Up to four alleged AQAP militants, including a leadership figure, were reportedly killed by a US drone strike in Zamakh and Manakh, in the Al Abr district of Hadramout governorate, between the evening of March 4th-5th 2018. There were no known associated reports of civilian harm.
Late on March 5th, local language sources including @SkyNewsArabia_B and @Mukalla_now reported that four militants had been killed, including AQAP leadership figure Mabkhoot Al-Saeiri, in the Al Abr area.
Facebook user @mukallatgm3na stated that two strikes, including the attack on Al-Saeiri, had taken place on the evening of March 4th. This source further suggested that a total of four alleged militants had died across the two US drone strikes in the Al Abr area. As such, it is possible that the reported deaths of four militants reflects a total across both this event and USYEMTr151 (in which two were reportedly killed.) The minimum number of militant casualties in this strike has therefore been set at two.
Two sources, Elganob and @mukallatgm3na, indicated that the strike that had killed Al-Saeiri took place in the area of Zamakh and Manakh, near to Al Abr. A later US Central Command press release erroneously listed “Zanakh” as a governorate in which at least one strike had been conducted between January and mid-May 2018.
The Yemen, quoting a source speaking to the Anatolia Agency, further suggested that four killed on March 5th were members of the Al-Muhashimah tribe, possibly referring to those killed in this strike and others in the same time frame. The original Anatolia Agency report could not be found by Airwars.
A local security official told Xinhua that four AQAP militants had been killed by a US drone strike against “a moving vehicle” on March 6th. Given that no other known sources reported a unique strike on that day, this potentially reflects a late report of this strike and/or another reported strike at around the same time (USYEMTr151). This single-source allegation is also captured in a separate event (USYEMTr153).
A US Central Command spokesperson later told the Long War Journal that two US strikes had taken place in Hadramout on March 4th; and one on March 5th 2018. Since it was suggested that this strike took place on the evening of March 4th, this event has been treated as one of the declared March 4th strikes.
One source, @egl3000, posted an alleged image of the targeted vehicle, though an image from another source, @RepYemenEng, appeared to show the same vehicle from another angle. This second source suggested that the pictured vehicle had been targeted in another reported strike from around the same time (USYEMTr151).
The local time of the incident is unknown.
Sources (13) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the Al Abr District (مديرية العبر) for which the generic coordinates are: 15.9137, 47.2288. 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
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.