Civilian Casualties

Civilian Casualties

Incident Code

Lib2011-091

Incident date

May 12, 2011

Location

طرابلس‎, Tripoli, Libya

Geolocation

32.886602, 13.190912 Note: The accuracy of this location is to City level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Six possible civilian fatalities were reported in a NATO airstrike on Tripoli at or near one of Gaddafi’s compounds.

Al Jazeera reported that “A series of explosions rocked early at dawn today in the center of the Libyan capital, Tripoli, in the vicinity of Bab al-Aziziyah, the headquarters of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, after a raid by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).”

Matelo0ove said: “Six people killed and 10 others wounded in air strikes in Libya: In new Libyan developments, a delegation of members of the National Council is visiting.” Other sources published similar accounts. However almost all media only described ‘people’

NATO itself said it had struck ” 2 Surface-To-Air Missile Launchers, 3 Buildings inside a military camp” on that day without admitting to any civilian harm.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 6
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–10
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Known attacker
    NATO forces
  • Known target
    Gaddafi forces

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the city of Tripoli (طرابلس‎), for which the generic coordinates are: 32.886602, 13.190912. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

NATO forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    NATO forces
  • NATO forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

NATO forces

In the vicinity of Tripoli: 2 Surface-To-Air Missile Launchers, 3 Buildings inside a military camp.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 6
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–10
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Contested
    Competing claims of responsibility e.g. multiple belligerents, or casualties also attributed to ground forces.
  • Known attacker
    NATO forces
  • Known target
    Gaddafi forces

Sources (7) [ collapse]

Incident Code

Lib2011-090

Incident date

May 10, 2011

Location

العليا للأطفال وسط, High Committee for Children, Tripoli, Libya

Geolocation

32.898242, 13.206442 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Exact location (via Airwars) level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

On May 10th at 2am local time, NATO conducted airstrikes in Tripoli, injuring at least four children, with two seriously injured, according to two sources. Multiple sources confirmed at least three explosions, with one centred on the government building housing the Higher Committee for Children.

Al Jazeera said: “Reuters quoted Libyan officials as saying that four children were injured by flying glass, and two of them were seriously injured. Officials showed foreign journalists damage to a hospital’s glass, saying it was caused by the NATO missile strike.”

Akhbar reported the same casualty toll, citing Reuters as well.

A locally shot video shows a news crew walking through the rubble in the government building housing the Higher Commission for Children. Another shows the ruins of a residential area reported to have been hit by the airstrikes.

Agence France-Presse reported four explosions at 2am local time, followed by two more explosions. At least three explosions were confirmed by CNN. Multiple sources confirmed explosions on a nearby hospital as well.

NATO itself only confirmed airstrikes on “6 Vehicle Storages, 3 Ammunition Storages, 1 Surface-To-Air Missile Launcher, 1 Self-Propelled Anti Aircraft Gun” in the vicinity of Tripoli.

The incident occured at 02:00:00 local time.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    4
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    NATO forces
  • Known targets
    Gaddafi forces, Other

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (2) [ collapse]

  • The video shows a news crew walking through the rubble of the building housing the Higher Commission for Children. Libyan authorities have stated that this building was completely destroyed by the airstrikes.
  • The video shows the bombings on what is reported to be residential buildings housing doctors. The Libyan government spokesman at the time, Moussa Ibrahim, told CNN that a hospital had been hit "indirectly".

Geolocation notes (5) [ collapse]

Reports of the incident mention the building of the High Committee for Children ( العليا للأطفال وسط) being struck in central Tripoli (طرابلس). Analyzing audio-visual material from sources we have narrowed down the location to these exact coordinates: 32.898242, 13.206442.

  • Reports of the incident mention the building of the High Committee for Children (العليا للأطفال وسط) being struck in central Tripoli (طرابلس).

  • Close up of exact location with evidence of damage.

  • Tagged satellite imagery according to audio-visual material from sources.

  • Tagged audio-visual material from sources.

  • Tagged audio-visual material from sources.

NATO forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    NATO forces
  • NATO forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

NATO forces

In the vicinity of Tripoli: 6 Vehicle Storages, 3 Ammunition Storages, 1 Surface-To-Air Missile
Launcher, 1 Self-Propelled Anti Aircraft Gun.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    Unknown
  • Civilians reported injured
    4
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    NATO forces
  • Known targets
    Gaddafi forces, Other

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM012-C

Incident date

May 24, 2010

Location

مَأْرِب, Marib, Yemen

Geolocation

15.329227, 45.441995 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Province/governorate level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Between three and six civilians died and two to three others were wounded in a botched US airstrike in Marib Province on May 24, 2010, according to local sources. In addition, between one and two militants were killed and another injured in the same incident.

Civilian victims were named as:

Jaber Ben Ali Ben Jaber al-Shabwani, male, deputy governor of Marib (dead)
Abd Al-Majid Said ‘Anij Al-Shabwani, male (dead)
Ali ‘Aziz Al-Ja’uri Al-Dhamari, male (dead)
Fahd, uncle of Jaber al-Shabwani (wounded)
Fahd Ben Saoud Ben Maj’al al-Shabwani (wounded)
Muhammed Ben Said Ben Jamil, brother of Ali Ben Said Ben Jamil who is allegedly an AQAP member (wounded)

The US strike on a convoy of vehicles in the Marib desert reportedly killed Marib Province’s deputy governor, Jaber al-Shabwani, who was a top mediator in the government effort to demilitarize members of AQAP. Al-Shabwani was in a key position to negotiate, given that his brother, Ayad, was the local AQAP leader. On May 24, multiple sources, including Front Page, reported that the deputy governor had been en route to meet Al Qaeda members to seek their surrender. Reuters reported that the strike had meant to hit a farm allegedly harboring Al Qaeda operatives Ayed al-Shabwani and Mohammed Saeed bin Jaradan. Both names have been cited by news sources as alleged intended targets.

Reports on the death toll of the incident vary.

Swiss human rights group Alkamara named three who died in the strike in an October 2013 report. Along with deputy governor al Shabwani, the researchers found Abd al Majid Said Anij al Shabwani and Ali Aziz al Jauri al Dhamari were killed. The uncle, Fahed al Shabwani, was injured, according to the report.

Reuters cited a member of the local council in Marib according to whom the pre-down strike on Jaber al-Shabwani’s car killed him and three of his companions, while also wounding two others.

Aletq reported that “Al-Shabwani was killed with four of his bodyguards on Monday night”.

Long War Journal reported that “Jaber al-Shabwani, five of his bodyguards, and two Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives, including a local leader, were killed in an airstrike (…).” Shabwani was killed while meeting with Al Qaeda leader Mohammed Saeed bin Jameel at his farm, the Yemen Observer reported. Jameel, who is also known as Mohammed Saeed bin Jardane, and another al Qaeda operative were reported killed in the strike. The death of Mohammed bin Jameel was also reported by Al Jazeera. However, other sources including BBC News, RTT News and Aletq said that Jameel was only wounded and escaped.

In 2012, Project on Middle East Political Science reported that “The Marib governorate, east of Sanaa, has been wracked with chaos ever since the death of Jaber al-Shabwani, son of prominent Sheikh Ali al-Shabwani, killed by a U.S. drone strike in May 2010.”

