Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEMTr184-C

Incident date

January 1, 2019

Location

وادي عبيدة, Wadi Obeida, Marib, Yemen

Geolocation

15.515556, 45.395278 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

Jamal Al-Badawi, an alleged ‘legacy’ AQAP militant, was killed by a US drone strike in Marib governorate on the morning of January 1st 2019, US Central Command stated, confirming earlier reports that he had been targeted by a strike in Wadi Obeidah, Marib.

One civilian was locally reported injured in the attack – and the combatant status of the target was unclear.

“U.S. forces confirmed the results of the strike following a deliberate assessment process,” CENTCOM spokesman Captain Bill Urban noted on January 4th. Al-Badawi was reportedly one of those behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbour, though it was unclear whether he remained an active member of the militant group.

Though multiple sources including Sputnik, CNN, and Xinhua, drawing on Yemeni security and local reports, suggested that Al-Badawi was targeted as he drove a car alone, indicating that no “collateral damage” was incurred – a few did report additional casualties. Khabar Agency reported that, according to a tribal source, a soldier in the Fifth Brigade and a citizen, named as Jafri, were wounded. A security source told Al-Ain News that a drone targeted the leader Jamal al-Badawi in Marib province, killing him and two of his companions.

One source, @EsiscTeam, suggested that, instead of a drone strike, a US Special Forces raid had killed seven militants, including one linked to the USS Cole attack. This likely reflects confusion with an alleged special forces raid carried out by Shabwani forces against AQAP at around the same time.

It was later reported by the Wall Street Journal that Al-Badawi was targeted by a modified R9X Hellfire missile, intended to minimise collateral damage. The missile contains “a halo of six long blades that are stowed inside and then deploy through the skin of the missile seconds before impact to ensure that it shreds anything in its tracks”.

While most, including US Central Command, stated that the strike took place in Marib, a few initial reports instead indicated that he was killed in Bayda governorate. A security official for example told Xinhua that Al-Badawi was killed in Bayda, near an AQAP-held area in the governorate. And according to Khabar Agency, their source suggested Al-Badawi was killed in the Al Rawda area of Bayda, next to the Aseel Al-Arab restaurant.

The extent to which Al-Badawi remained involved with AQAP at the time of the strike was unclear, raising the possibility that his death constituted civilian harm. In a series of tweets, analyst Rita Katz suggested that in January 2009, then-AQAP leader Abu Basir Al-Wuhayshi said that Al-Badawi was “no longer with the organisation”. In 2007, Al-Badawi had reportedly surrendered himself to the Yemeni government, exchanging a “loose house arrest” for information on other Al Qaeda operatives. In a later article, Dr Gregory D. Johnsen stated that Al-Badawi promised to give up on terrorism as part of this, and never publicly reaffirmed his support for, or membership of, AQAP.

US Central Command, likewise, described Al-Badawi as a ‘legacy’ operative, though the exact meaning of this was also unclear.  On Twitter, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith wrote that, “if ‘legacy’ means ‘former,’ then the strike would raise tricky issues under domestic and int’l law”.  Bobby Chesney, a University of Texas law professor, suggested that ‘legacy’ could instead refer to ‘core’ Al-Qaeda, “as distinct from AQ franchises/splinters”.

These concerns raised the possibility that Al-Badawi was not an active belligerent at the time of the strike, potentially leading to his death being a case of civilian non-combatant harm. To account for this possibility, a 0-1 range has been set for reported civilian deaths, and a 1-7 range for militant deaths.

Al-Badawi, a Yemeni citizen reportedly aged between 50 and 58, allegedly supplied boats and explosives for the original attack on the USS Cole on October 12th 2000, which killed 17 US sailors and injured more than thirty. Though multiple sources described him as the ‘mastermind’ behind the bombing, former FBI agent Ali Soufan, lead investigator on the case, told NPR that Al-Badawi had held a mainly logistical role.

