Two US drone strikes in the Al Saru area of the Sama’a district in Bayda governorate, on the afternoon of September 9th 2017, reportedly killed at least one alleged AQAP militant and as many as four civilians, according to some sources.
In a later email to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a US Central Command spokesperson confirmed that three strikes were conducted in Bayda governorate on September 9th, killing “several” AQAP members.
According to three local-language sources, including Yemen Shabab, local reports indicated that four civilians or “paramedics” were killed by a US drone as they attempted to aid two alleged militants targeted by an initial strike while travelling on a motorbike in the Al Saru area, near the village of Qareidha.
Others suggested that those killed in the secondary strike were AQAP militants, though reports differed over the number of deaths. Al-Arabi reported that, according to local sources, two “gunmen” were killed in the initial strike, followed by a further three who came to the site. According to Al-Masdar Online, one militant was killed and one injured in the first strike, while three were killed and “others” wounded in the second.
A “security source” told Khabar Agency that two suspected militants were killed in an initial strike, and that two other people were killed when they went to the aid of those killed in the first strike. It was not clear whether those reportedly killed in the second attack were militants or civilians.
Accounting for these reports, Airwars has assessed that a minimum of two civilians were reported killed in this strike, with a maximum of four. Between two and five militants were reportedly killed in the strike. Three belligerents were reportedly wounded, accounting for suggestions that one was injured in the first strike as well as plural “others” in the second.
This strike or strikes came alongside a further reported US action in the same area (USYEMTr100), which reportedly killed at least two alleged AQAP militants in the village of Qareidha.
Several sources gave varying estimates of the overall death toll from the three strikes. Most suggested that a total of seven militants were killed or “killed and wounded”. At the lower end, one source, @Yemenat, suggested that five AQAP members were killed and one wounded. Another Twitter source suggested that ten militants were “killed and injured”. These overall figures fit into the casualty ranges assessed by Airwars for USYEMTr098-C and USYEMTr100.
While many sources specifically located the strikes in or near Qareidha, a few – including Reuters – indicated that the strikes took place in the area of two villages, named by some as Qareidha and Al Thubayb.
According to Al-Arabi, local sources said that “Al-Qaeda militants arrived in the al-Silo district last August, and their appearances indicate that they are not from the area”. One local language Twitter source, @YemaniNet, suggested that two of those killed were AQAP leaders, though no other sources reported this, and it was unclear to which specific strike the source was referring.
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.
Sources (51) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Al Saru (السرو) area, allegedly in the vicinity of Quraidah (قريظة) village. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Quraidah are: 14.165570, 45.796766.
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
[Statement from CENTCOM to Bureau of Investigative Journalism] U.S. forces conducted three strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Al Bayda Governorate, Yemen, killing several Al Qaeda terrorists on Sep. 9.
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.
Additionally, this year, the U.S. has conducted more than 100 strikes against AQAP militants, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment.