Get the data: Drone wars

Yemen: Reported US covert actions 2013

An MQ-1 Predator unmanned aerial vehicle sits in it's hangar (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Steffen)

An MQ-1 Predator sits in its hangar (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Jonathan Steffen)

The events detailed have been reported by US and Yemeni government, military and intelligence officials, and by credible media, academic and other sources.

As Yemen came under severe pressure during the Arab Spring and militants seized control of cities and towns in the south, the US significantly stepped up its attacks, most notably with drone strikes. Since mid 2011 US counter terrorism operations in Yemen have been conducted by both the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Attacks are aimed at al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and more recently, Ansar al-Sharia.

Many of the US attacks have been confirmed by senior American or Yemeni officials. However some events are only speculatively attributed to the US, or are indicative of US involvement. For example precision night-time strikes on moving vehicles, whilst often attributed to the Yemen Air Force, are more likely to be the work of US forces. We therefore class all strikes in Yemen as either ‘confirmed’ or ‘possible’.

Both the Pentagon and CIA have been operating drones over Yemen. But the US has also launched strikes with other weapons systems, including conventional jet aircraft and cruise missiles. The Bureau records these operations as ‘additional US attacks’.

Covert US operations, Yemen 2013
Confirmed drone strikes Possible drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total reported strikes: 16 15-16 1
Total reported killed: 63-99 48-66 3-5
Civilians reported killed: 17-26 0-7 0
Children reported killed: 4 0 0
Total reported injured: 12-40 4-9 0

 

The Bureau will continue to add to its knowledge base, and welcomes input and corrections from interested parties.

Click here for our 2001-2011 Yemen data.

Click here for our 2012 Yemen data.

Click here for our 2014 Yemen data.


January

YEM127
January 2013
♦ 1 reported killed

In February AFP reported Adel al Abab (aka Adil al Abab, Abu al Zubair) was killed in the second of a pair of strikes in a mountainous region in the eastern Shabwa province. An al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) source told the agency: ‘A drone strike had targetted Sheikh Adel al-Abab’s vehicle but he escaped and fled to a mountainous region where a raid by another drone killed him immediately.’

AQAP’s most senior cleric according to Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen (The Last Refuge), al Abab was reportedly killed in October 2012 in Shabwa province (YEM118). He was a religious scholar at the Dawa Center in Sanaa. In a question and answer session translated and published by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, al Abab revealed how AQAP used the Ansar al Shariah brand in Yemen:

The name Ansar al-Shariah is what we use to introduce ourselves in areas where we work to tell people about our work and goals, and that we are on the path of Allah.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Shabwa province
References: AFP, The Last RefugeInternational Centre for the Study of Radicalisation

YEM128
January 4 2013
♦ 3 reported killed

At least three people were killed in a reported drone strike on a vehicle in a ‘mountainous area’ near Radaa. Among those who died was a man named by AFP as Mukbel Abbad and by al Jazeera and Xinhua as Moqbel Ebad Al Zawbah, ‘brother-in-law of Tareq al-Dahab who led the Al-Qaeda fighters in a brief January 2012 raid on Rada’. Local media said Sahr Qaid Al Dhahab had been killed. This was the fifth strike to hit Yemen in 10 days; the London Times reported the strikes were believed to target Abdulraouf al-Dahab, who was ‘instrumental in al-Qaeda’s takeover of Radaa early last year’.

The following day Reuters reported that local tribesmen demonstrated in Radaa against US drone strikes. One told the news agency that ‘seven innocent civilians’ had been killed in recent strikes. The London Times also reported that Saudi Arabian jets have participated in recent airstrikes in Yemen commonly attributed to US or Yemeni forces. However a senior member of the Saudi royal family denied this.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location
: Radaa, Bayda province
References: AFP, Reuters, XinhuaAl Jazeera, Wired, Mareb Press (Arabic), Associated Press, Reuters, Long War Journal, Reuters, London Times (£), Al Jazeera, Reuters, The National (UAE)

YEM129
January 19 2013
♦ 0 reported killed

The first of a barrage of strikes to hit central Yemen missed its target. There was some confusion over the exact details of the night’s events. According to the Yemen Observer the first strike hit a populated area called al Daleel at 7pm. Although it missed its target and caused no casualties the strike angered the local population and the provincial authorities said they expected a reaction. The following morning tribesmen blocked the road linking the province to Sanaa in protest. Xinhua reported the strike missed a vehicle in an orchard in the al Masil area of Wadi Abeeda. An official at the Criminal Investigation Unit in Marib told the agency the strike hit at 10.30pm. The strike missed a vehicle carrying four people who then had time to flee the scene reported AFP. The Yemen defence ministry reportedly confirmed the strikes hit Mareb province but would not confirm if the Yemen Air Force or US forces carried out the attacks. The Yemen Air Force has been shown to lack the technical capacity to launch precision strikes, or fly at night.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location
: Wadi Abeeda, Marib province
ReferencesYemen ObserverAFPReutersVoice of AmericaAFPRFE/RLDeutsche WelleDPAXinhuaMareb Press (Ar.)

YEM130
January 19 2013
♦ 2-4reported killed
♦ 0-3 civilians
 reported killed

Several sources, Reuters among them, reported a drone destroyed the vehicle it missed in the first strike. However AFP reported the four occupants had escaped on foot after their narrow escape earlier in the evening. Associated Press, Al Jazeera and Yemen Post identified up to six possible civilian casualties in YEM130 and YEM131. And Voice of America reported three civilians and three militants were killed in the two strikes.

According to Xinhua, the strike hit half an hour after the first and killed two alleged militants who were ‘inspecting the previous strike’. But separate sources said the strike hit the vehicle 8km from the site of the first strike. Two alleged Saudi militants were killed in the strike. One was identified as Ismaeel Bin Saeed Bin Jameel. According to the Yemen Observer, he was the brother of Ali Bin Saeed, emir of the al Wadi district who died fighting alongside AQAP. Local man Raed Fad Abdullah said he was not a senior militant. It appeared the second Saudi was identified in March. AQAP declared a low level Saudi fighter was killed in a US strike in Marib. Abdullah al Ali al Suweed was killed ‘with a group of his brothers in the month of Safar 1434′. According to the Long War Journal this corresponds to December 2012 to January 2013.

AQAP also announced the death of a senior militant from Saudi Arabia. Abu al Zubeir al Qassimi was an inmate in the al Safra prison in Saudi Arabia before moving to Yemen for training. He commanded militants in Abyan province before taking command of fighters in Marib province. According to the Long War Journal al Qassimi was killed in Abyan province in an unspecified strike. However SITE Intelligence in a March 6 post said he died in Marib on an unspecified date (link unavailable). SITE also gave al Qassimi’s alias as Walid al Harbi. A Walid Jarbou’ Al-Harbi - a failed student of Qassim University – was reportedly arrested in connection to an April 2005 gun battle with Saudi security forces. He was jailed for over a year before fleeing to Yemen in 2009. He has been listed as a wanted terrorist by the Saudi ministry of interior.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Wadi Abeeda, Marib province
ReferencesYemen ObserverAssociated PressAFPReutersVoice of AmericaAl JazeeraAFPRFE/RLDeutsche WelleDPA, XinhuaMareb Press (Ar.)Yemen Post, Long War Journal, SITE Intelligence Group, Saudi Gazette, Saudi Ministry of Interior

