A US drone strike reportedly killed at least two alleged AQAP militants in Al Huson, in the Al Wadi area of Marib governorate, on the evening of November 2nd 2017. In an email to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a US Central Command spokesperson confirmed that a strike had taken place in Marib, stating that two “AQAP” terrorists were killed. There were no known associated reports of civilian harm.
Local language news outlets, including Al-Masdar Online and Aden Al-Ghad, also reported that two were killed. An anonymous provincial security official, speaking to Xinhua, gave a figure of two fatalities.Some sources, including @barakish_net and @demolinari, indicated that three had died, and a few local language Twitter users (e.g. @South21_5_90) gave a tally of four.
On December 20th 2017, US Central Command indicated that one of those killed in the strike was in fact Ruwuhah al-Sanaani, an “AQAP facilitator”, though no other sources corroborated this.
The strike reportedly targeted the alleged militants as they were travelling in a car in the area. In an interview with Just Security, the Governor of Marib, Sultan Bin Ali Al-Aradah, said that the strike had taken place in an area that the security forces could access, and that the US did not inform local officials of the attack, or pass on information regarding AQAP militants. “As long as we’re able to do the job ourselves, inform us….if we can, we want to arrest,” he stated.
“We want the state to stand on its feet and to take every criminal to court—and at the very least countries that use drones to come up with legal accountability for their use,” Al-Aradah told Just Security. “That’s why I always say the flow of info and actions needs to come through local security agencies. Right now, there is no one to hold accountable.”
The incident occured in the evening.
Sources (26) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Al Huson (الحصون) village, within the Wadi Atran (وادي عطران) area, in Marib (مريب). Unable to find specific locational information regarding these sites, we have assigned this location to a middle point between the villages of Husun al Jalal (حصون الجلال) and Atran (عطران), north of the city of Marib, as these are the only two locations that share similarities to those mentioned in sources. The generic coordinates for this middle point are: 15.559048, 45.292462. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
US Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
TAMPA, Fla. - U.S. forces have conducted multiple ground operations and more than 120 strikes in 2017 to remove key leaders and disrupt the ability of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Yemen to use ungoverned spaces in Yemen as a hub for terrorist recruiting, training, and base of operations to export terror worldwide.
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, while intelligence estimates indicate that ISIS-Y has doubled in size over the past year.
In November, the U.S. conducted 10 strikes across Yemen governorates al-Bayda, and Marib including a strike on Mujahid al-Adani, AQAP Shabwah leader, who was killed Nov. 20 in al-Bayda Governorate, Yemen. Al-Adani, also known as Mohammad Shukri, was a senior leader responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks against Yemeni, Coalition and tribal security forces. He exerted significant influence within AQAP's terrorist attack networks, similarly, maintained close ties and access to the group's other senior leaders, and previously served as an AQAP military leader in Aden.
Al-Bayda AQAP facilitator Abu Layth al-Sanaani and three AQAP associates were also killed in the Nov. 20 strike.
Ruwahah al-Sanaani, also an AQAP facilitator, was killed Nov. 2 in Marib Governorate.
In October, a strike Oct. 19 killed Ubaydah al-Lawdari, the Emir of Lawdar, and four associates in al-Bayda Governorate. Al-Lawdari had been known to provide equipment and money in support of AQAP attacks against Coalition forces, posing an increased threat to U.S. interests.
Meanwhile, a series of strikes against two ISIS terror training camps in al-Bayda Oct. 16 killed more than 50 ISIS-Y combatants, disrupting the organization's attempts to recruit and train new fighters.
"The removal of key facilitators in this region will interrupt AQAP's freedom of movement and likely force the group into a reactionary posture, limiting their ability to challenge Yemeni Security Forces and partnered advances," said Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a CENTCOM spokesman.
"U.S. forces also expanded counterterrorism operations in October to encompass both AQAP and ISIS. This parallel targeting effort is required to prevent ISIS-Y from filling the vacuum left by a diminished AQAP footprint or influence in the region," he said.
Ongoing operations pressuring the network have also degraded AQAP's propaganda production, reducing one of the methods for the terror group to recruit and inspire lone wolf attacks across the globe. The al-Masra Newsletter, previously published three times a month, has not been published since July.
Al-Malahim Establishment for Media Production, which produces AQAP's terrorist-inspiring video series, as well as Inspire Magazine, saw a large drop in October. Unable to produce video series and graphic terror-inspiring magazines, AQAP has resorted to using low-tech audio messages.
"U.S. forces have enabled regional counterterrorism partners to regain territory from these terrorists - forcing them to spend more time on survival," said Brown. "These operations have helped to illuminate terrorist networks, making intelligence-gathering, subsequent targeting and follow-on operations increasingly productive and effective.
"Every strike, every raid and every partnered operation advance the defeat of these violent extremist organizations. U.S. forces will continue to use all effective measures to degrade the groups' ability to export terror."