Immediately after the strike occurred, Al Jazeera wrote that “Members of Jaber al-Shabwani tribe responded to his killing by attacking the pipeline that carries oil from Marib to Ras Isa, a terminal on the Red Sea coast.” The Nation said that tribesman also opened fire on government buildings and tried to occupy the presidential palace in Marib. “As anti-government protest began sweeping the country, Ali and his tribesmen ramped up their campaign against the government’s infrastructure. The oil pipeline was attacked several more times, and attacks against power stations began”, according to Foreign Policy and POMEPS.

While the Yemeni authorities expressed their regret at the killing of a senior official in the Marib governorate and formed a committee to investigate the incident, Marib Press reported on March 15, 2011, almost a year after the strike occurred, that tribesman once again blew up oil pipelines because the government had still not disclose the exact circumstances of the death of al-Shabwani. In July 2012, Yemen Press reported that oil export still had not resumed “because tribesmen prevented the repair of the main crude pipeline that was sabotaged last year.”

The destruction of oil pipelines led to billions of dollars lost in revenue for the Yemeni government and major fuel shortages, as reported by CS monitor and Yemen Press. Moreover, Alkamara said that the strike on al-Shabwani raised the appeal of Al Qaeda in the region. Similarly, the New York times called the May strike “a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda”. NYT quoted Abdul Ghani al-Eryani, a Yemeni political analyst, according to whom “the civilians deaths gave ammunition to Al Qaeda and the Salafists.” According to the NYT, “It would be 12 months before the US struck again in Yemen.

Sources are conflicted as to who is responsible for the strike. Arab News reported that “A statement from a Yemeni High Security Council source expressed sorrow for the death of Al-Shabwani and called him a martyr, but did not specify who carried out the strike or what type of aircraft was used. However, Ahmed Bin Zabaa, a member of the panel investigating the May 24 strike said that “locals blamed a US drone that has been flying in their area for several months now for the strike.” Similarly, Mareb Press reported that “Sheikh Ali bin Jaber al-Shabwani (…) was killed by a US drone aircraft (…).” US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on questions about the possible US involvement in airstrikes in Yemen, but did confirm that the US continues to provide logistical and intelligence support for Yemeni counterterrorism operations.

In late 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that some current and former US military officials were now claiming that they were fed misleading intelligence which “may have been intended to result in Mr. Shabwani’s death.” But there was also a clear suggestion of incompetence. An official involved in the operation told the paper: “It turned out you didn’t really know who was at all those [Yemeni] meetings. JSOC, frankly, wasn’t as up to speed as they should have been.”

The Yemen government reportedly provided intelligence used in the strike but denied that it had misled the US in any way.

The incident took place in the late evening of Monday May 24th, as reported by Yemen media in the immediate aftermath. According to Alkamara the strike took place at approximately 8pm. Soon afterwards the date of May 25th was more commonly stated.

Due to the nature of both CIA and US military involvement in Yemen, and the lack of official acknowledgement by the CIA for their involvement, Airwars grades this event as “declared” due to the comments made by US government sources to media, in lieu of public reporting on CIA actions. It is unclear if US involvement in the operation was limited to providing intelligence and munitions, or also included more extensive operational actions

The incident occured in the evening.

The victims were named as:

Family members (6)

Adult male deputy governor of Marib killed
Adult male Reported injured by Alkarama killed
Adult male injured
Adult male injured
Adult male Reported killed by Alkarama killed
Adult male Reported injured by Alkarama injured

The victims were named as:

Adult male killed
Adult male Reported injured by Alkarama, brother of Ali Ben Said Ben Jamil who is allegedly an AQAP member killed
Adult male Reported killed by Alkarama killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 6
  • (3–6 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (103) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Tribal leader Jaber al-Shabwani (shown second from right) participating in a seminar on development in Ma’rib in March 2010, two months before he was killed in a U.S. drone strike. (Photo: Nadwa Al-Dawsari, posted by POMED)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention Marib (مَأْرِب) province, for which the generic coordinates are: 15.329227, 45.441995. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

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US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

In late 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that some current and former US military officials were now claiming that they were fed misleading intelligence which “may have been intended to result in Mr. Shabwani’s death.” But there was also a clear suggestion of incompetence. An official involved in the operation told the paper: “It turned out you didn’t really know who was at all those [Yemeni] meetings. JSOC, frankly, wasn’t as up to speed as they should have been.”

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Drone Strike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    3 – 6
  • (3–6 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    2–3
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    1–2
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–1

Sources (103) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM004-B

Incident date

December 24, 2009

Location

وادي رفض, Wadi Rafadh, Shabwa, Yemen

Geolocation

14.185053, 46.948228 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

In the dawn hours of Dec. 24, 2009, a cruise missile launched by the United States struck a farmhouse in the Rafdh Valley, located in Yemen’s Shabwa province, killing between 5-34 militants associated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, colloquially known as AQAP. While there are no known reports of civilians being killed or injured in the strike, the number of militants, as well as their rank and significance, is contested.

On the day the strike took place, the Yemeni embassy in Washington D.C. issued a press release taking credit for the strike. The Yemeni government claimed that several high-profile AQAP militants, such as AQAP’s commander of operations in Yemen, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, and his deputy, Said al-Shihri, had been killed. The Yemeni military, officials claimed, had successfully carried out a “decapitating strike” against Al Qaeda’s network in Yemen. A Reprieve report titled “You Never Die Twice” added that Fahd al-Qasaa was also targeted in this strike.

Another name was listed that immediately caught the attention of western media: Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born cleric who had exchanged emails with the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hassan. Several outlets, such as the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, and Reuters, writing in the days following the strike, claimed that Awlaki could be among the dead.

It did not take long for the government’s narrative to change. While most reporting from the week following the Dec. 24 strike put the number of militants killed at 30-34, some publications, such as The Guardian and the Washington Post, cited reports that only five AQAP militants had been buried.

This number was the one later cited by the New York Times in more in-depth reporting on the raid published in July and August 2010, and that reporting states that the five militants killed were low-level fighters, some of them even lodging with AQAP for the first time the night they were killed.

In the days following the strike, other details soon emerged that cast doubt on the Saleh government’s narrative, already viewed skeptically by the Yemeni public. On Dec. 25, 2009, CBS News stated that Awlaki was probably still alive. On Dec. 26, the Associated Press reported that Awlaki was “​​alive and well.”

Jeremy Scahill, reporting for The Nation on March 30, 2011, noted that “​​In the coming months clear evidence that Awlaki, Wuhayshi and Shihri were not killed in the attack would emerge, as each of them appeared in video or audio messages.” Later documentation shows that Awlaki was killed in September of 2011.

It soon became clear that the Yemeni government wasn’t honest about who conducted the Dec. 24 strike, as well as a strike one week earlier on Dec. 17 in the province of Abyan. Confirming the suspicions of many in the Yemeni public, evidence emerged that the Dec. 17 strike had been conducted not by the Yemeni government as was originally claimed, but by the United States.

A Reuters article published on 3rd December 2010, nearly a year later, reported that the President Saleh admitted lying to the Yemeni public about the cruise missile strikes on Al-Qaeda in December 2009 saying they were the work of Yemeni forces, with support from US intelligence. This article draws on a diplomatic cable dated 4 January 2010, which refers to a meeting between CENTCOM Commander General Petraeus and President Saleh on 2 January 2010 during which it reports that Petraeus congratulated Saleh on recent operations against Al Qaeda and told him of an increase in security assistance to Yemen. The cable also says that President Saleh praised the 17th and 24th December strikes, but that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in the Abyan strike, which occurred on 17th. The cable further says that “Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are ‘not very accurate’ and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. ‘We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,’ Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.”