YEM131
January 19 2013
♦ 4-6 reported killed
♦ 0-4 civilians reported killed

At least two were killed in the last strike of the night, although a military vehicle stolen from the Yemen army and carrying six was reportedly destroyed. AFP initially reported that the strike killed four people from the ‘al Haytak clan, part of the Abida tribe’ without specifying if they were also al Qaeda militants. However the agency subsequently reported five alleged al Qaeda militants perished in the strike, including Hamad Hassan Ghreib (aka Amhed Bin Hassan Ali Gahreib). According to a ‘local source’ his brother Ali Bin Hassan Bin Ghurayib was a non-combatant who was killed, along with a group of militants, in a drone strike in August 2012. Angry tribesmen blocked the main road from Marib to Sanaa in protest the morning after the strike.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Wadi Abeeda, Marib province
ReferencesYemen ObserverAssociated PressAFPReutersVoice of AmericaAl JazeeraAFPRFE/RLDeutsche WelleDPAXinhuaMareb Press (Ar.)Yemen PostYemen Observer

YEM132
January 20 2013
♦ 3 killed

Another strike was initially reported only by the Yemen Observer. Ali al Ghulaisi, spokesman for Marib’s governor, said three alleged militants were killed when a car was destroyed in a desert area of Marib near the border with Jawf province.

In February 2014 the Associated Press reported the strike killed alleged AQAP member Bandar al Hassani. Bandar’s sister Abeer, 25, described her brother to the agency. Approximately in 2004 Bandar had introduced the then 15-year old Abeer to her second husband, Omar al Hebishi. He was 20 years her senior and fighting in Syria, according to Associated Press. In 2004, Bandar was reportedly detained and held for two years by the Yemeni security services. On his release he ‘became more religious – indoctrinated by militants [Abeer] al Hassani says’. He associated with al Qaeda members while Yemeni security services reportedly ‘harassed him, trying to turn him into an informant’. When popular protests broke out in Yemen in 2011, Bandar moved to Marib to join al Qaeda, Abeer said. He had a six year old daughter, Afran.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al Kanais, Marib province
ReferencesYemen Observer, Associated Press

YEM133
January 21 2013
♦ 2-4 killed
♦ 3 reported injured


The fourth strike in three days killed at least two men driving on the Sanaa-Marib highway. Witnesses told Reuters a US drone targeted the vehicle northeast of the capital. Security officials said three people were injured in the strike, two seriously. Ahmed al Ziadi an alleged al Qaeda commander in Marib province, died of his wounds ‘hours later‘. Ali al Ghulaisi, spokesman for the Margib governor, confirmed US drones carried out the strike, telling the Yemen Observer: ‘All killed were al Qaeda militants.’ He identified three of the dead as Ali Salih al DawlahQasim Bin Saleh al Dawlah and Bandar al Sanaani, all youths. However, AFP’s unnamed source identified two of the dead as Qasem Naser Tuaiman and Ali Saleh Tuaiman. Both men were reportedly imprisoned a year before their death for joining al Qaeda. However AFP’s sources alleged they rejoined the militant group on their release. The Yemeni defence ministry said four were killed in the strike but would not say who was responsible.

Security officials said US-Yemeni counterterrorism operations would be stepped up ahead of the National Dialogue Conference – an opportunity for some time in February, for Yemenis to discuss constitutional reforms and pave the way for elections in 2014. The Yemen Army sent troops and tanks into Radaa province on the same day as the strike. ‘Hundreds of soldiers and 50 tanks‘ moved into the province amid reports that Radaa tribal leaders had persuaded the militants to leave heavily populated areas. The militants were asked to move to minimise civilian casualties from counter insurgency operations by Yemeni forces and US drone strikes. They reportedly gained the release of al Qaeda prisoners in return.

In February 2014 Associated Press interviewed Yemeni woman Abeer al Hassani who told the agency two of her brothers were killed in drone strikes. Older brother Bandar al Hassani died on January 20 (YEM132) and younger brother Abdel Meguid al Hassani, 20, reportedly died in this attack. He had been arrested and detained by the Yemeni security services in 2009. He was reportedly held for three years ‘often in a cell with hardened militant fighters‘. Before his incarceration he reportedly loved dancing – not so after he was released in 2012, Abeer said, adding: ‘He only spoke about how much he wanted to blow himself up in the middle of Yemeni soldiers.’ Abeer pleaded with him to stay at home. But he left to join his brother Bandar with al Qaeda in Marib province. From there he reportedly went to Jawf province for training.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location
: Nakhla, Marib province
References: Xinhua, AFPReuters, AFP, Associated Press, 26Sept.net, Associated Press, Yemen PostYemen Observer, Yemen Times, Associated Press

A Twitter user highlights the timing of suspected drone strike YEM131.

YEM134
January 22 2013
♦ 3-5 killed
♦ ‘Several’ reported injured

An evening strike reportedly targeted vehicles at an alleged militant training ground, killing at least three and injuring ‘several‘. Most reports attributed the strike to US drones. However al Oulyae subsequently reported that Saudi jets carried out the strike. The strike apparently hit a few miles from the Saudi border in al Jawf. A desert area of Yemen and a hub for militants crossing between the two countries, according to the Long War Journal. An anonymous official told Xinhua:

A Saudi agent facilitates the fresh US airstrike on two vehicles carrying important commanders of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.’

And earlier in January The London Times reported Royal Saudi Air Force had launched a number of strikes against militant targets in Yemen. Witnesses reported there were three burnt bodies left after the strike and told AFP that unidentified vehicles sped away from the scene. A local official said:

The strike targeted a gathering of al Qaeda members who had made the area a center for training. One of the cars was hit and everyone inside was killed…the others fled.’

The bodies had not been identified, the official added.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al Boka, al Jawf province
ReferencesAssociated Press, AFP, Reuters, Long War Journal, Xinhua, KUNAAl Oulyae (Ar)Associated Press, Aden al Ghad (Ar), 26Sept.net (Ar)

YEM135
January 23 2013
♦ 4-7 killed
♦ 2 civilians reported killed


US drones targeted a vehicle in central Sanaa province – a Toyota Hilux according to local media. The vehicle was reportedly ‘totally destroyed‘ and the bodies burnt beyond recognition. Casualty reports have varied but a clear picture of the strike emerged in the months after the attack.

In the immediate aftermath Yemeni media named five of the dead as: Salem Mohsen Jamel, Ali Mohammed Jamel, Mohsem Mohsen Jamel and Al NashiriRabae Laheb (aka Rabiee Lahib) also died, despite being reported dead in November 2012 (YEM122). He was said to be from the area and the target of the strike. Two of the alleged militants were reportedly unidentified. However three days after the strike a report claimed that five perished in the attack and one was a civilian. ‘Khawalan locals‘ said four unnamed alleged militants paid a Khawalan man to drive them to Sanaa. The tribesmen protested by blocking the main road linking Marib and Sanaa. The alleged AQAP operatives came from Marib and paid Saleem Muhammed Al Qawili 50,000 Yemeni Rials (£150). The strike hit at 8pm, approximately 20 miles southeast of the capital. And reportedly 10 minutes drive from Yemen’s largest arms market.

