Two civilians, including a 14-year old boy, were killed in a US drone strike in Yakla, in the Qayfa area of Bayda governorate, on the evening of November 23rd 2017, according to several reports.
In an email to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a US Central Command spokesperson confirmed that a strike took place in Bayda on the 23rd, and said that two ISIS “terrorists” were killed. Since there were no other known reports of a strike on that day, this event is treated as declared. No local sources reported any belligerent casualties, despite the US claims.
Three news sources – Yemen Shabab, Huna Radaa, and Aden News – named those killed as 25-year old Ahmed Salem Mabkhout Al-Ameri, and 14-year old Muhammad Musaad Abbad al-Bagh, and indicated that they were targeted by a US drone while on a motorbike in the Al Ahmas area of Yakla.
According to Alharf28, a local government source told Anatolia Agency that the civilians were working on a farm in the area, and had no ties to extremist groups. The original Anatolia report could not be found. Aden News also reported that those killed were farmers, according to locals, and added that they were returning from prayers at the time.
Iona Craig, a reporter, tweeted that Al-Ameri was the nephew of Sheikh Aziz al-Ameri, who had reportedly lost 20 family members in a January 2017 US raid, also in Yakla.
Gulf News reported, in an article that appears to have been updated on November 28th 2017, that five civilians, “mainly farmers”, were killed in the course of “three separate air strikes” in the Qayfa area during that week. This reported civilian casualty event likely accounts for at least one of the reported strikes, alongside event USYEMTr122-C.
Gulf News reported that recent US drone strikes in the area had “displaced residents and caused panic”. “The air strikes have caused great panic among civilians,” the activist told Gulf News. “The targeted areas have no functioning schools or hospitals.”
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.”
In March 2021 Mwatana published a comprehensive review of this event, which it said was based on in depth interviews, site visits, and imagery and munitions analysis. The study also found that two civilians had died. It noted: “On the day of the strike, Ahmed and Mohammed were at Ahmed’s qat farm. They were both picking qat from the farm to sell. At around 5:30 in the evening, Ahmed and Mohammed were preparing to leave the farm on Mohammed’s motorbike when the strike occurred. Mohammed’s mother was the first to reach her son. Mohammed and Ahmed’s bodies were still aflame when she reached the site.”
The incident occured at approximately 5:30 pm local time.
Sources (11) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Al Ahmas (الأحماص) or Mahhas (محاص) area, allegedly in or in the vicinity of Yakla (يكلاء) village. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Yakla are: 14.499999936, 45.09999993.
United States Armed 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
This is the most current CENTCOM information on strikes against AQAP and ISIS in Yemen.
· One strike against ISIS in al-Bayda Governorate, Yemen, Nov. 26. killing three terrorists.
· One strike against AQAP in Shabwah Governorate, Yemen, Nov. 25 killing seven terrorists.
· One strike against ISIS in al-Bayda Governorate, Yemen, Nov. 23, killing two terrorists.
· Two strikes against AQAP in al-Bayda Governorate, Yemen, Nov. 19-20. The strikes killed two AQAP terrorists Nov. 19 and five terrorists on Nov 20.
Let me know if you have any further questions.
CENTCOM Media Operations