Taken together, the Dec. 17 and Dec. 24 strikes represented an escalation of American military involvement in Yemen, the early stages of a quiet and opaque war that the Obama administration would fight against AQAP in which Yemeni civilians often paid a high price for botched strikes.

In Shabwa, the New York Times reported in July 2010 that in the days following the Dec. 24 strike, locals decided that the presence of AQAP militants had become a liability, and asked them to leave the area.

The US strikes in Yemen also ignited fierce debate in the United States over the limitations, or lack thereof, applied to the conduct of the war on terror in regions such as Yemen, outside of officially delineated battle spaces such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

Due to the nature of both CIA and US military involvement in Yemen, and the lack of official acknowledgement by the CIA for their involvement, Airwars grades this event as “declared” following the revelations of US role contained in the released US diplomatic cables, in lieu of public reporting on CIA actions. It is unclear if US involvement in the operation was limited to providing intelligence and munitions, or also included more extensive operational actions

The incident occured around dawn.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–34

Sources (24) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention Wadi Rafd (وادي رفض), for which the generic coordinates are: 14.185053, 46.948228. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

(S/NF) Saleh praised the December 17 and 24 strikes
against AQAP but said that "mistakes were made" in the
killing of civilians in Abyan. The General responded that
the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of
an AQAP operative at the site, prompting Saleh to plunge into
a lengthy and confusing aside with Deputy Prime Minister
Alimi and Minister of Defense Ali regarding the number of
terrorists versus civilians killed in the strike. (Comment:
Saleh's conversation on the civilian casualties suggests he
has not been well briefed by his advisors on the strike in
Abyan, a site that the ROYG has been unable to access to
determine with any certainty the level of collateral damage.
End Comment.) AQAP leader Nassr al-Wahishi and extremist
cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may still be alive, Saleh said, but
the December strikes had already caused al-Qaeda operatives
to turn themselves in to authorities and residents in
affected areas to deny refuge to al-Qaeda. Saleh raised the
issue of the Saudi Government and Jawf governorate tribal
sheikh Amin al-Okimi, a subject that is being reported
through other channels.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    5–34

Sources (24) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM002-C

Incident date

December 17, 2009

Location

المعجلة, Al Majala, Abyan, Yemen

Geolocation

13.972421, 46.451482 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Village level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

At least forty-seven civilians, including at least twenty-two children and twelve women, were reportedly killed after a US cruise-missile strike targeted an alleged AQAP training camp on the edge of Al-Majala village, Mahfad district of Abyan governorate, at around 6 AM on December 17th 2009. This was the first known strike in Yemen approved by the Obama administration, and the first known strike conducted by the US in Yemen since 2002. The strike came alongside other reported US-Yemeni counter-terror operations in the country on the same day. Later reports suggested that uncleared bomblets continued to constitute a fatal hazard to civilians for years after the strike.

Though the Yemeni defence ministry initially briefed that they had conducted the strike, killing “between 24 and 30 Al-Qaeda militants, including foreigners…while training”, according to AFP, local accounts and investigators into the strike instead highlighted the large number of civilian fatalities. Evidence collected at the strike location, briefings by US officials, and information obtained in the Wikileaks files confirmed that US naval forces had targeted the village with multiple Tomahawk missiles, loaded with cluster munitions, or “bomblets”.

A Yemeni parliamentary commission, which visited the area, reported in February 2010 that forty-one civilians were killed, and at least seven – including women and children – were wounded, in the immediate aftermath of the missile strikes. Those killed that were named by the report were from just two family groups; fourteen were from the Haydara family, and twenty-seven were from the Anbour family.

The report stated that, of those killed, twenty-two were children; the youngest named by the report, Khadija Ali Mokbel Salem, was just one year old when she died. Nineteen of those killed were less than ten-years-old, the report stated. The Al-Karama Foundation also listed twenty-two children killed.

According to the Al-Karama Foundation’s list of casualties, six children were injured by the strike. Two of those who survived the strike were Samia Luqia Al-Anbouri, aged two at the time of the strike, who Al-Karama reported “was hit in the stomach and back by a bomb fragment”, and Nada Luqia Al-Anbouri, aged three in December 2009, who Al-Karama reported was “unscathed”, but nonetheless listed as “injured”.

Human Rights Watch later spoke with three of the four orphaned child survivors of the strike in 2013 – Nada Loqyah Mahdi, Aysha Nassar Mahdi, and Muhammad Ali Loqyah – who were aged five, four, and seven at the time of the interview. “Aysha raised a hand to show a finger she lost in the airstrike. Nada showed the gashes on her stomach from fragments of the ordnance. ‘Nada had been really healthy,” Medhi said. “Now she is very thin and vomits all the time. There may still be some fragments in her stomach but we can’t afford another operation.'”

Dexter Filkins wrote for The New Yorker that, in March 2011, he had “met a fifteen-year-old named Fatima Ali, who rolled up the sleeve of her chador, revealing hideous burns. Another girl showed me her hand, which was missing a finger. She had lost her mother in the raid”. Fatima Ali Muhammed Nasser, aged thirteen at the time of the strike, was listed by the Al-Karama Foundation as one of those injured. The Yemeni parliamentary report indicated that Fatima was the only survivor of the Haydara family, and required medical attention “abroad”. According to the Al-Karama report, three children died on their way to hospital.

The parliamentary report further listed that twelve of those killed were women. Residents later told Human Rights Watch that five were pregnant at the time of the strike, though other sources, such as the Al-Karama Foundation, indicated that as many as seven pregnant women were killed. Some sources indicated that fewer or more women were killed; locals told Human Rights Watch that nine women had died, while the Al-Karama Foundation explicitly listed ten women as deceased, and one as injured.

Seven civilian men were killed, according to the parliamentary report. Aden Press reported that nineteen male “nomads” had been killed, seemingly referring to civilians, though possibly including alleged AQAP militants. From the Anbour family, local residents told the commission, only one male survived, Houssain Abdallah Awad Aabad, a man in his thirties. The Al-Karama Foundation listed one man as injured in the strike.

The report also indicated that three additional civilians – Khaled Mohammed Ali, Nasser Saleh Al-Souedi, and Mithaq Al-Jild – were killed, and nine wounded, by unexploded ordnance on December 21st 2009. The Alkarama Foundation indicated that four had died, and twenty-five had been injured, in this secondary blast.

Reported fatalities continued for years after the initial strike and the publication of the report. The Al-Karama report stated that, in 2010, a bomblet floated five kilometres down a nearby river, killing two people gathering herbs and injuring four others. Locals, including a relative, told Human Rights Watch that on January 24th 2012 – over two years after the strike – a child brought a bomblet home with him, which detonated, killing the boy’s father, Salem Atef Ali Basyoul, and injuring the boy and two siblings. This was also reported by Yemeni tribal leader, and member of the parliamentary commission, Sheikh Saleh Bin Fareed, to Democracy Now. The Alkarama Foundation and Arij.Net further reported that the mother was also injured in this explosion.

Other sources gave slightly higher estimates of casualty numbers in al-Majala. Human rights activist Abbas Al-Assal, a local resident, denied the existence of an AQAP camp in the area to the Associated Press, and said that sixty-four were killed, including twenty-three children and seventeen women. Alkhaleej similarly reported that, according to a local mosque official, 49 civilians were killed, including 23 children and 17 women. According to Reuters, “residents and opposition groups said about 50 civilians were killed”. In 2012, an Al-Jazeera retrospective reported that forty-six were killed, of which “only three” were young men. Local sources told The Guardian that “about 50 people were killed, and some 60 injured”. According to Aden Press, 62 were killed, including “28 children and a woman”, and 88 wounded, while one Facebook source, Helmy al-Redfani, claimed that, according to news sources, there had been more than seventy “martyrs” and “hundreds” of wounded civilians.