Destroyed vehicle YEM133
The destroyed vehicle (Yemen Observer)

A trio of human rights groups investigated the attack in subsequent months. They submitted evidence to an April 2013 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing. They reported four passengers were killed in the strike, two of them civilians. The driver Salim Hussayn Ahmad Jamil, 20 or 22, was a literature student who freelanced as a taxi driver. He was killed along with one of his relatives Ali Ali Salih al Qawili, 33. They were reportedly stopped by two unidentified men who asked to pay them for a ride. The Ministry of Interior confirmed Ali Ali Salih was among the dead. He was a school teacher. His brother gave investigators his attendance slip showing he had been teaching on the day of the strike. The Yemen government now describes the father of three as: ‘We can confirm the following: Ali al Qawli… did not know or communicate with the individuals who rented the mentioned car and their death was a matter of fate.’ His son, Moaz Ali al Qawili, 11, attended the same school his father taught at – Khaled Ibn Al Walid School.

Swedish journalists visited the scene of the strike on February 23 2013 and found the ground was ‘still black with ashes on the spot where the car exploded’. Qalil Lahib, ‘a relative of one of the dead‘, told the journalists all four men in the car were blown to pieces. He spoke ‘while picking up bits of cloth and tiny pieces of human bone and tissue from the ground’. And a second man reportedly showed the reporters a piece of Hellfire missile left from the strike. Experts from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute confirmed the fragments were from a Hellfire. The Swedish journalists named the four killed in the strike as Salim Hussayn Ahmad JamilAli Ali Salih al Qawili, Rabee Hamoud Lahib and Naji Ali Saad. The journalists saw ‘a document from the Yemeni Interior Ministry written after the attack’ which said ‘the teacher and the student were completely innocent. They were not suspected of any crime nor linked to any terror organisation.’ The government also offered compensation to the families which they disgustedly rejected. Lahib and Saad were reportedly the probable targets of the strike. But Lahib ‘lived in a village just an hour’s drive from the capital Sanaa, he was a neighbour to some of the country’s top politicians.’ He was a member of the village council and ‘travelled to the capital Sanaa every other day, passing several military checkpoints on the way’. An unnamed relative asked: ‘If they suspected him of any crime, why didn’t they seize him and charge him?’

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Khawlan, Sanaa province
References: Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, CNN, Mareb Press (Ar), Xinhua, Barakish (Ar), Al Arabiya/AFP, Al Oulyae (Ar), Yemen ObserverSubmission to US Senate subcommittee, Sverigse Radio, NTD TV, Alkarama, Reuters, Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone


Ali Ali Qawili’s 10-year-old son Maazi Ali Qawili told reporters he held
only resentment for the US and President Obama (YouTube).

YEM136
January 23 2013
♦ 3-5 killed
♦ Possible civilian deaths


A second possible drone strike of the day killed two or four people according to conflicting media reports. The Los Angeles Times reported the strike hit two motorcycles – its intended target – and killing the alleged militants. However local and international media reported the strike hit a house belonging to Abdu Mohammed al Jarrah, killing and injuring members of his family including two sons, one called Jebran Abdu al Jarrah. However al Jazeera visited al Jarrah’s derelict home in July 2013 and reported none of his family were hurt in the attack. He told al Jazeera: ‘We are not all al Qaeda, we are normal people just struggling with life. We don’t know why we were targeted.

The strike hit at 8.30pm – half an hour after the Khawlan strike (YEM135). Earlier in the day the province’s police chief narrowly escaped assassination when a bomb attached to his car exploded, killing his bodyguard.

Reports of civilian casualties emerged on the day the UN launched an investigation into civilian casualties form and the identity of alleged militants killed in drone strikes. UN Special Rapporteur for war crimes Ben Emmerson QC will investigate CIA and Pentagon strikes in YemenPakistan and Somalia as well as operations in Afghanistan. The team will also look at drone strikes by US and UK forces in Afghanistan, and by Israel in the Occupied Territories. One area the inquiry is expected to examine is the deliberate targeting of rescuers and funeral-goers by the CIA in Pakistan, as revealed in an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Qayfa, al Bayda province
References: Los Angeles Times, Xinhua, Barakish (Ar)Al Oulyae (Ar), al Jazeera


Al Jazeera English visited Qayfa and spoke to Abu Mohammed al Jarrah whose house was targeted in the strike.


April

YEM137
April 17 2013
♦ 4-5 killed
♦ 0-4 civilians reported killed

Five alleged al Qaeda militants were killed in the first US drone strike in almost three months. An alleged al Qaeda leader Hamid al Radami (aka Hammed al Masea MeftahHamed Radman, Hamid Radman al Manea), 40, was killed. A Yemeni defence ministry website named the other four dead as Mukram Ali Ahmed Hamoud al Haj, Ghazi Hamoud al Imad, 28, Najem Addin Ali Abdullah al Raai and Ismael al Magdishi (aka Ismail Ahmed al Muqdishi), 29. However Swiss-based NGO Alkarama reported militant Najem Addin Ali Abdullah al Raai, who was originally reported killed in the strike, was found alive later. Alkarama and Yemeni rights group HOOD named four victims of the strike as Radami, al Imad, Magdishi and Mukram Ahmed al Daar, 20. The groups investigated the strike – interviewing families of victims and eyewitnesses – and they published their findings in June 2013 and October 2013. They described al Radami as a former soldier and said all four men were civilians.

Hamid al Rademi (Twitter)
Hamid al Rademi (Twitter)

One source said al Imad was injured in the strike and died of his wounds because would-be rescuers were too afraid of a follow-up strike to come to his aid. Associated Press reported four alleged AQAP militants were killed in the first strike on a vehicle and al Radami was killed in the second strike on his house. However according to AFP all five were killed as they drove to al Radami’s house. A witness said drones were still in the sky over the village and that they had been there for three days.

Al Radami was an influential al Qaeda recruiter according to one unnamed intelligence official. He reportedly founded an AQAP cell in the area in 2011. An interior ministry official told Xinhua: ‘[The five] were all under surveillance since they left al Radami’s house few minutes before the airstrike.’ The official said the strike ‘was a joint military operation between Yemeni, US and Saudi intelligence services.’ The area of Damar province where the strike hit was labelled Yemen’s Tora Bora by blogger and journalist Nasser Arrabyee. He said al Radami ‘was almost the absolute ruler of Wesab Aali and neighboring areas’. He enjoyed significant authority in the area, Arrabyee said:

He was not only a local commander of Al-Qaeda; he was the police chief, the judge, the minister of water, education, health and everything else, for the people of Wessab’

A local security official who knew al Radami told Arrabyee: ‘We could have easily arrested him without single shot, but no one told us to do so’ because Yemeni intelligence were afraid of Radami and his supporters. The government could have arrested al Rademi, Arrabyee wrote. They did not for fear of retaliation, not just from relatives ‘but also in fear of retaliation from other tribesmen’.

Journalist and activist Farea al Muslimi, a native of Wessab, contested the depiction of al Radami as an al Qaeda commander, although he also reported the view that al Rademi could easily have been arrested. Al Muslimi posted updates to Twitter from Sanaa as information came to him from friends and family in Wessab. And he said most people he spoke to said al Radami was not a part of AQAP.

