “travelling on a secondary road between… Wadi Yashbam and the Naqabah in Shabwa”.
Xinhua reported that, according to a Yemeni military source, the “strike was launched on specific intelligence inputs provided by the Yemeni anti-terror unit”.
The incident occured at 9:30 pm local time.
Sources (36) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Al Salam Bridge (جسرالسلام), for which the coordinates are: 14.327985, 47.040723. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
United States Armed Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
U.S. forces conducted an airstrike against three al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militants in Shabwah Governorate, Yemen, June 16, to disrupt terrorist compounds, and attack networks in Yemen. Abu Khattab al Awlaqi, the emir for AQAP’s terrorist stronghold in Shabwah Governorate, was killed in the strike along with two of his AQAP associates.
Al Awlaqi was a senior leader responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks against civilians. He had significant influence throughout AQAP’s terrorist stronghold, had ties and access to the group’s other senior leaders, and was implicated in planning and leading efforts to exacerbate instability in Southern Yemen.
In coordination with the government of Yemen, U.S. forces are conducting a series of sustained counterterrorism operations in Yemen against AQAP to degrade the group’s ability to hold territory and coordinate external terror attacks. Senior AQAP leaders seek safe haven in places like Shabwah Governorate to plot attacks against the U.S., our interests, and our friends and allies across the world. Al Awlaqi’s death removes a trusted and experienced terrorist leader from AQAP’s ranks.
In recent years, AQAP has taken advantage of ungovCentral Command said the aim of the strike was "to disrupt terrorist compounds, and attack networks in Yemen". 2erned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against the U.S., its citizens and allies around the world. The group and its predecessors attacked the U.S. Embassy-Sanaa in 2008, attempted to down Northwest Airlines 253 on Christmas Day 2009, and conspired to send explosive-laden parcels to Chicago in 2010. The group has also used its English-language magazine, Inspire, to encourage attacks against the West, and has been linked to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, 2009 Ft. Hood shooting, and other lone-wolf attacks in the U.S. and Europe. AQAP is a formidable terror group that remains committed and capable of attacking U.S. citizens and the homeland. The Yemeni leadership is working with Arab allies to remove AQAP from its governorates.
U.S. forces conducted this strike with the full support of the government of Yemen. In conjunction with our Arab allies, the U.S. will continue to support their efforts and fight terrorist organizations like AQAP.”