Given that the names and numbers given by the commission were accepted by the Yemeni government on publication, and the later investigations by Human Rights Watch and Al-Karama appeared to broadly corroborate their findings, these figures have been taken by Airwars as minimum alleged civilian casualty figures. Including the findings of the commission, as well as the later post-strike casualties reported by human rights investigators, the minimum number of reported civilian deaths has been assessed by Airwars as forty-seven, including at least twenty-two children, twelve women, and eleven men. The minimum number of civilian injuries has been, similarly, set at twenty-three, including nine children, one woman, and one man. Given the higher reports mentioned above, maximum alleged civilians deaths has been set by Airwars at sixty-four, with a maximum of seventeen women, twenty-eight children, and nineteen male civilians. Maximum alleged civilian injuries have been set at eighty-eight.

The parliamentary commission’s list of named civilian fatalities has also been used as the basis for the names listed below; a variant list provided by the Al-Karama Foundation has been incorporated into the list as a secondary source.

Responsibility for the strike was officially shouldered by the Yemeni government. On December 23rd 2009, the Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security, Rashad al-Alimi, told the Yemeni parliament that the recent air raids had been a “Yemeni decision carried out by Yemeni security units”, almotamar reported. Al-Alimi blamed Al-Qaeda for civilian casualties, describing them as “families of these elements brought to cook for them”. Officials told the New York Times that the US had “provided firepower, intelligence and other support” in the conduct of the mid-December strikes, but otherwise indicated that the Yemeni government was in the lead throughout. President Obama reportedly called President Saleh on the day of the strikes, to congratulate him on the “successful terror raids”, according to state press agency Saba.

On March 3rd 2010, when the findings of the Yemeni parliamentary commission were approved by parliament, “the Yemen government apologized to the victims’ families, describing the killings as a “mistake” during an operation that was meant to target al-Qa’ida militants, and said that committees would be established to provide compensation for the people killed and the property destroyed”, according to Amnesty.

At the time of the strike, however, US officials told ABC and Fox News that, on orders from President Obama, the US military had targeted alleged AQAP sites with cruise missiles on the morning of the Al-Majala strike. In June 2010, Amnesty International published a series of photographs showing the wreckage of a US-made BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile, as well as the BLU 97 A/B cluster munitions carried by it, in the Al-Majala area. These cluster munitions, Amnesty indicated, “are known to be held only by US forces”. The US strikes conducted on December 17th 2009 were codenamed “Copper Dune”, according to Human Rights Watch and other sources.

US responsibility for the strike was confirmed in a series of leaked classified minutes and cables. On December 21st 2009, Ambassador Stephen Seche summarised a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister al-Alimi: “The ROYG views the December 17 CT operations as a success and a benefit to Yemeni national interests, and appears not overly concerned about unauthorized leaks regarding the U.S. role and negative media attention to civilian deaths. ROYG officials continue to publicly maintain that the operation was conducted entirely by its forces, acknowledging U.S. support strictly in terms of intelligence sharing. Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi told the Ambassador on December 20 that any evidence of greater U.S. involvement ) such as fragments of U.S. munitions found at the sites – could be explained away as equipment purchased from the US”.

Al-Alimi also told Seche that, alongside some compensation, “the ROYG has recruited a number of local political and religious leaders to visit the ares affected by the air strikes in Abyan to explain o the people the need for the operation and the danger that AQAP poses to all Yemenis”. Al-Alimi assured Seche that “the Governor of Abyan visited the site after the operation and confirmed that there were no villages, houses, or civilian institutions that were damaged, only the training camp, and the encampments of the non-combatant Bedouin population”. Any civilians killed were acting in “collusion” with AQAP, Seche was told.

In January 2010, Yemeni President Saleh and US Central Command’s General Petraeus held a meeting, the minutes of which were published online by Wikileaks. “‘We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,’ Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG”, the minutes read. During the meeting, Saleh told Petraeus that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in Abyan. Petraeus responded only that “the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site”.

Shortly after the strike, Yemeni security and administrative sources, including the deputy governor of Abyan, indicated that the target had been suspected AQAP leader Mohammed Saleh al-Kazemi, also known as Mohammed Saleh al-Anbouri, who was killed in the strike. According to Al-Jazeera, al-Kazemi was “a Saudi who had resided in the country since fighting in Afghanistan. He was imprisoned in Yemen for two years before being released in 2005”. A Yemeni official told CNN that al-Kazemi “was implicated in planning the July 2007 suicide attack that killed nine people, including seven Spanish tourists at the Sun temple in the province of Marib”, and that he “also provided safe haven to foreign al Qaeda militants operating in Yemen”.

While Yemeni government sources initially stated that at least twenty-four AQAP militants in the “training camp” had been killed by the strike, other sources gave varying assessments of the numbers of alleged militants killed. Ahmad Al-Mayssary, governor of Abyan, told the Yemeni parliamentary committee that al-Kazimi had opened a “training camp” in Al-Majala, where over twenty “Saudi, Emirati and Pakistani Al-Qaeda members” trained, including “a Pakistani expert in poisons and explosives”. The commission’s final report, however, indicated only that, according to the Abyan governor and security leaders, fourteen AQAP members had been killed, and seven injured. Only two suspects, al-Kazimi and Abdul Rahman Ka’ed Al‐Thamary, were named by the report.

According to The Guardian, Deputy Prime Minister Al-Alimi stated that twenty-four AQAP suspects were killed, including “two Saudis, two Pakistanis and an unknown number of Egyptians, as well as five other unidentified foreigners”. A security source further indicated that five were wounded, and later arrested in Aden.

In a January 3rd report, from state news agency Saba, security sources named AQAP militants killed in the strike as “Mohammad al-Kazimi, Mithaq al-Jaled, Ubad Salem Muqbel, Samir Sheikh Mohammad Amqida (a cousin of terrorist Abdul-Mune’m al-Qahtani), Saudi Mohammad al-Thara’an and another Saudi element called al-Kindi”, as well as further unidentified persons. The report also indicated that “five terrorists” had been injured, named as “Abdullah Salem Ali, Haidrah Ali, Mohammad Salem, Abdurrahman Mohammad Qayed and Fattah al-Amri”. The report also stated that AQAP militants had “booby-trapped” the area after the strike, leading to post-strike fatalities that many blamed, instead, on unexploded ordnance.

At the time of the strike, however, local sources told Al-Masdar Online that only six Al-Qaeda members had been killed, and four wounded. Local sources, likewise, told Al-Sahwa Net that, in addition to al-Kazimi, Munir al-Ambouri and four other AQAP members had been killed. These numbers are taken by Airwars as the minimum alleged militant casualties in the strike.

Further reporting, however, raised considerable doubts over the belligerent status of these alleged militants. Locals told the parliamentary commission that twenty days before the strike, al-Kazimi and six others not from the local area, including Al‐Thamary, had begun work on a well near the Anbour family residential area, which was observed by the parliamentary commission. “They cooked their own food and lived in a small tent… We will not allow the erection of a camp in our neighbourhood which would harm our children,” the report quoted the locals as saying. After being released from prison, Al-Kazimi had obtained sheep and goats from local tribal leaders in exchange for his commitment not to involve himself with Al-Qaeda, the commission heard. He lived with his family on the edge of the residential area – all were reportedly killed in the strike. Members of the parliamentary commission later told Amnesty International that they had observed no evidence of a training camp in the area.