Writing in al Monitor, al Muslimi said al Radami had arrived in the village in 2011 with a group of people. He had allegedly served time in prison for murder. But the police told suspicious villagers they should not be concerned by his presence. He gained legitimacy and power with patronage from the local authorities and security services. Both al Radami and al Haj had reportedly served in the Yemeni army. Al Radami lived less than a kilometer from a ‘government headquarters’ and a couple of hours from Sanaa. He was reportedly traveling in convoy with the general secretary of the local council with the politician in the car behind al Radami’s when the strike hit. Al Muslimi wrote:

In an area like Wessab, there is nothing easier than capturing a man like al-Radmi. Two police officers would have been more than capable of arresting him.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location
: Wessab al Ali, Damar province
References: Associated Press, Reuters, AAP, Twitter, Xinhua, AFP, 26sep.net (Ar), al Oulaye (Ar), Barakish (Ar), Almasdar Online (Ar), al Monitor, Yemen Post, Yemen Post, Nasser Arrabyee (blog), al Majalla, AlkaramaAlkarama

YEM138
April 21 2013
♦ 2 killed
♦ 2-3 injured

A dawn strike on a house in Marib province reportedly killed two alleged al Qaeda militants and wounded up to three others. Local media reported a Saudi and an Egyptian were killed while a woman and child were injured. An unnamed security official told AFP the strike destroyed a cache of weapons being stored at the house, while Reuters reported weapons were found at the site. Local press quoted eyewitnesses as saying the strike also destroyed two cars and named the owner of the house as bin Masood. An unnamed Yemeni security official and eyewitnesses told reporters the strike was carried out by a drone, and locals reported seeing drones flying overhead the previous day.

Hours after the strike, two soldiers and one alleged militant died in an al Qaeda attack on a checkpoint in the area, AP and AFP reported. The interior ministry said in a statement the attack was ‘in apparent revenge to the earlier drone strike’ and added:

Five al-Qaida gunmen on board a car carried out a surprise attack on a military checkpoint of the 3rd Infantry Brigade in a road close to the earlier drone strike site, killing two soldiers and wounding seven others.”

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Wadi Abida or Wadi Adeeda, Marib province
References: Associated Press, AFPReuters, Long War Journal, Xinhua, Mareb Press (Arabic), Deutsche Welle (Agencies), al Oulaye

Yemeni journalist and activist Farea al Muslimi testifying before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 23 2013. He had been scheduled to address the committee before a drone strike killed five men in his home village of Wessab (YEM136).


May

YEM139
May 18 2013
♦ 4-9 killed
♦ Some reported wounded

US drones reportedly destroyed a truck filled with explosives, killed at least four people. The dead were allegedly militants although a ‘local dignitary‘ told AFP he could not say whether the four ‘were Islamist militants’. According to one report, two of the dead were ‘Arabs’. And a tribal sources told local media reported the strike killed nine people. A senior leader, Jalal Balaabed (aka Jalal Bl’eedTalal bin Aidi), was reportedly killed in the attack. He was said to have been al Qaeda’s commander in Abyan’s capital, Zinjibar, when the militant group controlled the province in 2011 and 2012. However al Mahfad district’s security chief Colonel Ahmed al Rab’i said: ‘We don’t have sufficient information to either assert or deny Bl’eed’s death.’ And Al Khader Abdulla, a leader of a local state-backed civilian militia, said Bl’eed’s family denied his death in the attack.

The strike hit to the north of Jaar, an area previously dominated by al Qaeda who took and held swathes of southern and central Yemen in 2011. They were driven out by Yemeni troops with US air support in 2012. The attack came before dawn indicating US forces were responsible. The Yemen Air Force has been called ‘barely functional‘ and in 2012 President Hadi declared it incapable of flying at night, let alone launching precision strikes. On May 13 a Yemeni Su-22 fighter-bomber exploded in mid-air during a training flight over Sanaa, killing the pilot.

The Washington Post later confirmed the strike, also reporting that it was the work of the CIA.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Al Mahfad region, Abyan province
References: AFP, Associated Press, al Masdar Online (Ar), Reuters, Australian Associated Press, ANI, Xinhua, Yemen Times, Aden Post (Ar), Aden al Ghad (Ar), Mareb Press (Ar), Washington Post

YEM139a
May 18 2013
♦ 0 reported killed
♦ 6 reported injured

A single source reported three airstrikes hit Abyan province overnight. There were no reported deaths in the second attack though six people were reported injured.

Type of strike: Airstrike, possible US drone strike
Location: Al Hadha, Abyan Province
ReferencesMareb Press (Ar)

YEM139b
May 18 2013
♦ 4 reported killed

The third possible strike destroyed a vehicle carrying weapons, according to local media outlet Mareb Press. Four alleged militants were reportedly killed.

Type of strike: Airstrike, possible US drone strike
Location: Wadi Dhaia, Abyan Province
ReferencesMareb Press (Ar)

YEM140
May 20 2013
♦ 2 killed

The second strike in three days killed two men in central Yemen. Two alleged al Qaeda members were killed ‘as they left a farm on a motorbike’ according to Yemen’s defence ministry website. It named the dead as Abd Rabbo Mokbal Mohammed Jarallah al Zouba and Abbad Mossad Abbad Khobzi. Yemeni media reported it could not independently verify their connection to al Qaeda. A Yemeni official did not tell Reuters who was behind the attack however a precision strike at dawn on a moving vehicle would appear to have been beyond Yemen’s ‘barely functional‘ air force that President Hadi has said was incapable of flying, let alone striking, at night. On May 13 a Yemeni Su-22 fighter-bomber exploded in mid-air during a training flight over Sanaa, killing the pilot and injuring as many as 22 people on the ground.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Radaa, al Bayda province
ReferencesReuters, AFP, al Masdar Online (Ar), Marib Press (Ar), News Yemen (Ar), Associated Press, Yemen Post, Xinhua, Yemen Post, AFP

YEM140c
May 24 2013
♦ 0-3 killed

A possible Saudi or US airstrike killed up to three near the Saudi-Yemeni border in a night attack. Reports of the incident varied with one source telling local media US drones carried out the strike despite only hearing the sounds of aerial bombardment. This was reportedly the first strike on a vehicle in Jawf province according to one report. The three occupants of the car were killed, their bodies burnt severely. A tribal source told Sanaa-based journalist Adam Baron that the strike targeted Qassim al Raymi. But it appeared the senior AQAP militant knew he was being tracked and the targeted vehicle was empty. Another source told Yemeni media Saudi jets attacked and missed a convoy of cars thought to be carrying al Qaeda members. However the source alleged the strike was associated with ongoing border and oil disputes between Sanaa and Riyadh.

The timing and accuracy of the strike would suggest it was not carried out by the Yemen Air Force which has been described as ‘barely functional‘ and incapable of flying let alone striking at night. Media reports attributed the strike to the US however journalists in Yemen and the US discussed possible Saudi involvement on social media. They urged caution, pointing out Yemenis ‘tend to assume bombs falling from [the] sky come from US drones’.

Type of strike: Airstrike, possible US or possible Saudi Arabian
Location: Shaaf district, al Jawf province
References: Aden al Ghad (Ar), Marib Press (Ar), al Masdar Online (Ar), Yemen Street (Ar), al Oulaye (Ar), Yemen Press (Ar), Twitter, Twitter, Twitter


June

YEM141
June 1 2013
♦ 7-8 killed
♦ 2-3 reported injured

Two vehicles carrying alleged AQAP militants were destroyed in either two separate strikes or single strike by a pair of aircraft. At least seven people were killed in the attack. Anonymous and named Yemen officials have said US drones carried out the strike. However an unnamed official claimed the Yemen Air Force carried out the attack. The source said al Qaeda-linked militants were seen taking casualties from the scene to a local medical centre.

