Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEMTr186-C

Incident date

January 21, 2019

Location

جعار, Ja'ar, Al Bayda, Yemen

Geolocation

14.25, 45.83333 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Neighbourhood/area level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Neighbourhood/area

Airwars assessment

One civilian, named as the elderly man Saleh Ahmed Mohammed al-Qaisi, was killed by a US drone strike in the vicinity of Ja’ar, in the Al Qayseen subdistrict, Sama’a district of Bayda governorate, at 10am on January 21st 2019.

In April 2021, CENTCOM confirmed to the Yemen human rights group Mwatana that it had killed a civilian in this action.

Mr Al-Qaisi was killed by the strike as he drove near a health centre in the area, according to reporting by Al-Masdar Online and Mwatana for Human Rights. Local sources told news outlets, including Hunaa Al-Bayda, Al-Masdar Online, and Yemen Shabab, that Al-Qaisi had no affiliation with any militant or extremist groups. No known sources indicated that he was a belligerent.

Several local-language sources, such as Yemen Monitor, described Al-Qaisi as a construction worker. Mwatana reported that he was employed in Saudi Arabia as a wall painter, and had returned to Bayda to visit his family. Reports gave differing accounts of Al-Qaisi’s age at the time of the strike.  Several local-language news and social-media sources indicated that he was 65. Both Mwatana and analyst Nadwa Dawsari (@NDawsari), stated that he was 67.

According to Mwatana, Saleh was targeted after taking his wife and three children to a relative’s house. Another relative, who spoke with him prior to the strike, told Mwatana “I had been on my bike when I met Uncle Saleh… he reminded me of some funny anecdotes while we were working in Saudi Arabia. Then he continued on his way… Suddenly, I heard an aircraft hitting his car”.

Another witness told Mwatana that the drone remained in the sky after the first strike, preventing others from helping Saleh. When he attempted to leave his car, another strike killed him. Locals described Saleh as “beloved, with good manners, and known as a person who did not involve himself in political or military affairs”.

A local source told Al-Masdar that the strike took place at 10am, and that drones had been flying over the area for the two previous days.

The day after the attack, Yemen Shabab, Huna Al-Bayda, and others reported that the Al-Qaisi tribe held a vigil for Saleh, holding banners condemning the government and the Saudi-led coalition for the killing of innocent civilians by US drones.

In its annual civilian casualty report for Congress issued in May 2020, 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.”

However, in April 2021 in response to a major civilian harm review by Mwatana, the US military noted: “USCENTCOM acknowledges one civilian casualty in a strike on January 22nd 2019 [sic] in al Bayda, Yemen… The command determined that condolence payments were not appropriate.”

The event was also confirmed in DoD’s annual civilian harm report to Congress, in which it noted: “As of April 2021, one report about one incident in 2019 and
one report about one incident in 2017 were found to be credible.”

The incident occured at 10:00 am local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Sources (28) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (12) [ collapse]

  • Members of the Al-Qaysi tribe held a vigil for Saleh, condemning US drone strikes against civilians.
  • Members of the Al-Qaysi tribe held a vigil for Saleh, condemning US drone strikes against civilians.
  • Members of the Al-Qaysi tribe held a vigil for Saleh, condemning US drone strikes against civilians.
  • The strike reportedly took place in Bayda governorate; the US later reported that an undated January strike had taken place in Bayda (Almarsd Post, January 21st 2019)
  • Weapon remnants found after the attack, which a weapons expert identified as being from an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Weapon remnants found after the attack, which a weapons expert identified as being from an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Weapon remnants found after the attack, which a weapons expert identified as being from an AGM-114 Hellfire missile. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Protest organized by the community in the village after the attack. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Protest organized by the community in the village after the attack. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Saleh’s car after the strike. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana
  • Saleh’s car after the strike. Photo received from a relative. Via Mwatana

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention a vehicle being struck in the vicinity of Ja’ar (جعار) village, within the Al Qayseen (القيسين) subdistrict. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The generic coordinates for Ja’ar are: 14.25, 45.83333.

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Credible / Substantiated
    The investigation assessed that although all feasible precautions were taken and the decision to strike complied with the law of armed conflict, unintended civilian casualties regrettably occurred.
  • Given reason for civilian harm
    No reason given
    Airwars’ assessment of belligerent’s civilian casualty statement
  • Initial Airwars grading
    Confirmed
  • Civilian deaths conceded
    1
  • Civilian injuries conceded
    None
  • Stated location
    Bayda, Yemen
    Nearest population center

Civilian casualty statements

United States Armed Forces
  • May 28, 2021
  • Apr 20, 2021
  • 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.

  • CENTCOM letter to Mwatana: "USCENTCOM acknowledges one civilian casualty in a strike on January 22nd 2019 [sic] in al Bayda, Yemen... The command determined that condolence payments were not appropriate."

  • C. U.S. military actions in Yemen USCENTCOM received 11 new reports of civilian casualties related to U.S. military operations in Yemen from years prior to 2020. As of April 2021, one report about one incident in 2019 and one report about one incident in 2017 were found to be credible.

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

Our Yemen strikes data has been updated for individualized dates after CENTCOM responded to an inquiry on the eight strikes in 2019. Strikes were as follows: 1/1, 1/21, 3/25, 3/25, 3/26, 3/28, 3/29, and 3/29. All but 1/1 in al Bayda'

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    1
  • (1 man)
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Confirmed
    A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
  • Known attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)

Sources (28) [ collapse]