Local residents told Human Rights Watch that “they were not aware that [al-Kazimi] was engaged in military operations and had not seen a training camp, but added that they could not be sure”. “I challenge anybody in the United States of America, especially the American government, to prove that there was anybody from al-Qaeda at that site at all,” Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed, a member of the parliamentary committee, told Democracy Now. As Jeremy Scahill noted in The Nation, “whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested”. Nasser Mahdi, a local, told Aden Press that the villagers “knew nothing about Al Qaeda in the first place… no one has ever invited us to join Al Qaeda”.

In the aftermath of the strike, local sources reported to the parliamentary commission, armed persons came at 3 PM and took away six dead bodies to an unknown location. Medical officials in Abyan told the commission that, soon after the strike, seven wounded and five dead individuals were escorted to the Mahnaf Hospital, in Lawdar district, but that the escorts prevented the identification of the dead. Names provided at the hospital were believed to be fictitious. These people prevented anybody from entering or leaving the hospital, until the dead and wounded were moved to another unknown location at 7 PM.

Whether al-Kazimi was or was not an active AQAP member, locals consistently indicated that an indiscriminate cruise missile salvo was wholly unnecessary.  Mohammed Nasser Ali, a member of the Anbour family, told the parliamentary commission that, as to al-Kazimi, “if the government wants him it could have found him somewhere else; he was moving from Modiya to Mahfad to Shabwah. And if he committed murders in another location, killing everybody is a shame and a sin towards us and towards our children”.  The director of Mahfad district told the commission, similarly, that al-Kazimi moved “freely” between Mahfad, Mudiyah, and Ataq, and could have been arrested at any time. “Grave mistakes occurred in the operation due to failures of information, which led to a large number of civilian deaths,” a provincial security official told Al-Jazeera. “If [al-Kazemi] was wanted, why didn’t the authorities come and arrest him all this time?”

“Kazimi has the right to live with his family, and if he is a member of al-Qaida then he should have been punished alone,” Mukbel Ali al-Anbour, a tribal leader, told The Guardian. “But 45 women and children and more than 1,000 animals were killed.”

The parliamentary report specified that the strike targeted two residential areas in the pastoral Katana valley, the first around a kilometre east of the second, both approximately three kilometres north of Al-Majala. The easternmost area was reported to have been home to the Haydara family for decades, while the other had been home to the Anbour family for three years. The families tended sheep and bees, with no contact from the state. The Governor of Abyan told the commission that residents had reported an aircraft flying low in the area, allegedly taking pictures, for over two months prior to the strike.

According to Jeremy Scahill, writing in the The Nation, at least one Tomahawk missile was launched from a submarine off the coast of Yemen that morning. The munitions found at the strike location were identified as BLU 97 A/B bomblets, which, The Nation reported, “explode into some 200 sharp steel fragments that can spray more than 400 feet away” – one Tomahawk missile can carry over 160 bomblets, which can also contain incendiary material. The number of missiles deployed by the US was unclear. According to Al-Karama, four missiles hit the Haydara tribal area, while another hit the Anbouri tribal area. “Authorization for the strikes was rushed through Saleh’s office because of ‘actionable’ intelligence that Al Qaeda suicide bombers were preparing for strikes in Sana,” Jeremy Scahill wrote.

“I thought a petrol tanker had exploded, but the mountains around me shook so hard,” a local resident, away from the village at the time of the strike, told Guardian journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. Abdul Mutalib, another witness, said that he saw people and animals burning: ” “A woman was burning in her tent. I tried to get her out but I couldn’t”. While observing the debris of the strike, including melted shoes amid remnant bright-yellow cluster munitions, another, Muqbel al-Kazimi, repeated that “there were fewer than ten men, and they lived in a couple of tents on the edge of Ba Kazim camp… The fighters told the Bedouin they would dig a well for them to get water”.

Dexter Filkins, published in The New Yorker, spoke with survivors of the strike in March 2011. “Hussein Abdullah, a herdsman, told me that he had been tending a herd of goats and camels when Al Majalah was hit. He recalled lying in his tent at sunrise, half-awake, when there was an enormous flash. ‘The sky turned white,’ Abdullah said. ‘Everything suddenly disappeared.’ He was knocked unconscious, and when he came to, he told me, he saw his wife running toward him. ‘And when she threw her arms around me I felt blood all over me,’ he said. She died, as did his daughter; only his infant son survived”.

In February 2013, investigators for the Al-Karama foundation, on a joint mission with the HOOD human rights organisation, visited Al-Majala.  “In the early morning, while I was on my way back, I heard explosions in the distance. I hurried home and when I saw the massacre, I was in shock. It was horrible: flames everywhere, bodies, tree and cars burning. The survivors were trying to rescue the injured and take stock of what had happened. Around 8:30am people came together and gathered the remains of the bodies that had been scattered in the trees and on the ground. Most homes and properties were destroyed. Many animals; goats, sheep, and camels had perished,” Muqbil Salem Luqia Al-Anbouri, who reportedly lost children, grandchildren, and three wives in the strike, told the investigators. “I found my beautiful daughter holding her youngest girl Khadidja. They were still burning even though their bodies were already completely carbonized,” he added.

Several sources reported that the devastation inflicted by the strike necessitated the opening of a mass grave near the village. “The residents picked up the shredded body parts of those killed without being able to distinguish one from another. The limbs were often mixed with those of animals that exploded at the same time. Without the ability to identify individuals, families buried their loved ones in a shared grave,” Al-Karama reported. The Yemeni parliamentary commission found that explosives had been spread over 1.5 kilometres of the strike site.

Saleh bin Fareed told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that “the clothes of the women and children were hanging from the treetops with the flesh on every tree, every rock. But you did not know if the flesh was of human beings or animals. Some bodies were intact but most, they melted”. Locals indicated to HRW that all thirty houses in the area had burned on the day of the strike, of which twelve were destroyed. Days after the incident, Al-Jazeera published video that apparently showed several civilians killed during the raid.

The strikes prompted a considerable public reaction in Yemen. Al-Jazeera reported that, in response to the strikes, “dozens” of Yemenis protested in the streets in Abyan governorate on December 18th 2009. On December 19th 2009, Aden Aden reported that cities in Shabwa and Abyan governorate saw the displacement of “a number of northern families”, “against the background of the Majala massacre”. One local-language Facebook source, “Helmy Al-Redfani”, indicated that a meeting of tribal sheikhs and leaders of the “Southern Movement” were meeting on Mahfad district on December 21st 2009. According to the Yemeni parliamentary report, it was at a gathering on that day that unexploded ordnance in the area detonated, killing and wounding several; Al-Karama reported that “hundreds” of tribal members had gathered on that day.

According to one Facebook user, “Bakr Ahmed”, the tribal National Solidarity Council condemned the strike, saying that it was “brutally unlawful and indiscriminate in the manner of its implementation, while the authority could use another method to achieve its goal without causing such destruction and destroying these innocent souls”.

Al-Qaeda members also sought to exploit the strike. A few days after the strike, The Guardian reported, AQAP leadership figures Nasser Wahayshi and Saeed al-Shihri travelled to Abyan to mourn al-Kazimi, while “al-Qaida member Mohamed Saleh al-Awlaki urged a gathering of thousands of tribesmen to stand by al-Qaida”. At the December 21st 2009 protest, Human Rights Watch reported that an AQAP operative declared: “Soldiers, you should know we do not want to fight you. There is no problem between you and us. The problem is between us and America and its agents. Beware taking the side of America!” According to The Guardian, the AQAP members were then tracked to Rafd, Shabwa governorate, where an alleged December 24th 2009 drone strike killed at least five.