A senior intelligence official in Abyan, Brigadier Mohammed bin Mohammedtold the Yemen Times he could not confirm whether it was a drone strike or not but said previous confirmed US attacks in the area made it seem likely it was. He said senior AQAP militant Awadh Ali Lakra was believed to be in one of the vehicles but his death was unconfirmed. Local media also reported Lakra’s death along with another alleged militant, Lawar. Lt Col Ahmed Qaed, a senior officer at the southern Yemen airbase at al Anad told the paper no air raid had been launched in the previous two days to his knowledge. And Yemen Air Force commander Rashid al Janad said he was ‘unaware of any air strikes that have been launched’ by Yemeni planes. According to Reuters and Associated Press, among others, two drones carried out the attack. And an anonymous local government official told Xinhua: ‘Two pick-up trucks carrying al-Qaida fighters were completely destroyed in the bombing.’ Yemeni officials have taken responsibility for US operations in their country, most notably the December 2009 al Majala cruise missile strike. The Yemen Air Force has been described as ‘barely functional‘ and incapable of flying at night or precision strike missions.

This was the second strike to reportedly hit the Mahfad area of Abyan this year. The first hit on May 18, killing four people.  Also on this day, gunmen on motorcycles shot Brigadier General Yahya al Omaisi, police commander at the Seyoun airbase in Hadramout. And Seyoun city’s criminal investigation department chief Colonel Abdel Rahman Bashkeel was killed by a bomb placed under his car. Both attacks were linked to al Qaeda militants, according to Reuters.

Senior AQAP commander Qassim al Raymi released a six-minute English-subtitled audio address to the US after the strike. He said: ‘Your security is not achieved by despoiling other nations’ security or by attacking and oppressing them.’

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al Mahfad, Abyan province
References: Xinhua, Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, EFE, CBS/AP, Yemen Times

YEM142
June 9 2013
♦ 2-7 killed
♦ 1 child reported killed

Multiple missiles struck a vehicle in the northern province of al Jawf, killing between two and seven alleged militants. A CIA drone or drones carried out the attack. According to the Washington Post, a drone targeted two vehicles in the al Mahashma area and killed three suspected al Qaeda militants. An anonymous interior ministry official told Xinhua the strike targeted a pick-up truck and killed two men, who it named as Saleh Hassan and Saleh Jaradan. An al Qaeda spokesman told Xinhua children also died in the strike but did not provide further details. Local media speculated the vehicle was loaded with weapons or explosives because the wreckage reportedly exploded several times after the strike. Other sources reported that up to four strikes took place, although only the first killed people. 

An anonymous tribal source told AFP the dead included Hassan al-Saleh Huraydan, described as ‘a suspected al Qaeda member’ and his brother, as well as a Saudi national. Anonymous security officials told CNN Huraydan was considered a senior leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, adding: ‘The killed militants were in the area to recruit and seek support from tribes in the fighting against government forces.’ Local journalist Abdulrazzaq al Jamal who monitors AQAP said Huraydan was the group’s ‘greatest mind’ in Jawf. And Yemeni government officials have alleged Huraydan was a key figure in enabling the movement of money and fighters from Saudi Arabia to Yemen. However analysts questioned whether this ‘local al Qaeda leader‘ constituted a continuing and imminent threat to the United States. Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen said:

The number of U.S. drone strikes over the past two years suggests that the US is going after many more targets than just the 10 to 15 individuals it says represent imminent threats to US national security. It appears to be going after whomever it can hit whenever it can find them.’

The dead included a Saudi national named Al Sayari, Arrabyee reported. The missiles struck as they were sitting by their car, killing them and destroying the vehicle. He later updated the death toll to seven. The child was called Sultan and was aged 13; he named the other dead as Ali Huraim and Abu Abdullah Al Wayeli and three Saudi nationals including a man named Sayeri. The vehicle was a Saudi-registered Land Cruiser, he addedMcClatchy reported the boy was called Abdulaziz – the 10-year old brother of Huraydan. It subsequently emerged the CIA recorded Abdulaziz’s age as between six and 13. It also emerged that the CIA gave Congress a classified briefing on the boy’s death, but refused to acknowledge it publicly. Abdulaziz’s death ‘set off a firestorm of complaints’ the agency reported. A local tribal sheikh said: ‘Killing al Qaeda is one thing, but the death of an innocent person is a crime that we cannot accept…What did Abdulaziz do? Was this child a member of al Qaeda?’

Local outlet Awraq Press reported the following day that seven had died: three Saudis and four Yemenis. Aloulaye noted that Saudi jets and US drones had been seen overhead in the region in the previous days. It said the boy in the group was 12-year-old Sultan Aziz and named one of the dead as Muhammad Juraim.

The strike took place in a populated area according to Mareb Press, and eyewitnesses reported hearing huge explosions as a drone fired up to five missiles on a vehicle. Resident AbdulSalam Abdullah told CNN: ‘Any of our children could have easily been killed by a shrapnel if they were in the wrong place during the attack… The suspects were on a vehicle and the attack could have easily happened far from homes and civilian presence.’  Local reporter Nasser Arrabyee tweeted that Huraydan had died alongside two relatives, including his 10-year-old brother.

The attack hit as Shiite protesters clashed with security forces in the capital demanding the release of 17 political prisoners. Up to 10 protesters were killed and more were injured. On the same day a Yemeni soldier was killed and three more injured in an ambush in the east of the country. Less than a week earlier Sanaa launched a ground and air offensive against militants in Hadramout where al Qaeda is trying to reestablish itself according to the Yemen Post.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Al Mahashma or Khab al-Shath, al Jawf province
References: Associated Press, Voice of America, Xinhua, AFP, Mareb Press (Ar), Alsahwa, CNN, Reuters, Yemen Post, al Jazeera, al Masdar Online (Ar), Akhbaralyom (Ar), Awraq Press (Ar), Aloulaye (Ar), National Yemen, McClatchy, LA Times

Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) speaking to the Guardian about President Obama’s drone war, the programme’s legal basis, and the ACLU’s law suits brought on behalf of the families of three US citizens killed in Yemen by US drones. The full interview is available here, at the Guardian website.

July-August

The Terror Threat Strikes
Nine drone strikes hit Yemen in 15 days at the end of July and into August. The bombardment killed 31-49 people people. There were 6-7 civilians reportedly among the dead – three of them were children. The strikes were reportedly ‘an attempt to disrupt an al Qaeda terrorism plot‘. Unnamed US officials confirmed US drones carried out the strikes.

The first strike of this cluster, on July 27, ended a seven week pause between attacks. This demonstrates both that the US had tightened its targeting parameters but maintained the ability to relax them ‘in response to an elevated threat‘.

Senior US officials told the New York Times that the terrorist threat had ‘expanded the scope of people we could go after’, and that none of those killed in the stepped-up series of strikes were ‘household names’. Instead, they were ‘rising stars’ who could become future leaders. ‘Before, we couldn’t necessarily go after a driver for the organization; it’d have to be an operations director,’ said an unnamed US official. ‘Now that driver becomes fair game because he’s providing direct support to the plot.’

The threat was reportedly uncovered when Western spies intercepted al Qaeda communications. The US also responded to the perceived threat by shutting 19 embassies in the Middle East and North Africa – a decision that bewildered some counter-terrorism analysts. Will McCants, a former State department counter-terrorism advisor and director at the Brookings Institute told the McClatchy news agency: ‘It’s crazy pants – you can quote me.’

Three unnamed sources told CNN AQAP was in the final stages of an attack. It had also emerged senior AQAP militant Nasir al Wuhayshi had been made al Qaeda second-in-command. The US reportedly had intercepted communication between al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and Yemen – most likely transmitted by courier according to CNN. Zawahiri reportedly told Wuhayshi to ‘do something‘.