Al-Badawi was indicted by a US federal grand jury in 2003 on 50 counts of terrorism, but escaped from prison in Sana’a the same year. After being recaptured in 2004, he again escaped in 2006, before surrendering to the Yemeni government in 2007. The US State Department Rewards for Justice Program continued to offer five million dollars for information leading to his arrest, and he remained on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, an alleged co-conspirator in the USS Cole bombing, reportedly remains held at Guantanamo Bay 16 years after his capture, where at the time of al-Badawi’s killing, he was still involved in the pre-trial process.

On January 6th 2019, US President Donald Trump tweeted that “Our GREAT MILITARY has delivered justice for the heroes lost and wounded in the cowardly attack on the USS Cole. We have just killed the leader of that attack, Jamal al-Badawi. Our work against al Qaeda continues. We will never stop in our fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism!”.

In its annual civilian casualty report for Congress issued in April 2019, the US Department of Defense stated that, as of March 1st 2020, it had assessed “no credible reports of civilian casualties resulting from US military actions in Yemen during 2019”. The report also asserted that US Central Command had not received “any reports from IOs or NGOs regarding potential civilian casualties caused by U.S. military action in Yemen in 2019”.

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 morning.

  • Jamal Al-Badawi 50-58 years old Possibly a non-combatant, having left AQAP killed
  • Jafri Age unknown injured

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground), Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (0–1 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–7
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (80) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (18) [ collapse]

  • Jamal Al-Badawi, a "legacy" AQAP operative, was killed by a US drone strike in Marib on January 1st 2019, US Central Command confirmed (BBC, January 6th 2019)
  • Al-Badawi was reportedly one of those responsible for the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbour (BBC, January 6th 2019)
  • Al-Badawi was indicted by a US grand federal jury in 2003 on over fifty counts of terrorism offences (Associated Press, January 4th 2019)
  • The bombing of the USS Cole resulted in the deaths of seventeen US military personnel (NBC News, January 4th 2019)
  • After being imprisoned in Yemen and escaping, Al-Badawi turned himself in to Yemeni authorities in 2007 (NBC News, January 4th 2019)
  • The strike was reportedly conducted with a modified Hellfire missile, carrying a payload of spinning blades (Daily Mail, December 8th 2019)
  • It was unclear whether Al-Badawi remained actively engaged with AQAP after 2007 (Aawsat, January 4th 2019)
  • CENTCOM stated that Al-Badawi was a "legacy" operative, though it was unclear what this meant. This raised the prospect that his death represented a case of civilian noncombatant harm. (@Fatinhom, January 4th 2019)
  • (Sky News, January 6th 2019)
  • Al-Badawi remained on the FBI's Most Wanted list until his death (@RitaKatz, January 4th 2019)
  • (@NBC News, January 4th 2019)
  • (@Rita_Katz, January 4th 2019)
  • (Sky News, January 6th 2019)
  • (@ben_ataf, January 4th 2019)

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the area of Wadi Obeida (وادي عبيدة), east of Mar’ib (مأرب) city. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Wadi Obeida are: 15.515556, 45.395278.

  • Reports of the incident mention the area of Wadi Obeida (وادي عبيدة), east of Mar’ib (مأرب) city.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Non credible / Unsubstantiated
    Insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, a Coalition strike resulted in civilian casualties.
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    None
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • Nov 5, 2020
  • 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

United States Armed Forces

Jan. 7, 2019 —
U.S. Central Command has confirmed that Jamal al-Badawi was killed in a

precision strike in Marib governate, on Jan. 1.



Jamal al-Badawi was a legacy al Qaeda operative in Yemen involved in the USS

Cole bombing. U.S. forces confirmed the results of the strike following a

deliberate assessment process.



Jamal al-Badawi was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2003, charged with

50 counts of various terrorism offenses, including murder of U.S. nationals

and murder of U.S. military personnel; was wanted by the U.S. for his role

in the Oct. 12, 2000 terrorist attack against USS Cole; and was also charged

with attempting with co-conspirators to attack a U.S. Navy vessel in January

2000.



- CAPT Bill Urban, USN, USCENTCOM Spokesman



CENTCOM Media Desk

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground), Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • (0–1 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    1
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–7
  • Belligerents reported injured
    1

Sources (80) [ collapse]