Despite accepting the recommendations of the parliamentary report, the Yemeni government did not immediately implement its recommendations on clearing the Majala area of munitions and granting compensation to survivors, according to Human Rights Watch. According the leaked cable from US Ambassador Seche, the Yemeni government initially gave the Governor of Abyan 20 million rial to compensate the families of those killed and wounded.

A second Yemeni government offer of 5.5 million rials for each civilian killed was rejected by the villagers. A local told Human Rights Watch that the government “offered us 10 Toyota Hiluxes as a down payment if we agreed to the 5.5 million rials. We refused. We have said to the government from the start, we want 10 billion rials [$51,000] compensation. We were flexible. We could have agreed on a lower sum. But the government refused”. Some families finally received some compensation, for property damage only, in mid-2013, dividing 37 million rials between ten households. In 2012, according to al-Masdar Online, Akhbar Al-Youm reported that a US official had secretly supplied $1m in compensation for each person killed; no other known sources reported this.

Fearing that a government clearance effort would hide evidence of the strike, villagers told Human Rights Watch that they had called for an international site clearance team.

Yemeni journalist Abd al-Ilah Haidar al-Shayi’, who initially reported on the US role in the al-Majala strike, was imprisoned in February 2011 on terrorism charges for a term of five years. According to Jeremy Scahill, writing in the New Yorker and speaking with Democracy Now, it was al-Shayi’ who provided the first images of the munitions wreckage to Amnesty International, enabling the identification of a US involvement in the strike.

In Democracy Now, al-Shayi’ was quoted as saying, from a cage in a Yemeni courtroom: “When they hid murderers of children and women in Abyan, when I revealed the locations and camps of nomads and civilians in Abyan, Shabwa and Arhab, when they were going to be hit by cruise missiles, it was on that day they decided to arrest me. You noticed in the court how they have turned all of my journalistic contributions and quotations to international reporters and channels into accusations. Yemen, this is a place where the young journalist becomes successful, he is considered with suspicion”.

In February 2011, when President Saleh agreed to pardon al-Shayi’, President Obama called Saleh and “expressed concern” regarding his release from prison, leading to the pardon being scrapped. In July 2013, al-Shayi’s sentence was commuted to two year’s house arrest by President Hadi. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that the US was “concerned and disappointed by his early release”, according to the Associated Press.

When Al-Karama investigators visited the area, locals reported to them that several residents exposed to the strike had gotten cancer in the subsequent years, and wanted to know whether there might have been a link with the munitions used.

Due to the nature of both CIA and US military involvement in Yemen, and the lack of official acknowledgement by the CIA for their involvement, Airwars grades this event as “declared” due to the comments made by US government sources to media, in lieu of public reporting on CIA actions.

The incident occured at approximately 6:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (5)

Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala
60 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Nousa Mohammed Saleh El-Souwa
30 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Nasser Mohammed Nasser
6 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Arwa Mohammed Nasser
4 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Fatima Mohammed Nasser
2 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed

Family members (7)

Ali Mohammed Nasser
35 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Qubla Al-Kharibi Salem
25 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as 30 years old killed
Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser
9 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser
7 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser
5 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser
4 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Fatima Ali Mohammed Nasser
13 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama injured

Family members (3)

Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala
30 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as 32 years old killed
Qubla Salem Nasser
21 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as 25 years old killed
Mouhsena Ahmed Adiyou
50 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as 67 years old killed

Family members (7)

Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
37 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Saleha Ali Ahmed Mansour
30 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant killed
Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
13 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as 12 years old killed
Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
9 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
4 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye
3 years old female Also listedby Al-Karama killed
Sumia Abdallah Muqbil Salem Luqia
1.5 years old female Listed only by Al-Karama killed

Family members (7)

Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye
36 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Hanaa Abdallah Monser
28 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant killed
Moheile Mohammed Saeed Yaslem
30 years old male Not listed by Al-Karama killed
Safaa Ali Mokbel Salem
25 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as aged 2.5 years killed
Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye
1 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye
6 years old female Not listed by Al-Karama killed
Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye
4 years old male Not listed by Al-Karama killed

Family members (5)

Fatima Yaslem Al-Rawami
67 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Maryam Awad Nasser
43 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant killed
Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye
15 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as aged 1.5 years killed
Muqbil Salem Luqia
Adult male Listed by Al-Karama injured
Nada Muqbil Salem Luqia
2.7 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured

Family members (4)

Abdullah Awad Sheikh
65 years old male killed
Maryam Saleh Nasser
54 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured
Muqbil Abdallah ‘Awdh Shikh
22 years old female Listed only by Al-Karama killed
Ahmed Abdallah ‘Awdh Shikh
18 years old female Listed only by Al-Karama killed

Family members (5)

Hanane Mohammed Jadib
25 years old female pregnant Also listed by Al-Karama, as pregnant, but not explicitly as deceased killed
Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad
2 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad
1 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Khadija Husain ‘Abdallah ‘Awdh
2 years old female Only listed by Al-Karama killed
Husain Abdallah ‘Awdh Shikh
30 years old male Listed by Al-Karama, and not explicitly as deceased; Yemeni parliamentary report described as only survivor of his family

Family members (4)

Maryam Mokbel Salem Louqye
38 years old female pregnant Listed by Al-KArama as 28, and as pregnant killed
Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh
3 years old female Also listed by Al-Karama killed
‘Aisha Nasser Mahdi Ahmed Buh
1 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured
Nasser Mahdi Ahmed Buh
38 years old male Listed only by Al-Karama, and not explicitly as deceased

Family members (7)

Amina Abdullah Awad Sheikh
27 years old female pregnant Listed by Al-Karama as 28, and as pregnant killed
Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
12 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama, as daughter killed
Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
9 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama, as daughter killed
Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
4 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama, as daughter killed
Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed
2 years old male Also listed by Al-Karama killed
Saleh Muhammad Saleh
11 years old male Listed by Al-Karama injured
Jamila Muhammad Saleh
1 years old female Listed by Al-Karama injured

Family members (5)

Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali Basyul
62 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as killed in 2012 killed
Nur Sa’id Salem Lathaf
55 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured
Warda Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali
13 years old female Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured
Khaled Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali
12 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured
‘Ali Salem ‘Atef ‘Ali
10 years old male Listed by Al-Karama as injured in 2012 injured

The victims were named as:

Khaled Mohammed Ali
Adult male Reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance killed
Nasser Saleh Al-Soueidi
Adult male Reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance killed
Mithaq Al-Jild
Adult male Reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    47 – 64
  • (22–23 children12–17 women11–19 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    23–88
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–24
  • Belligerents reported injured
    4

Sources (66) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (24) [ collapse]