Multiple sources told NBC the feared terrorist attack could have been ‘an assassination, an assault on a drone base or another Western target’. The preceding drone strikes were meant to ‘buy time’ as US intelligence officials tried to divine where and when the attack would come, the Washington Post reported. Sanaa criticised a US decision to close its embassy and evacuate its staff in response to the threat.

Reports emerged al Qaeda was going to attack the oil pipelines but failed and tried to attack through the coast of Mukalla but failed as well.’ The plan involved using al Qaeda militants dressed in Yemeni Army uniforms to storm the facilities, Channel 4 News reported. The attack was due to take place on the 27th day of Ramadan, August 4.

However the Washington Post reported US intelligence officials were skeptical the danger had passed. One told the paper the oil refinery plot could have one part of a larger offensive on Western targets. US drones continued to strike after Yemeni security forces reported foiled al Qaeda’s plans.

It also emerged that the US had suspended plans to return about 100 Yemeni detainees from the Guantanamo Bay, according to a Yemeni diplomatic source. A White House official told the BBC there had been no policy change.

YEM143
July 27 2013
♦ 4-9 killed

A night-time strike on two vehicles travelling in convoy reportedly killed at least four alleged militants in the al Mahfad district of Abyan province; some sources put the death toll as high as eight. It was the first reported attack in seven weeks. Four anonymous Yemeni officials told CNN the strike was carried out by a US drone; in September 2012 President Hadi said his own air force is incapable of bombing targets at night. Residents described hearing loud explosions, and some told Reuters they believed the dead belonged to AQAP-linked group Ansar al Sharia. According to local media the strike killed Araf Mohammed Nassir Lakrai, the 25 year old cousin of AQAP al Mahfad district commander Ali Lakrai.’A night drone strike targeted two cars of Al-Qaeda militants in Wadi Dhiqa in Mahfad, killing the six people inside them,’ a local official told AFP. Xinhua reported that people attempting to pull bodies from the wreckage may have been attacked: ‘in an initial strike, one rocket hit the moving convoy, killing six al-Qaida militants. When people rushed to the scene to rescue the wounded, two more rockets came, killing two militants and injuring three others,’ according to residents.

Local media reported that eight died, and an anonymous security source claimed the dead included bomb maker Ibrahim al Asiri. He was described earlier in the week by Time as ‘the world’s most dangerous terrorist’. A senior counter-terrorism official told the magazine: ‘He’s the main guy. He’s the top of any list.’ Al Asiri is described as the planner behind numerous attacks on the US, including the 2009 underwear bomber, the printer cartridge plot and a gruesome attempt to kill the Saudi security chief by concealing a bomb inside his brother, 23-year-old Abdullah al Asiri, who posed as a defecting militant. The plot was unsuccessful, although Abdullah died. However there was no immediate confirmation of his death.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location
: Mahfad, Abyan province
References: AFP, Reuters, CNN, BBC, Time, Al Montasaf (Ar), Xinhua, Associated Press, Yemen Times, News Yemen, Washington Post, McClatchy

YEM144
July 30 2013
♦ 3-4 killed

A US drone strike killed three people in a vehicle in the southern province of Shabwa. Two Yemenis and one Saudi Arabian, all alleged militants, were killed. Tribal leaders told the Associated Press the Saudi was a ‘known member of al Qaida’s branch in Yemen’ though no name was reported initially. Subsequently McClatchy reported Saudi Ibrahim al Rubaish was killed, according to local tribal fighters. Al Rubaish was AQAP’s leading ideologue and replaced Said al Shehri in the roll after Shehri was killed in a drone strike in 2012. However this was not confirmed. The Long War Journal reported Al Khidr Husayn al Jadani - ‘AQAP’s overall commander in Abyan province’ – died in the strike. He reportedly replaced Abdul Munim Salim al Fatahani as commander in Abyan when he died in January 2012 (YEM040).

The strike destroyed one of two vehicles traveling together at dawn. It hit three days after at least four people were killed in the neighbouring province of Abyan in the last drone strike. ‘The car in which the three were travelling – two Yemenis and a Saudi – was blown to pieces and all of them were killed outright,’ an anonymous source told AFP. The attack came two days before President Hadi was due to visit the White House for talks about counter-terrorism and democratic reforms.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location
: Al Saeed, Shabwa province
ReferencesAFP, Associated Press, al Masdar Online (Ar), Xinhua, Long War Journal, Washington Post, McClatchy

YEM145
August 1 2013
♦ 3-5 killed
♦ 4-5 civilians reported killed, including 1 child
♦ 3 reported injured

At least three people died in a US drone strike on the day Yemen’s President Hadi visited the White House to discuss counter-terrorism and political reform. It was the third strike in a week. The drones targeted a vehicle at dawn, killing the occupants an unnamed official told AFP. The vehicle was a Toyota Hilux, residents told Aden al Ghad. It was destroyed and the bodies ‘completely burnt‘. International and local media reported the dead were al Qaeda militants, citing unnamed sources. But Haykal Bafana, a lawyer from Hadramout, contradicted this, tweeting:

He said his sources in Hadramout confirmed what local journalist Abdul Razzaq al Jamal reported on Twitter: the four dead were civilians, one a young child. Razzaq named the three adultsAbu Al-Magdad, Mundhar and Bashar. He said all four were from the Al Sai-aari tribe.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Wadi Ser, Hadramout
References: AFP, KUNA, Aden al Ghad (Ar), Barakish (Ar), Xinhua, Reuters, Twitter, Twitter, Twitter, Washington Post, McClatchy, New York Times

YEM146
August 6 2013
♦ 4 killed

Four alleged AQAP militants were killed by US drones – the fourth such attack in 10 days. They were a sequence of attacks intended to disrupt a impending AQAP attack. It was ‘part of a coordinated response‘ to the threat according to unnamed US officials who confirmed drones carried out this and the other strikes. The strike hit the day Yemen announced its security forces had disrupted an AQAP plot to attack oil infrastructure.

The four men were killed when as many as five missiles hit their vehicle as they drove through the central province of Marib in the early hours. All four in the car were Yemeni and the attack ‘turned [the vehicle] into a ball of fire‘, a tribal source told AFP. Two of the killed,  Saleh al Tays al Waeli and Saleh Ali Guti (aka Saleh Jouti), were reportedly senior AQAP leaders. Al Waeli featured on a list of 25 wanted AQAP operatives released by the Yemeni government.

