US Forces in Yemen

Mabkhout Ali al Ameri with his 18-month old son Mohammed, shortly after a botched US raid on al Ghayil in January 2017 had killed at least 20 villagers, including Mohammed's mother Fatim Saleh Mohsen. © Iona Craig

The United States conducted its first targeted assassination by drone outside the hot battlefield in November 2002 in Marib province, killing five reported members of Al Qaeda. However US counterterrorism operations did not begin in earnest until 2009, prompted by the founding of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The Obama Administration’s controversial campaign – which saw airstrikes by both the US military and the CIA – managed to suppress but not destroy AQAP, which continued to mount ambitious extraterritorial acts of terrorism. US counterterrorism strikes were expanded in October 2017 to include the local ISIS franchise.

Overall, more than 500 US airstrikes have been locally claimed in Yemen since 2009, resulting in several hundred locally documented civilian deaths. Airwars’ Yemen data, which incorporates earlier monitoring work by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, presently focuses on US actions from 2002 to 2012 and from 2017 onwards under President Donald Trump – and will shortly be expanded to include all known US strikes in Yemen since 2002. Reviews of reported US counterterrorism actions along with any associated civilian harm claims can be accessed either via our interactive mapping and timeline, or via the ‘US Strikes & Civilian Casualties’ tab above.

14years2months8days
Length of Campaign
since December 2009
181
Declared US actions in Yemen since 2002
85
Alleged civilian casualty incidents assessed since 2002
(excluding 2013–2017)

Airwars estimate of civilian deaths

154–273

Locally reported civilian deaths from declared or likely US Forces actions in Yemen for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces. These originate from 45 separate alleged incidents.

53–64 children likely killed
26–39 women likely killed
80–228 likely injured
194 named victims

US Forces estimate of civilian deaths

13

Confirmed civilian deaths, from US Forces actions in Yemen, originating from 3 separate incidents of civilian harm.

2 civilians confirmed injured

Alleged deaths 240–431

Locally reported civilian deaths from US Forces actions in Yemen.

85 separate alleged incidents

Confirmed or fair
Confirmed: A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
Fair: Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
154–273

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces.

45 separate alleged incidents

Weak
Weak: Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
32–41

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Weak.

17 separate alleged incidents

Contested
Contested: Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
54–117

Civilian deaths for which the reporting is assessed by Airwars as Contested.

23 separate alleged incidents

Discounted
Discounted: Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.

Civilian deaths were Discounted by Airwars after assessment.

0 separate alleged incidents

Please note: these values do not include 2013 through to 2017, these incidents have not yet been assessed by Airwars. Below are breakdowns by US Presidential terms.

Barack Obama, 1st Term • 20 Jan 2009 – 19 Jan 2013

Airwars estimate of civilian deaths

76–114

Locally reported civilian deaths from declared or likely US Forces actions in Yemen for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces. These originate from 17 separate alleged incidents.

28–30 children likely killed
15–20 women likely killed
52–183 likely injured
103 named victims

US Forces estimate of civilian deaths

13

Confirmed civilian deaths, from US Forces actions in Yemen, originating from 3 separate incidents of civilian harm.

2 civilians confirmed injured

Alleged deaths 118–221

Locally reported civilian deaths from US Forces actions in Yemen.

38 separate alleged incidents

Confirmed or fair
Confirmed: A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
Fair: Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
76–114

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces.

17 separate alleged incidents

Weak
Weak: Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
5–14

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Weak.

7 separate alleged incidents

Contested
Contested: Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
37–93

Civilian deaths for which the reporting is assessed by Airwars as Contested.

14 separate alleged incidents

Discounted
Discounted: Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.

Civilian deaths were Discounted by Airwars after assessment.

0 separate alleged incidents

Barack Obama, 2nd Term • 20 Jan 2013 – 19 Jan 2017

Airwars estimate of civilian deaths

Locally reported civilian deaths from declared or likely US Forces actions in Yemen for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces. These originate from 0 separate alleged incidents.

children likely killed
likely injured

US Forces estimate of civilian deaths

13

Confirmed civilian deaths, from US Forces actions in Yemen, originating from 3 separate incidents of civilian harm.

2 civilians confirmed injured

Alleged deaths

Locally reported civilian deaths from US Forces actions in Yemen.

0 separate alleged incidents

Confirmed or fair
Confirmed: A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
Fair: Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces.