  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The al-Majala cruise missile strike resulted in the deaths of almost fifty civilians, including several women and children (al-Jazeera, December 17th 2009)
  • Video and images broadcast in the aftermath of the strikes showed a considerable death toll (Al-Jazeera, December 17th 2009)
  • Video and images broadcast in the aftermath of the strikes showed a considerable death toll (Al-Jazeera, December 19th 2009)
  • Pictures taken at the scene of the strike showed unexploded BLU 97 cluster bomblets and Tomahawk cruise missile wreckage, which only the US has the known capability to deploy (via Amnesty International)
  • The wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile chassis, reportedly pictured at the site of the strike (via Amnesty International)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Unexploded cluster munitions, which may have held incendiary material, continued to kill civilians years after the strike (Arabsgate, January 28th 2011)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The dead, from the initial strike, were from just two family groups, according to a Yemeni parliamentary commission (Arabsgate, January 18th 2011)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    The number of dead, and the impossibility of identification in some cases, necessitated the opening of a mass grave near the strike location (Arabsgate, January 28th 2011)
  • Yemeni journalist Abd al-Ilah Haidar al-Shayi', who initially reported on US involvement in the al-Majala strike, was imprisoned soon after on terrorism charges (The Nation, March 13th 2012)
  • Al-Shayi's sentence was due to be commuted in 2011, but US pressure allegedly led to his continued imprisonment (Associated Press, July 24th 2013)
  • Images of remnant munitions, pictured in Al-Majala by Al-Karama Foundation investigators (Al-Karama, September 2013)
  • Nada, a young girl who survived the al-Majala strike, in February 2013 (Al-Karama, September 2013)
  • Moqbil Boulquish reportedly lost twenty-eight members of his family in the strike (Al-Karama, September 2013)
  • Yemeni opposition groups, including exiled separatist leader Ali Salem al-Bayd, were outraged by the strikes (al-Jazeera. December 19th 2009)
  • Nada Mobqil Loqyah, 5, with her guardian Salaha Moqbil Loqyah. Nada was orphaned in the 2009 strike on al-Majalah. (via Human Rights Watch, 2013)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    Sumaya Muhammad al-Anbouri, 9, was among 41 civilians killed in a US cruise missile strike that also killed 14 alleged AQAP militants in al-Majalah on December 17, 2009. (via Human Rights Watch, 2009)
  • This media contains graphic content. Click to unblur.

    A number of children reportedly died from their injuries while on their way to hospital (Shabwa Press, December 17th 2014)
  • Yemeni officials described the target of the strike as Saleh Mohammed Ali al-Anbouri, also known as al-Kazemi, allegedly an AQAP leader. Locals, however, indicated that he had committed not to involve himself with AQAP after being recently released from prison. Him and his family all died in the strike. (CNN, December 19th 2009)
  • Moqbil Abu-Lukaish sits on remnants of one of the Tomahawk cruise missiles launched by the US Navy that struck al-Majalah on December 17, 2009. (via Human Rights Watch, 2012)
  • Wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile, reportedly pictured in al-Majala (via Amnesty International)
  • Wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile, pictured in al-Majala (via Amnesty International)
  • Wreckage of a Tomahawk cruise missile, pictured in al-Majala (via Amnesty International)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention the village of Al Majala (المعجلة), for which the generic coordinates are: 13.972421, 46.451482. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

At the time of the strike, however, US officials told ABC and Fox News that, on orders from President Obama, the US military had targeted alleged AQAP sites with cruise missiles on the morning of the Al-Majala strike.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    47 – 64
  • (22–23 children12–17 women11–19 men)
  • Civilians reported injured
    23–88
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    6–24
  • Belligerents reported injured
    4

Sources (66) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USYEM003-B

Incident date

December 17, 2009

Location

أرحب, Arhab, Sanaa, Yemen

Geolocation

15.804408, 44.289094 Note: The accuracy of this location is to District level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

US forces reportedly carried out an attack in Arhab, Yemen on December 17th upon a home believed to be the living quarters of Qasim al Raimi (also called al Raymi), resulting in the death of four militants.

The strike was initially reported to have included the use of Yemeni ground forces and air strikes with what were believed to be United States’ made bombs. This assertion was later discounted by leaked American diplomatic cables that show that the Yemeni government was directed to take credit for the bombing carried out by the US.

There were no reports of any civilian injuries or deaths from this incident. However, four days after the attack, a cable was leaked that included a U.S. admission of civilian deaths along with the official responses to be given when questioned about the possible deaths of civilians in the other attack on the same day (USYEM002-C). The reportedly deceased civilians were referred to as “collateral damage” by US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche.

The attack reportedly killed four members of Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), but al Raimi is believed to have survived. An American diplomatic cable quoted the Yemeni Ministry of Defense offering the following summary of the event: “Operations against AQAP militants were targeted to foil suicide bombers planning attacks against Yemeni and foreign installations, that the raids resulted in killing four suicide bombers and arresting four others.”

The United States believed an attack by AQAP insurgents was likely upon the US Embassy in Yemen. Following the operation, Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh received a call from President Barack Obama to congratulate Saleh on the success of the raid. A United States diplomatic cable allegedly included both the appreciation of President Saleh for America’s involvement along with a plea for the United States to continue in their assistance of Yemeni fighters against terrorism; a “disease” according to Saleh. The cable also included a proposed answer to questions concerning the discovery of American munitions at the site of the fighting, with the cable explaining the Yemeni government could explain this point away by stating that American weapons were purchased by Yemen and only used by Yemeni soldiers.

A United States diplomatic cable warned the Yemeni government to be cautious in its “public posture” concerning the strikes, making certain to not overtly mention the United States but to also be prepared to address questions of counter-terrorism legitimacy if evidence is found directly linking American soldiers to the strike.

A Reuters article published on 3rd December 2010, nearly a year later, reported that the President Saleh admitted lying to the Yemeni public about the cruise missile strikes on Al Qaeda in December 2009 saying they were the work of Yemeni forces, with support from US intelligence. This article draws on a diplomatic cable dated 4 January 2010, which refers to a meeting between CENTCOM Commander General Petraeus and President Saleh on 2 January 2010 during which it reports that Petraeus congratulated Saleh on recent operations against Al Qaeda and told him of an increase in security assistance to Yemen. The cable also says that President Saleh praised the 17th and 24th December strikes, but that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in the Abyan strike, which occurred on 17th. The cable further says that “Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are ‘not very accurate’ and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. ‘We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,’ Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just ‘lied’ by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.

Due to the nature of both CIA and US military involvement in Yemen, and the lack of official acknowledgement by the CIA for their involvement, Airwars grades this event as “declared” following the revelations of US role contained in the released US diplomatic cables, in lieu of public reporting on CIA actions.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4

Sources (33) [ collapse]

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention Arhab (أرحب) district, for which the generic coordinates are: 15.804408, 44.289094. Due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

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US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

1. (S/NF) SUMMARY. The ROYG views the December 17 CT operations as a success and a benefit to Yemeni national interests, and appears not overly concerned about unauthorized leaks regarding the U.S. role and negative media attention to civilian deaths. ROYG officials continue to publicly maintain that the operation was conducted entirely by its forces, acknowledging U.S. support strictly in terms of intelligence sharing. Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi told the Ambassador on December 20 that any evidence of greater U.S. involvement ) such as fragments of U.S. munitions found at the sites - could be explained away as equipment purchased from the U.S. While the ROYG has touted the operation as a victory in terms of the number of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) members killed or captured, it hasn't yet decided how, or even if, it should begin to modify its public messaging to address criticism over collateral damage, or the likelihood that the extent of U.S. involvement may become impossible to deny. END SUMMARY.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike and/or Artillery, Counter-Terrorism Action (Ground)
  • Civilian harm reported
    No
  • Civilians reported killed
    0
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP)
  • Belligerents reported killed
    4

Sources (33) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM008-C

Incident date

September 14, 2009

Location

مدينة ﺑﺮﺍﻭة, Baraawe, Lower Shabelle, Somalia

Geolocation

1.112554, 44.028921 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

Up to six people, including at least one possible civilian, were killed and at least two possible civilians were wounded, as a US-launched raid targeted and reportedly killed a high value al Qaeda/ al Shabab member, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, international media reported.