The militants planned to destroy essential hydrocarbon infrastructure: oil and gas pipelines and the Canadian-run Mina al Dhaba oil terminal on the Arabian Sea coast. AQAP reportedly intended either to take control of the terminal or failing that snatch foreign experts as hostages. A nearby oil derivatives export facility was also a target. And AQAP was planning to seize Hadramout’s provincial capital, Mukalla. Spokesman Rajeh Badi told CNN: ‘Large numbers of government forces are making sure the Yemeni coasts are safe from any al Qaeda attack. Al Qaeda sought to attack the oil pipelines but failed and tried to attack through the coast of Mukalla but failed as well.’ The plan involved using al Qaeda militants dressed in Yemeni Army uniforms to storm the facilities, Channel 4 News reported. The attack was due to take place on the 27th day of Ramadan, August 4. However the Washington Post reported US intelligence officials were skeptical the danger had passed. One told the paper the oil refinery plot could have one part of a larger offensive on Western targets. US drones continued to strike after Yemeni security forces reported foiled al Qaeda’s plans.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Wadi Abeeda, Marib province
References: CNN, AFP, Yemen Post, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Associated Press, Washington Post, McClatchy, AFPChannel 4 NewsCNNAustralian Associated PressMcClatchyCNN, Marib Press (Ar), McClatchy, Bloomberg

YEM147
August 7 2013
♦ 6-8 killed
♦ 0-4 reported injured

At least six people were killed in the early hours in the second strike in two days and fifth inside two weeks. A drone fired at least six missiles at two cars in a remote area, witnesses and local officials told Reuters. Local residents said they saw two vehicles and several bodies on fire at the scene. One of the dead, Sarhan al Thamlaqi, (aka Sarhan Khushiman Al Dhamalgi) was named by local paper Yemen Post. He was reportedly not on a list of 25 AQAP operatives wanted for planning operations in Sanaa and other Yemeni provinces. The Yemeni government offered 5m Yemeni rials ($23,000) for information leading to their capture, reported the Long War Journal. In May 2014 al Qaeda released a euology for Sarhan Abdullah Ali al Nasi (aka Khishiman), one of the group’s military commanders.

Al Nasi became involved in terrorism before 2007 when Yemeni authorities arrested him for trying to travel to fight in Iraq. He was jailed in Sanaa where he reportedly met Anwar al Awlaki. Al Nasi was in prison for nine months before joining AQAP as a driver. He went on to train in Shabwa and to fight in 2011 when the group took over swathes of southern Yemen. He was appointed to senior positions within the group, including leader in the noerhtern provinces of Jawf and Saada.

Security officials told the New York Times the strike hit members of a Bedouin tribe. However a local official told the Associated Press a suspected Saudi militant was killed in the attack and four more Saudis were injured. The strike came as reports surfaced of militants had brought down a Yemeni military helicopter with a rocket, killing eight soldiers. The helicopter was flying over Wadi Abeeda in Marib province; there had been as many as four drone strikes on the area until this point in 2013.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Markha, Shabwa province
References: CBS/Associated Press, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, Al Jazeera, NBC NewsWashington PostXinhua, New York Times, GuardianAFP, Yemen Post, Long War Journal, al Masdar Online (Ar), Marib Press (Ar), McClatchy, Bloomberg, Sahafah (Ar), Long War Journal

YEM148
August 8 2013
♦ 3-8 killed
♦ 2-3 civilians reported killed, 2 of them children

At least three people were reported killed in the third drone strike in three days and sixth in under two weeks – a frequency of attacks not seen since the start of the year. US officials confirmed drones carried out the attack, telling NBC News the wave of strikes was in response to intercepted communications suggesting a terrorist attack. The officials said ‘there is no evidence any of those killed could be considered among al Qaeda leadership’. In November 2013 Foreign Policy spoke to Arfag al Marwani, 28, about the strike. He said his three brothers were killed as they drove home after buying presents and fireworks for the festival of Eid al Fitr. He named the dead as:  Abdullah, 24, Hassan, 17, and Hussein, 16. ‘Everything inside the car seemed to have been flung out of the windows by the force of the blast.’ He added: ‘I found their bodies lying nearby – decapitated.’

The magazine spoke to the family and friends of the three who vociferously denied they had any connection to militancy. A spokesperson for Marib’s governor said he did not know if the dead were al Qaeda members. The head of the province’s investigation department said the brothers were associated with militants. He said:

Of course they did, otherwise they wouldn’t have been targeted [by the drone]…They were sheltering [al Qaeda]. And their father… is [an al Qaeda] sympathiser.

However the Los Angeles Times spoke with Arfag ten days after the attack and reported a slightly different story. He said his two younger brothers were killed: Hussain and Hassan. He said they were both civilians but the third victim could have been a militant.

There were conflicting reports at the time of the strike. A Yemeni official told the Associated Press the bodies were seen lying charred alongside their vehicle. The anonymous source said five of the dead were Yemeni while the sixth was of another Arab nationality. However local security officials told CNN only four of the dead had links to AQAP – two were civilians. This was the second time civilian casualties were reported in this series of six strikes (see YEM145).

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Wadi Abeeda, Mareb province
References: Yemen Post, Reuters, CNN, Voice of America, Associated Press, Barakish (Ar), AFP, Mareb Press (Ar), Reuters, Channel 4 News, al Jazeera. NBC NewsLos Angeles Times, Bloomberg, McClatchyBloombergLA Times, Foreign Policy

YEM149
August 8 2013
♦ 2-7 killed

At least two people were killed in the second strike of the day. The attack hit at around 4pm local time, destroying a car, reportedly a Toyota Hilux. It was travelling through the eastern province of Hadramout. Witnesses reported seeing drones hovering over the area since dawn. Unnamed US officials told NBC News drones launched this strike and the six before it in response to intercepted communications suggesting a terrorist attack was coming. The officials said ‘there is no evidence any of those killed could be considered among al Qaeda leadership.’

Subsequent report said this was a pair of strikes. Drones targeted the Toyota Hilux, killing two occupants, according to a September 2013 report. Five passengers reportedly fled the scene and were pursued by the drones. Their bodies were found two miles from the wreckage of the pickup truck. In an August 23 speech President Hadi declared the US and Yemeni forces had foiled AQAP plots. He said this Toyota Hilux was part of these terrorist plans and had been laden with seven tons of explosives. However the security chief for Hadramout governorate said ‘there was no evidence of any TNT or explosives’ at the scene of the strike. And seven tons is reportedly beyond the maximum payload of a Toyota Hilux.

The alleged militants killed in the strike were ‘were recruiting youngsters’ according to CNN. Residents said a drone had been flying low over the province since dawn. An unnamed local told CNN: ‘When we hear it flying above us, we know there will be a strike later in the day.’ A Yemeni government website identified one of the dead men as Sami Mohammed Abdullah Bahshwan, described as a 39-year-old al Qaeda member and resident of the Dees area of Mukalla. His family had identified his body and had taken it for burial, the website added. The identity of a second man remained unknown.

Yemeni Tawakkol Karman, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize laureate said: ‘The killing conducted by unmanned planes in Yemen is outside the law and worse than the terrorist activities of individuals and groups.’

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Al Oyoun, Hadramout
References: Associated Press, Marib Press (Ar), Mukalla Star (Ar), Associated Press, Reuters, Xinhua, CNN, al Jazeera, NBC NewsAssociated PressLos Angeles Times, Bloomberg, Al Gomhoriah (Ar), McClatchyBloomberg, Beacon/Iona Craig

YEM150
August 8 2013
♦ 3-5 killed

At least three people were killed in a night strike on Hadramout – the third strike in three days. An unnamed official told CNN one of the three dead was a member of al Qaeda. However Yemeni officials told BBC Arabic that four alleged militants were killed in Wadi al Jadd. And Reuters reported three men were killed as they travelled in a vehicle in an area called Ghail Bawazeer. Residents heard a large explosion and later saw the car destroyed, the agency reported. Anonymous US officials confirmed drones carried out the attack. They told NBC News the eight strikes since July 27 2013 (YEM142) were in response to intercepted al Qaeda communications that suggested a terrorist attack was coming. However the officials said ‘there is no evidence any of those killed could be considered among al Qaeda leadership.