0 separate alleged incidents

Weak
Weak: Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Weak.

0 separate alleged incidents

Contested
Contested: Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.

Civilian deaths for which the reporting is assessed by Airwars as Contested.

0 separate alleged incidents

Discounted
Discounted: Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.

Civilian deaths were Discounted by Airwars after assessment.

0 separate alleged incidents

Donald Trump • 20 Jan 2017 – 19 Jan 2021

Airwars estimate of civilian deaths

76–154

Locally reported civilian deaths from declared or likely US Forces actions in Yemen for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces. These originate from 26 separate alleged incidents.

25–32 children likely killed
11–18 women likely killed
25–38 likely injured
91 named victims

US Forces estimate of civilian deaths

13

Confirmed civilian deaths, from US Forces actions in Yemen, originating from 3 separate incidents of civilian harm.

2 civilians confirmed injured

Alleged deaths 117–199

Locally reported civilian deaths from US Forces actions in Yemen.

43 separate alleged incidents

Confirmed or fair
Confirmed: A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
Fair: Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
76–154

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces.

26 separate alleged incidents

Weak
Weak: Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.
27

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Weak.

10 separate alleged incidents

Contested
Contested: Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
14–18

Civilian deaths for which the reporting is assessed by Airwars as Contested.

7 separate alleged incidents

Discounted
Discounted: Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.

Civilian deaths were Discounted by Airwars after assessment.

0 separate alleged incidents

Joe Biden • 20 Jan 2021 – 19 Jan 2025

Airwars estimate of civilian deaths

2–5

Locally reported civilian deaths from declared or likely US Forces actions in Yemen for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces. These originate from 2 separate alleged incidents.

2 children likely killed
3–7 likely injured

US Forces estimate of civilian deaths

13

Confirmed civilian deaths, from US Forces actions in Yemen, originating from 3 separate incidents of civilian harm.

2 civilians confirmed injured

Alleged deaths 5–11

Locally reported civilian deaths from US Forces actions in Yemen.

4 separate alleged incidents

Confirmed or fair
Confirmed: A specific belligerent has accepted responsibility for civilian harm.
Fair: Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
2–5

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Fair, or have been Confirmed by US Forces.

2 separate alleged incidents

Weak
Weak: Single source claim, though sometimes featuring significant information.

Civilian deaths for which the reporting was assessed by Airwars as Weak.

0 separate alleged incidents

Contested
Contested: Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
3–6

Civilian deaths for which the reporting is assessed by Airwars as Contested.

2 separate alleged incidents

Discounted
Discounted: Those killed were combatants, or other parties most likely responsible.

Civilian deaths were Discounted by Airwars after assessment.

0 separate alleged incidents

Deaths & Injuries

Children

30 incidents where Children were killed or injured

Women

13 incidents where Women were killed or injured

Men

41 incidents where Men were killed or injured

Repeat Targets

Navigate through our assessments below to identify strikes where the same militant was reported killed multiple times, from local rumours to official security sources. These incidents reveal the lack of transparency at the heart of the US’s secretive Yemen campaign.

Repeat Target

Abdulraouf al Dahab, عبد الرؤوف الذهب

image: @shahd201062

Claimed to be killed in:


• 2 of the 4 resulted in civilian harm.

• 26 – 70 civilians killed.

Repeat Target

Said al-Shihri, سعيد الشهري

image: NBC News

Claimed to be killed in:


• 1 of the 4 resulted in civilian harm.

• 0 – 4 civilians killed.

Repeat Target

Nasser al-Wuhayshi (al-Wahishi), ناصر الوحيشي

image: Daily Mail

Claimed to be killed in:


• 1 of the 4 resulted in civilian harm.

• 1 – 2 civilians killed.

Repeat Target

Anwar al-Awlaki, أنور العولقي

image: BBC

Targeted in:


Claimed to be killed in:


• None of the incidents resulted in civilian harm.

Repeat Target

Fahd al-Qasaa, فهد القصع

image: The Independent

Targeted in:


Claimed to be killed in:


• 2 of the 5 resulted in civilian harm.

• 2 civilians killed.

Repeat Target

Qasim al Raimi, قاسم الريمي

image: AQAP video / Homeland Security Today

Targeted in:


Claimed to be killed in:


• 1 of the 3 resulted in civilian harm.

• 1 civilians killed.