The attack marked the first known lethal operation by US forces in Somalia of the Obama administration.

In an operation codenamed ‘Celestial Balance’ US Special Forces launched a helicopter raid into Somalia, killing Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, wanted in connection with the Mombasa attacks. “We’d been tracking him for years,” a senior military official told Sean D. Naylor, in the Army Times. “We knew his travel route, we knew the vehicles he was using.” Three options were initially mooted to Obama and his senior advisers: to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from a warship off the Somali coast; a helicopter attack on the convoy, or a ‘snatch and grab operation attempting to take Nabhan alive. According to Klaidman “as everyone left the meeting that evening it was clear that the only viable plan was the lethal one.”

The US learned that Nabhan’s convoy would be setting off from Mogadishu to meet Islamic militants in the coastal town of Baraawe, the Daily Beast reported. As the convoy neared Baraawe, JSOC struck. A number of 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment AH-6 Little Bird helicopters flew from a Navy ship and attacked the militants as they were breakfasting, killing six, including Nabhan, according to news reports, including Army Times. However, NPR reported that SEAL commandos fired missiles into Nabhan’s car.

The Army Times and Daily Beast stated that one helicopter also landed, with operators jumping out to load the bodies of Nabhan and three others into the aircraft, in order to retrieve Nabhan’s DNA. Following this operation, a Pentagon official told the Daily Beast that the US Special Forces wanted to increase their use of Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE), not just to kill terror targets but to rummage through their belongings”, but that “the president was not supportive” and that this became a bone of contention between Special Ops and the Obama administration.

It was unclear among sources how many militants exactly were killed, and whether civilians were among the victims. While both the Guardian and Long War Journal said that two people were killed (Nabhan and another terrorist), Mareeg, which also reported two deaths, only noted that one of them was a belligerent, suggesting a civilian fatality.

The number of killed militants thus spans from two to six, as reported by Army Times, while one civilian death cannot be excluded.

Several sources reported that the attack also wounded two people, whose combatant status again remains unclear among reports.

The local time of the incident is unknown.

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known targets
    Al Qaeda in East Africa, Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–6
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–2

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was wanted by the FBI in connection with two attacks in 2002. Image via Kenyan Police

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a vehicle as it travelled through a village near Baraawe, heading south from Mogadishu. The coordinates for the town of Baraawe are: 1.112554, 44.028921. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

TIME, September 9th, 2009:

"The deadly drama of piracy, terrorism and humanitarian catastrophe that is Somalia took another twist on Sept. 14. A squad of U.S. special operations helicopter gunships, which were launched off a Navy vessel in the Indian Ocean, attacked and killed an alleged al-Qaeda leader in Somalia, U.S. officials told TIME. The dead man was believed to be Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a 28-year-old Kenyan wanted for attacks on a seaside hotel and an Israeli airliner in 2002 in Kenya."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    0 – 1
  • Civilians reported injured
    0–2
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known targets
    Al Qaeda in East Africa, Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–6
  • Belligerents reported injured
    0–2

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Incident Code

USSOM007-C

Incident date

May 1, 2008

Location

Dusa Marreb, Galgaduud, Somalia

Geolocation

5.536238, 46.384700 Note: The accuracy of this location is to Town level. Continue to map

Airwars assessment

At least five and as many as 30 civilians, including children and one woman, were reportedly killed as US-launched missiles targeted and killed several top al Shabab commanders in Dusa Marreb, a Somali village near the Ethiopian border, local and international sources reported.

Around 3am local time on May 1st, 2008, US naval-launched cruise missiles struck the vicinity of a compound in Dusa Marreb, killing, among other militants, the head of the Somali Islamist movement al Shabaab, Aden Hashi Ayro (see also SOM001), which had growing ties with Al Qaeda. Some reports claimed an AC-130 gunship was also involved in the attack.

An American military official in Washington told the New York Times: “[A]t least four Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from a Navy ship or submarine off the Somali coast had slammed into a small compound of single-story buildings in Dusa Marreb, a well-known hide-out for Mr. Ayro and his associates. The military official and two American intelligence officials said all indications were that Mr. Ayro was killed, along with several top lieutenants, but the attack was still being assessed.”

Insurgent leaders had been meeting in Dusa Marreb, al Shabaab-controlled broadcaster Shabelle reported, putting the death toll at 15. A Shabaab spokesperson, Mukhtar Ali Robow, told Reuters: ‘Infidel planes bombed Dusa Marreb… Two of our important people, including Ayro, were killed.’ Sheikh Muhyadin Omar was among the dead, according to the Long War Journal and Africa Confidential. Residents said ‘several other Shabaab fighters and civilians were killed, Reuters reported. Half a dozen senior Al Shabaab commanders and Ayro’s brother were killed in the strike, according to Africa Confidential.

The civilian toll spanned from “several” to as many as 30 across the sources. Some reports put the toll at “at least ten”, while Africa Confidential reported that Ayro’s wife and children, and people from nearby houses, were also reported dead. Another local resident, Jamal Mohamoud, told AFP that he had seen eight bodies in the destroyed house.

Finally, The New York Times, citing local witnesses, reported that “as many as 30 people were dead and that residents were counting skulls to determine the number.”

After Ayro’s death, al Shabaab reportedly suspected the US had tracked him through his iPhone and had banned the use of similar devices.

The incident occured between 2:00 am and 3:00 am local time.

The victims were named as:

Family members (3)

Wife of Aden Hashi Ayro
Adult female killed
Child 1 of Aden Hashi Ayro
Child killed
Child 2 of Aden Hashi Ayro
Child killed

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    5 – 30
  • (2 children1 woman)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–10

Sources (12) [ collapse]

Media
from sources (1) [ collapse]

  • Locals of Dusa Marreb walking through the rubble of the compound the day after it was hit by a May 1st, 2008 US missile strike (via Abdi Guled/ Reuters/ New York Times)

Geolocation notes

Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted residential buildings in the town of Dusa Marreb, for which the generic coordinates are: 5.536238, 46.384700. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.

US Forces Assessment:

  • Known belligerent
    US Forces
  • US Forces position on incident
    Not yet assessed

Original strike reports

US Forces

The New York Times, May 2nd, 2008:

"An American military official in Washington, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the operation, said at least four Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from a Navy ship or submarine off the Somali coast had slammed into a small compound of single-story buildings in Dusa Marreb, a well-known hide-out for Mr. Ayro and his associates. The military official and two American intelligence officials said all indications were that Mr. Ayro was killed, along with several top lieutenants, but the attack was still being assessed.
“This was in the works for some time,” said the official. He said American intelligence agents had been tracking Mr. Ayro for weeks through a combination of communications intercepts, satellite imagery and other intelligence."

Summary

  • Strike status
    Declared strike
  • Strike type
    Airstrike
  • Civilian harm reported
    Yes
  • Civilians reported killed
    5 – 30
  • (2 children1 woman)
  • Cause of injury / death
    Heavy weapons and explosive munitions
  • Airwars civilian harm grading
    Fair
    Reported by two or more credible sources, with likely or confirmed near actions by a belligerent.
  • Known attacker
    US Forces
  • Known target
    Al-Shabaab
  • Belligerents reported killed
    2–10

Sources (12) [ collapse]