Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

USYEMTr219-C

Incident date

January 27, 2020

Location

لحزمة, Al Hazma, Ma'rib, Yemen

Geolocation

15.56667, 45.38333 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Geolocation accuracy

Village

Airwars assessment

A US drone strike reportedly targeted an alleged AQAP site in Al Hazma village, in the Wadi Obeida area of Marib governorate, at dawn on January 27th 2020. Multiple sources suggested that at least one alleged AQAP militant had died in the strike, and one source, Mint Press News, reported that civilians near the house had been killed.  Some sources later indicated that AQAP leader Qasim al-Raymi died in this strike, one of three apparent January US actions in which he was reportedly killed.

At least one missile reportedly targeted a house where an al-Qaeda leader was staying, having rented the house in the previous week. According to Mint Press, the strike, which reportedly involved multiple munitions releases, killed “some innocent civilians” near the house, though no further details were given. Given this, Airwars has assessed that at least two civilians were reportedly killed in the strike, though this allegation has been assessed as weak based on limited reporting.

Ali Hammoud, a farmer who said that one of his relatives was killed in the strike, told Mint Press that “U.S. drones do not differentiate between civilians and al-Qaeda-linked fighters… In the end, you will be killed by plane, whether you are a civilian, or from al-Qaeda. Joining al-Qaeda is what is on my mind now.”

Tribal sources told the Al-Khabar press agency that “communications devices and computers” were found in the building, while other local language media outlets, such as Al-Ain, reported that the house contained a store of missiles and mine-making tools.  Mint Press suggested that explosives in the building continued to detonate in the aftermath of the initial explosion, and that AQAP militants cordoned off the area soon afterwards. According to Yem News, a local resident said that AQAP had been operating in the area “openly” over the prior months. A second reported airstrike on January 27th (USYEMTr220) was said to have targeted AQAP militants in the same area.

Several sources, including @alghadye, suggested that one AQAP militant, a leadership figure, had been killed. Mint Press and others named the dead militant as “Qasilah”, who had reportedly rented the house. According to Al-Khabar press, “Qasilah” had previously been “expelled by the people of the area”.

Similarly, Al-Ain reported that the renter of the house presented himself as “displaced” from central Yemen. Local sources told Al-Masdar Online that this person was named Abdullah Al-Adani, and that a man took his body away in the hours after the strike.  These sources indicated that Al-Adani was “known to be connected to AQAP”. A single social media source (@geHYX4hFs5Df0mP) reported that “a number” of militants had died in the strike.

Some, including Twitter user @AnisAbdulla1, Mint Press, and Aden Gad, indicated that AQAP leader Qasim al-Raymi, also known as Abu-Huraira al-San’ani, may also have been killed in this event, though two local sources denied to Mint Press that this was the case. Given this, Airwars has assessed that at least one alleged militant was killed in the attack, with a maximum of two, to account for reports of Al-Raymi’s death.

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. These reports variously indicated that he was killed by one of two alleged strikes in Wadi Obeida, Marib, on January 25th (USYEMTr218) or January 27th; or by an alleged strike in Bayda on January 29th (USYEMTr221).

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. OSINT analyst @RebeccaRambar initially reported that Al-Raymi was killed on the 27th, but later indicated that he was in fact killed in Yakla, Bayda governorate, on January 29th.

Due to the congruence of alleged strike circumstances, several reports of a strike in Marib could not be definitively tied to a particular incident. Numerous local-language news outlets, including Akhbar Al-Aan, reported only that Al-Raymi was killed in a strike against a house in Wadi Obeida, conceivably referring to either of the Marib strikes mentioned above. Similarly, the New York Times reported that two militants 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.

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 Qasim al-Raymi had been reportedly 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.

Given that the first known reports of al-Raymi’s death emerged on January 29th, post-dating all 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.

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. This event is treated as declared to account for the admission.

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 around dawn.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2

Sources (89) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (29) [ collapse]

  • The January 27th strike reportedly took place in Al-Hazmia, Wadi Obeida (@JoshuaKoontz__, January 28th 2020)
  • The January 27th strike allegedly targeted a house, which was later found to contain weapons and ammunition (@JoshuaKoontz__, January 28th 2020)
  • Qasim al-Raymi, the leader of AQAP, was alleged to have been killed in the strike (@Rita_Katz, January 30th 2020)
  • The strike was one of three alleged US actions in January which reportedly killed Al-Raymi (@NATSEC09, January 31st 2020)
  • Sources initially suggested that an unidentified AQAP leader had been killed in the strike, possibly referring to Al-Raymi (Al-Mashhad Al-Yemeni, February 2nd 2020)
  • A single source, @goldensla, suggested that Al-Raymi was killed in a farm belonging to the head of the Islah group in Marib, though it was unclear whether this referred to this strike (@goldensla, February 2nd 2020)
  • The US State Department had previously offered $10 million for information leading to Al-Raymi's capture (New York Times, January 31st 2020)
  • On February 1st, an apparently pre-recorded message from Al-Raymi claimed responsibility for the December 2019 Pensacola naval base shooting (@Dr_E_Kendall, February 1st 2020)
  • In a tweet, academic Dr Elisabeth Kendall pointed out that a February 1st video of Al-Raymi omitted "the usual "May Allah protect him"... which would have shown he's alive" (@Dr_E_Kendall, February 2nd 2020)
  • On February 23rd, AQAP confirmed the death of Al-Raymi, announcing Khalid Batarfi as his successor (@Dr_E_Kendall, February 23rd 2020)
  • Khalid Batarfi, Al-Raymi's successor as AQAP leader (@Dr_E_Kendall, February 23rd 2020)
  • Al-Raymi had been leader of AQAP since 2015, after his predecessor was killed by a US drone strike (@englishsssn, January 31st 2020)
  • In 2017, Al-Raymi said that lone shooter attacks brought him joy (Long War Journal, February 6th 2020)
  • Al-Raymi was confirmed to have been killed by the White House on February 6th 2020 (BBC Monitoring, January 31st 2020)
  • Al-Raymi (right), alongside Pensacola shooter Muhammed bin Saeed Al-Shamrani (Long War Journal, February 6th 2020)
  • Al-Raymi, born in 1978, was a founding member of AQAP (BBC Arabic, February 7th 2020)
  • (@RebeccaRambar, February 7th 2020)
  • The US Rewards for Justice page, displaying an image of Al-Raymi on January 31st 2020 (@Dr_E_Kendall)
  • (@jibalalyaman8, January 29th 2020)
  • (@RebeccaRambar, February 3rd 2020)

Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the village of Al Hazma (لحزمة), allegedly immediately north-east of the city of Ma’rib (مأرب), within the Wadi Obeida (وادي عبيدة) area. The generic coordinates for Al Hazma are: 15.56667, 45.38333. It is important to note the existence of another Al Hazma, south-east of Ma’rib city, at these coordinates: 15.44646, 45.39902. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

  • Reports of the incident mention the village of Al Hazma (لحزمة), allegedly immediately north-east of the city of Ma’rib (مأرب), within the Wadi Obeida (وادي عبيدة) area. It is important to note the existence of another Al Hazma, south-east of Ma’rib city.

    Imagery:
    Google Earth

United States Armed Forces Assessment:

  • Suspected belligerent
    United States Armed Forces
  • United States Armed Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

United States Armed Forces

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.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    2
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Weak
    Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
  • Suspected attacker
    United States Armed Forces
  • Suspected target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2

Sources (89) [ collapse]