A US drone strike reportedly targeted a house in Joe Al Naseem, in the Wadi Obeida area of Marib governorate, at 11am on January 25th 2020, killing at least one alleged AQAP leadership figure. Some sources later indicated that AQAP leader Qasim al-Raymi died in the strike, one of three alleged January US actions in which he was supposedly killed. There were no known reports of associated civilian harm.
Fatima Alasrar (@YemeniFatima) reported that, according to Marib residents, the strike had “successfully targeted” the alleged AQAP member in his home, causing “no collateral damage”. Al-Masdar Online alone specified the time and location of the strike, at 11am in Joe Al Naseem area, suggesting that one unidentified AQAP militant was killed. Yemeni tribal sources told the Associated Press that AQAP militants cordoned off the area in the aftermath of the strike.
Several sources suggested that AQAP leader Qasim al-Raymi, also known as Abu-Huraira al-San’ani, was killed in the strike. Analyst Rita Katz (@Rita_Katz) tweeted on January 30th that al-Raymi was killed in the January 25th strike. On February 1st, The Guardian and others reported, US President Trump retweeted Rita Katz’s thread, appearing to confirm the report. OSINT analyst @carvajalF tweeted on January 30th that they had seen obituaries for Qasim al-Raymi, dated January 25th 2020.
Throughout late January and early February 2020, numerous local-language and English-language sources reported that al-Raymi had been killed by a US strike at the end of January. However, these reports variously indicated that he was killed by one of two alleged strikes in Wadi Obeida, Marib, on January 25th or January 27th (USYEMTr219-C); or by a strike in Bayda on January 29th (USYEMTr221). The alleged January 27th strike also targeted a building housing a leadership figure. On February 2nd, Marib governor Sultan al-Arada told Asharq Al-Awsat that two strikes had taken place in Marib in the prior 10-day period, and that security authorities had been unable to identify those killed in either strike.
Due to the congruence of alleged strike circumstances, several reports of a strike in Marib could not be definitively tied to a particular incident. Multiple local news outlets, such as Akhbar Al-Aan, reported only that Al-Raymi was killed by a strike in Wadi Obeida, conceivably referring to either of the Marib strikes mentioned above.
One Twitter source, @goldensla, suggested on January 27th that “one of the most wanted ” AQAP members in Ataq, Shabwa governorate, had rented a house in Wadi Obeida a week previously. A second tweet from the same source, on January 29th, suggested that al-Raymi had reportedly been killed in Marib after being seen in Ataq, but did not specify the date of his death. The same source reported on February 2nd that Al-Raymi had died on a farm belonging to the head of the Islah group in Marib, Mabkhoot Obood Al-Sharif.
Similarly, the New York Times reported that two were killed by an undated strike in Wadi Obeida, while Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed suggested that “at least four” were killed by a strike in the same area. Local sources told Al-Arabiya that a US plane had targeted a house, rented by AQAP militants a week previously, on the Friday evening [January 24th]. That report therefore conceivably refers to the night of January 24th-25th. In any case, the sources further stated that “it was not yet clear whether Qasim al-Rimi was among those targeted”. The original Al-Arabiya report could not be found by Airwars.
Additionally, given that the first known reports of al-Raymi’s death emerged on January 29th, post-dating the three alleged strikes in which he was reported to have died, it was impossible to reasonably exclude the possibility that he died in any of these three reported events. Given the possibility that Qasim al-Raymi did die in this specific event, potentially in addition to the original one reported fatality, Airwars has assessed that between one and two alleged militants reportedly died in this event.
On February 6th, a White House statement confirmed that al-Raymi had been killed by a January strike, but did not specify where or when he had died. “This was not a [Department of Defense] operation”, a US Pentagon official told Politico. A former US official told Foreign Policy that the strike was conducted by a CIA aircraft.
US Central Command told Airwars that no US military strikes were conducted in Yemen during January 2020, effectively confirming that the strike that killed Al-Raymi was a CIA operation.
Al-Raymi had been the leader of AQAP since 2015, having been a founding member of the group in 2006. On February 23rd 2020, AQAP confirmed that al-Raymi had died, and announced Khalid Batarfi as its new leader, according to Dr Elisabeth Kendall.
The incident occured at 11:00 am local time.
Sources (75) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a residential building being struck in Joe Al Naseem (جو النسيم) village, for which the generic coordinates are: 15.480000, 45.349444. 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
At the direction of President Donald J. Trump, the United States conducted a counterterrorism operation in Yemen that successfully eliminated Qasim al-Rimi, a founder and the leader of al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and a deputy to al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Rimi joined al-Qa’ida in the 1990s, working in Afghanistan for Osama bin Laden. Under Rimi, AQAP committed unconscionable violence against civilians in Yemen and sought to conduct and inspire numerous attacks against the United States and our forces. His death further degrades AQAP and the global al-Qa’ida movement, and it brings us closer to eliminating the threats these groups pose to our national security. The United States, our interests, and our allies are safer as a result of his death. We will continue to protect the American people by tracking down and eliminating terrorists who seek to do us harm.