Two Yemeni National Army soldiers, including a Colonel, were reportedly killed by a US drone strike in Al Ashar, Yakla area of Bayda governorate, on the evening of September 18th 2018, according to multiple sources. Some however instead variously indicated that the strike killed two AQAP members, or two civilians.
In a later press release, US Central Command confirmed that a strike had targeted AQAP in Bayda on September 18th. Since there were no other known reported strikes at that time, this event is treated as confirmed.
Military sources told SMA News that Colonel Salem Abdullah Ahmad Al-Taysi, the commander of the second battalion of the local Radaa Brigade, and Ahmed Abbad Al-Taysi, variously described as a “companion” or “companion soldier”, were killed while travelling through the area in a car. According to several sources, including @BelqeesTV, Salmashad, and Yemeni News, the pair were reportedly on their way to meet the Chief of the General Staff in Marib governorate.
Others suggested that those killed were either civilians or AQAP members. Following the strike, a local source told Al-Masdar Online that the airstrike had killed two civilians from the Al-Taysi family as they drove in a car, reportedly on their way to Marib [note that this is the same family name as the Colonel, leaving open the possibility that his companion in the vehicle was a non combatant relative]. According to Hunaa Radaa, a local source also reported the deaths of civilians to Yemen Shabab. The original Yemen Shabab article could not however be found by Airwars.
Reprieve shared their findings on this strike with Airwars, which indicated that two members of the Al-Taysi family, also related to the Al-Ameri family previously targeted by multiple alleged US strikes, were killed while travelling to Marib. An on-the-ground investigator spoke with members of the same tribe as the victims, and saw pictures of those killed taken prior to the strike.
Two local-langage social-media sources, @akhbar and @alteef_news, instead claimed that those killed were AQAP members. AQAP forces have previously been reported to have fought alongside, and integrated into, pro-Hadi government forces.
While most suggested that the strike took place on September 18th, a few later reports suggested that it instead occurred on September 30th; this appears to reflect erroneous reporting of other sources.
It is worth noting that no US airstrikes were reported in Yemen between September 18th and November 2nd – perhaps indicative of a local partner backlash against the apparent killing of a senior commander.
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.”
The incident occured in the evening.
Sources (23) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the Al Ashar (العشار) area, allegedly in or around the village of Yakla (يكلاء), within the Wald Rabi (ولدربيع) district. 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
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 to Airwars: 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
TAMPA, Fla. – U.S. Central Command conducted two counterterrorism air strikes targeting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen in September, bringing the total number of air strikes to 36. In October, there were zero air strikes.
September strikes include Sept. 9 in Abyan and Sept. 18 in Al-Bayda governorates.
"Despite a decline in counterterrorism air strikes against AQAP, they continue to pose a significant threat," said Lt. Col. Earl Brown, a USCENTCOM spokesman. "We remain vigilant and will continue to work by, with and through our regional partners to disrupt, deter and destroy AQAP."