The intense wave of strikes were reportedly focussed on areas where AQAP’s top leaders had taken refuge. An unnamed Yemen intelligence official told the Associated Press the group’s commander Nasser al Wihayshi was believed to be ‘trying to recruit informants in the mountainous areas of Marib’ especially in Wadi Abeeda, where two recent strikes had hit. The official said Qassim al Raimi, another senior AQAP figure, was thought to be based in southern Yemen. And Ibrahim al Asiri, the bomb-maker behind several attempts to target the US, was believed to be in the north of the country near his native Saudi Arabia.

Earlier the same day Sanaa appeared to distance itself from its claims that it had foiled the grand al Qaeda plot that prompted the US and some allies to close its embassies and spurred Washington to launch a wave of lethal drone strikes. Some analysts speculated the US had overreacted to a perceived threat. And Christian Science Monitor (CSM) pointed out the intense bombardment by the US – eight strikes in 12 days – began while President Hadi was in the US. CSM reported US officials told the president his country was not doing enough to counter terrorism.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Al Qatn, Hadramout
References: CNN, NBC News, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, BBC, Reuters, Christian Science Monitor, Bloomberg, Xinhua, Reuters, New York Times, McClatchyBloomberg

YEM151
August 10 2013
♦ 2-5 killed
♦ 2-5 reported injured

US drones returned for the ninth time in 13 days killing at least two alleged al Qaeda militants. The men were travelling in a vehicle through Lahj province when the drones struck. Some reports said the attack targeted two vehicles, which were transporting weapons. The drones either destroyed both or one vehicle managed to escape, depending on the report. The attack came late in the evening in a mountainous area of the province.

BRZsSc7CQAEM_Lz
Photo: Sadan al-Yafai via Farea al-Muslimi

Local news outlet Al-Watan cited eyewitnesses saying the strike targeted a car that had attempted to hide under a bridge. The drone fired a missile at the car and then three more at passengers attempting to flee. Al-Watan claimed Ibrahim al-Asiri, the AQAP bombmaker recently named by the government as among its most-wanted terrorists, was injured in the strike. It based this claim on a photo of a wounded man taken by local journalist Sadan al Yafai, who also photographed the wreckage of the car.

However a US spokesman urged ‘caution’ over claims Asiri had been killed, speaking to the Washington Free Beacon, and a Yemeni official later denied Asiri had been wounded. Local news outlets previously reported him killed in YEM142 although this was unconfirmed. Unnamed US officials told ABC News that ‘four al Qaeda terrorists connected to that latest threat stream against the American embassy in Yemen had been killed in a drone strike over the weekend’. This was the only strike to take place on the weekend. The four alleged militants were not named though ABC’s source said they were ‘the operational guys we were after’. Three days after the strike the Yemen government announced two ‘most wanted’ terrorists were killed and three captured over the preceding two weeks of drone strikes. However Sanaa did not name the dead and captured militants.

Activist and journalist Farea al-Muslimi later tweeted that three civilian bystanders were injured, and provided their names:

The three had been ‘just hanging around in their neighbourhood’ when the missiles struck, al-Muslimi added.

An unnamed senior Yemeni official told CNN nearly a dozen of those killed in the previous fortnight’s barrage of drone strikes were believed to be civilians, but did not provide further information.

The Associated Press reported seven Saudi Arabian militants were killed in the previous series of attacks. One reportedly died in a strike in Shabwa province (YEM147). It was not known where or or precisely when the others were killed. Ragaa Bin Ali (aka Raja Bin Ali) was also killed, according to a senior Yemeni intelligence official. However it was again not clear where or when he died.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: El Askariya, Lahj province
ReferencesReutersAssociated PressYemen PostXinhuaAFPal JazeeraBBCCNN, Washington Free Beacon, Al Watan (Ar), Telegraph, Long War Journal, Reuters, The Times, NBC News, Long War Journal, ABC News, ABC News, Associated Press


Locals inspect the wreckage from YEM150 (Reuters).

YEM151c
August 12 2013
♦ 2 killed

Reuters is currently the only western news outlet reporting a late-night drone strike in Shabwa province. A local official told the agency a suspected US drone attacked a vehicle. ‘The car was completely obliterated and the two men inside it were killed,’ he said. There was no information about the identity of the dead men, although Reuters described them as ‘suspected Islamist militants’. Locals also mentioned rumours of the strike on Twitter:

The reported strike took place as Yemen remained on high alert, with AQAP’s leader threatening a jailbreak to liberate scores of militants and the US embassy in Sana’a remaining closed as of Monday.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Shabwa province
References: Reuters, Yemen Post

YEM152
August 30 2013
♦ 4-6 killed

A senior militant leader was targeted and killed in a pre-dawn strike. US drones attacked a vehicle between midnight and 2am, killing both occupants including senior leader Qaid Ahmad Nasser al Dhahab. AQAP confirmed Dhahab died in the strike 16 days after the strike. He was a casualty of the US’ ‘war on Islamic sharia’, the group said. Sources alleged US drones destroyed the vehicle killing two before returning to hit the target again, killing at least two more. If confirmed, these reports indicate the US may have taken a drone war tactic from Pakistan to Yemen. In 2012 the Bureau first revealed the CIA used drones to targeted first responders in so-called double-tap strikes.

Al Dhahab was labelled AQAP’s ‘spiritual leader’ and a military chief ‘who had previously fought with the group in Iraq’. A tribal source said he was killed hours after he celebrated his wedding on August 29. US drones have targeted al Dhahab and his relatives several times in the past. In January 2012 drones reportedly targeted but missed his brother Tareq Al Dhahab. Tareq was AQAP commander in Radaa after he briefly took control of the city early last year. He was reportedly killed in February 2012 by the Yemeni intelligence service though a report by The Times paints a picture of Mafia-like strife between Tareq and his pro-Hadi half-brother Hizam. It ended with Tareq ‘gunned down in a mosque’ and Hizan then killed by Tareq’s supporters.

Qaid al Dhahab was reportedly targeted but survived a strike in May 2012 (YEM087) with his brother Nabil. In September 2012 (YEM114) either US drones or jets targeted Qaid and Nabil’s half brother Abdulraouf. But the attack was a tragic failure: the missiles missed and destroyed a minivan killing 12 civilians, including three children. And there was ultimately unfounded speculation Qaid al Dhahab was killed in a strike in January this year (YEM128). Tareq, Qaid and Nabil were brothers-in-law to Anwar al Awlaki, the US citizen killed by drones in Yemen in September 2011 (YEM031).

This was the first strike in al Bayda since May 2013. And it was the first since Qaid al Dhahab reached an agreement with Sanaa to end a government air and ground offensive in the province. Yemen sent its forces into the area in January but the move was complicated by the popularity of the Dhahab tribe. The two sides came to a tenuous accord with Sanaa demanding Qaid and his brother Tareq surrender and the Dhahabs demanding an end to drone strikes in the province.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Manasseh, al Bayda province
References: AFP, Gulf News, Xinhua, Twitter, Twitter, CNN, ReutersAFP, The Times, Associated Press, AFP

September

YEM152c
September 7 2013
♦ 2 killed
♦ 2 injured

A single source reported a US drone strike on four men in a car. Officials reportedly confirmed President Hadi authorised a ‘US-led drone strike’ in the southern Lahj province. Two of the men were killed and two injured, ‘one rather seriously’. The Yemen Post report cited an unnamed official.

Location: Askariya, Lahj province
References: Yemen Post

November

YEM153
November 19 2013
♦ 3-5 killed

At least three people were killed when an airstrike hit a car or Toyota Hilux travelling in the Ghayl Bawazir area of Hadramout. