A US strike took place in Hadhramout governorate on April 11th 2018, a US Central Command spokesperson told Long War Journal, one of two declared actions on that date. At least one of the strikes targeted “an AQAP training camp in western Hadramawt governorate.”
There were multiple local reports at the time of airstrikes against AQAP in the mountainous Al-Sout area of western Hadramout at dawn on that day, though most sources assigned responsibility to the Saudi-led Coalition. Only one source gave information on casualties; ESISC (@EsiscTeam) tweeted that a US drone strike killed “several” terrorists. These reports are accounted for in event USYEMTr160. There were no known associated reports of civilian harm.
Alleged images of the area appeared to indicate at least three distinct strike locations; a local source told Al-Arabi that four explosions were heard. According to local-language news outlets, including Al-Mashhad Al-Yemeni and Al-Arabi, as well as a number of social media sources, drones or warplanes targeted AQAP in the Al-Sout area, which reportedly lies between Wadi Amad and Wadi Rakhiya.
Eyewitnesses told TVAden that they believed the planes to be American, and other sources, such as @barakish_net, assigned responsibility for the strikes to the US. Others, such as Akhbar Al-Aan, however, suggested that warplanes of the Saudi-led Coalition conducted the strikes, or indicated that the belligerent was unknown. AQAP forces were reportedly active in the targeted area, according to multiple sources, having been forced out of nearby districts.
Though it is possible that this second strike was a part of event USYEMTr160 (multiple munitions were deployed, locally taken photographs show) this event has been created to account for the possibility that the report referred to a unique event.
There were no known local reports of a second unique strike in Hadhramout on April 11th.
The local time of the incident is unknown.
Sources (20) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the Hadhramout (حضرموت) governorate, for which the generic coordinates are: 16.516794, 48.644553. 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.