A child was reported killed, and his older cousin injured, by a likely US drone strike in Al Abr, in Hadramout governorate, at around 4pm on March 5th 2018.
A US Central Command spokesperson later told the Long War Journal that a strike had taken place in Hadramout on that date. CENTCOM also told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that allegations of civilian harm in this strike had been deemed ‘non-credible’, due to a lack of available evidence.
According to investigations by Mwatana for Human Rights and The Intercept, Amer Ali al-Saqra Huraidan and his older cousin, Hasan, were targeted as they drove home to Marib governorate, after taking relatives to a funeral in al-Hudhi, in Hadramout. According to these sources, Hasan was severely wounded on his right hand, leg, and head, while Amer was killed instantly by the strike.
Local sources denied to The Intercept that Amer or Hasan were members of either AQAP or ISIS. Hasan said that “[Amer] was too young to join [any militant groups]”, and Amer’s uncle, Amer Saleh Huraidan, also told The Intercept that there was “no link with Al Qaeda whatsoever”. Both Mwatana and The Intercept reported that Hasan was a soldier in the Yemen military, but that he was not on deployment at the time of the strike. Writing in The Guardian, Yemeni Human Rights Minister Mohamed Askar said that a government committee had collected evidence that those targeted were civilians.
Reporting on the ages of the victims was variable. Mwatana gave the ages of Amer and Hasan as twelve and 17 respectively. According to The Intercept, Amer was thirteen and Hasan was 19, while Associated Press reported that Amer was ten. One Twitter source, @abdrabboh_79, suggested that Amer was eleven at the time of the strike. Given this, it is possible that Hasan was also a child at the time of the strike.
Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars. An on-the-ground investigator reported that a thirteen-year-old was killed, and an eighteen-year-old injured, in the strike.
Baraa Shiban, a Reprieve caseworker, told The Intercept that Amer and his family were Internally Displaced Persons, and, at the time of the strike, were living in tents by an oil field, having fled fighting in Al-Jawf. Mwatana spoke with Amer’s teacher, who said that he was a “very, very good child”. His mother told Mwatana that he “would come home from school to help her with chores”. According to The Intercept, Amer is survived by five siblings.
Amer’s family members told reporters and investigators of their desire for justice and compensation. “We condemn criminal acts from any party, be it from Muslims or non-Muslims. If you take a look at their status in tents, they need relief — electricity, water, food — and not bombing,” Amer’s uncle told The Intercept. One relative told Mwatana that “If we keep silent about this crime, the number of similar strikes against innocent people will increase”.
A local activist told The Intercept that some members of the Al-Mahashima tribe, to which the alleged strike victims belonged, were members of AQAP, and said that Hasan “may have met some members of AQAP”, but he was not himself a member. A Yemeni intelligence official, however, indicated that those members of the tribe had been killed a considerable time ago.
Members of the Al-Mahashima tribe were the target of at least two further alleged US drone strikes in the area during March 2018. In an email to Long War Journal, US Central Command stated that two strikes had taken place on March 4th in Hadramout, and one on March 5th. Given that two other strikes (USYEMTr150, USYEMTr151) that possibly took place on March 5th have been treated by Airwars as the declared March 4th events, this event is treated as the declared March 5th strike.
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 other reported strikes at around the same time (USYEMTr150/USYEMTr151). This single-source allegation is also captured in a separate event (USYEMTr153).
In its annual civilian casualty report to Congress issued in April 2019, the US Department of Defense stated that it had assessed “no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from US military actions in Yemen during 2018″.
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 in its report Death from the Sky, Mwatana published a comprehensive review of the event, which it said was based upon “two visits to the area, one on March 15, 2018—about ten days after the strike—and another on October 16, 2019. Mwatana interviewed five people: Hassan (the boy who was wounded), three relatives of the boys, and the teacher of Amer, the 12-year-old boy who was killed. In some cases, Mwatana conducted follow-up interviews to gather further information.”
The report noted: “The strike killed 12-year-old Amer and destroyed the pick-up truck. Hassan [aged 17] said that he was hit with fragments in different parts of his body, including his head, his stomach, and his arm, thigh, and leg on the right side of his body. Hassan lost consciousness and was taken to Karaa Hospital in Ma’rib governorate by a woman and an old man who had driven past Hassan and Amer after the attack. Hassan said he woke up in the hospital. The hospital treated his wounds, which included a few operations to remove the shrapnel from his body and to treat the wounds in his legs and hands. He stayed in the hospital for about a month and then stayed at home in recovery for a few months.”
The incident occured at approximately 4:00 pm local time.
The victims were named as:
Family members (2)
Sources (13) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Al Abr (العبر), approximately 60km from the Al Ruwayk IDP camp, west of Ghwayraban (غويربان), the generic coordinates for this possible location are: 16.039178, 46.632381. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
US Forces Assessment:
Civilian casualty statements
Email to Bureau of Investigative Journalism A spokesperson told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism: "After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of each civilian casualty report you provided, all four were assessed to be non-credible."
C. U.S. military action in Yemen against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS During 2018, U.S. forces deployed to Yemen continued to work towards disrupting and degrading the terrorist threat posed by AQAP and ISIS. U.S. forces conducted 36 airstrikes against AQAP and ISIS operatives and facilities in Yemen and supported United Arab Emirates and Yemen-led efforts to clear AQAP from Shabwah Governorate. DoD has no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military actions in Yemen during 2018.
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
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.