A few local language social-media sources suggested that US strikes, reportedly including a naval bombardment and at least one air strike, had targeted “terrorist groups”, possibly AQAP, in Arqoub in Abyan governorate, on August 31st 2019, killing “dozens”. Some suggested that the “terrorists” were amongst or affiliated with pro-government forces. There were no known associated reports of civilian harm.
Though a number of Twitter sources, such as @AAlzabli and @kamal_ALNumani, reported a naval bombardment, similarities in wording appeared to suggest that they were re-posts of a single source. Similarly, both sources that alleged a US airstrike, @nasseralgda and @maherhasan17, shared very similar wording. Since a number of differing sources suggested a US strike of some kind in the area, however, this event is presently assessed as likely.
The alleged strike came a few days after an Emirati air campaign in southern Yemen from August 28th-29th 2019, apparently in support of secessionist militias, which reportedly focused on Aden and the Abyan governorate. Late on August 29th, sources suggested that Emirati strikes were being conducted in the Arqoub area.
In a statement at the time, the Emirati foreign ministry said that its strikes had targeted “terrorist militias”, though others indicated that the actions were targeting the pro-government Yemeni military. AQAP militants have been previously reported to have fought alongside, and sometimes integrated into, Yemeni government forces. Given this, it is possible that the event reflects a late Emirati strike.
On October 4th 2019, a US Central Command spokesperson told New America that no US military strikes had been conducted in Yemen since June 24th 2019. It is, however, possible that an undeclared strike was conducted by the CIA, or was part of a clandestine US military action.
Given the description of “dozens” killed, minimum alleged militant deaths has been set at twenty-four.
The local time of the incident is unknown.
Sources (25) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention the vicinity of the Arqoub (زنجبار) area, for which the generic coordinates are:13.468889, 45.763889. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
United States Armed Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
On October 4, 2019, United States Central Command (CENTCOM) replied to an email inquiry from New America confirming that “the last strike conducted by CENTCOM in Yemen was 24 June.” Per that statement, there were no CENTCOM strikes in Yemen in September 2019.
The lack of strikes in September makes it more than three months since the last U.S. military counterterrorism strike in Yemen, according to New America’s research. However, it is possible that the United States has conducted covert non-military strikes, and in recent years there have been a small number of strikes attributed by media reports to the United States that CENTCOM has denied conducting