At least five alleged AQAP militants were reportedly killed in the course of at least four US drone strikes in the vicinity of Qayfa, in Bayda governorate, on the evening of January 12th 2018. At least one of these strikes reportedly took place in the area of Jabal Novan, allegedly killing four. There were no known associated reports of civilian harm.
Multiple English-language sources, including @Dr_E_Kendall, @JoshuaKoontz__, and @demolinari, named the four reportedly killed in Jabal Novan as Abu Abdullah Al-Ibbi, Jarrah Al-Ibbi, Abu Mohammed Al-Taizi, Abu Al-Layl Al-Baydani, quoting pro-AQAP feeds.
Abu Abdullah Al-Ibbi was described by these sources as the “companion”, “assistant”, or “bodyguard” of AQAP judge Abu Al-Bara Al-Ibbi. According to Dr Elizabeth Kendall, Abu Al-Bara Al-Ibbi was a “breakaway” cleric, and @JoshuaKoontz__ suggested that his pro-jihad writings were popular on unofficial AQAP social media groups.
There were also reports of strikes in the Dhi Kalib, Al-Jassima and Hami Liqah areas of Qayfa on January 12th. Unique events have been created to account for these reports.
Several sources indicated that strikes in Qayfa on the 12th resulted in a number of militant deaths and injuries. Locals reportedly told Al Yom Press that “the raids targeted a site for the militants as well as a car belonging to them, and resulted in deaths and injuries”. Two English-language sources, @demolinari and @switch_d, further named one of the dead as Jawas Ahmed.
Since it was unclear which specific strike(s) allegedly killed Jawas Ahmed or resulted in injuries, these reports are accounted for in this event. Given these reports, Airwars has assessed that a minimum of five alleged militants were killed overall, and two injured, in the strikes.
In an email to Long War Journal, a US Central Command spokesperson confirmed that a strike took place against AQAP in Bayda on January 12th (as well as one against ISIS in the same province). There were no known reports of strikes against AQAP outside of Qayfa on that day. This confirmation has been accounted for in this entry, though it could have applied to any or all of the reported strikes in Qayfa, Bayda, on January 12th.
The incident occured in the evening.
Sources (24) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the village of Jabal Novan (جبل نوفان), north from the town of Rada’a (رداع), within the Qifah (قيفه) district, for which the coordinates are: 14.493551, 44.760258. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
US Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
In a major move toward transparency, US Central Command (CENTCOM) provided details to FDD’s Long War Journal on US air strikes against Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen. Since early 2017, the military previously provided little information on the Yemen air campaign, typically providing only an aggregate number and limited detail on high-value target strikes.
In an email to LWJ, CENTCOM’s Major Josh T. Jacques disclosed the dates and locations of the last five months of strikes in Yemen. The information revealed that since the beginning of 2018, the US campaign against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen has focused on three governorates: Hadramout (eight strikes), Al Bayda (17), and Shabwa (three), demonstrating the eastern reach of the terrorist group.
Last year’s publicized strikes were concentrated in the central governorates of Al Bayda and Marib.
Location of US air strikes against AQAP and the Islamic State in 2018:
– Jan. 2018: Ten total strikes. The US conducted 8 strikes against AQAP in Bayda on Jan. 1, 3, 9, 12, 13, 20, 25, and 29. An additional strike against AQAP in Shabwah occurred on Jan. 26. An additional strike against the Islamic State occurred on Jan. 12 in Bayda.
– Feb. 2018: Six total strikes, all in Al Bayda governorate. Strikes occurred on Feb. 7, 11, 12, 16, and 24 (two strikes were conducted on Feb. 24).
– Mar. 2018: Seven total strikes, six of which occurred in Hadramout. Strikes occurred on Mar. 4 (two strikes), 5, 7, 8, and 13. An additional strike in Bayda occurred on March 29. [AQAP’s apparent entrenchment in eastern Yemen is concerning. In addition to the concentration of strikes in Hadramout, CENTCOM previously disclosed that AQAP operated training camps in the governorate as recently as April 2018, when they were targeted by American strikes.]
– Apr. 2018: Four total strikes, one each in Shabwah (April 26) and Al Bayda (April 23), and two in Hadramout (both on April 11).
– May 2018: One strike, in Shabwah on May 14.
– Jun. 2018: No strikes to date.
The US military has stepped up its counterterrorism campaign against al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen as well as the Islamic State since President Trump took office in 2017. Last year, the US launched 131 strikes (125 against AQAP and six against the Islamic State), nearly tripling the previous yearly high of 44 strikes in 2016.
At the current pace, the US will fall far short of that mark; there have been 28 strikes reported by CENTCOM in Yemen in the first five months of 2018.
This counterterrorism campaign has targeted AQAP’s infrastructure, including its training camps and media operations, which serve as a hub for al Qaeda’s global communications. The US has killed several mid-level AQAP leaders and media officials in its air campaign.
Despite suffering setbacks after seizing large areas of southern and central Yemen between 2015-2016, AQAP remains a persistent threat to both the embattled Yemeni government and US interests worldwide. AQAP still controls remote rural areas in Yemen and operates training camps. The group’s master bomb maker, Ibrahim al Asiri, who has engineered several bombs which have evaded airport security, remains one of the most wanted jihadists on the planet.
Note: This article was updated to include the dates and locations of Jan. 2018 strikes.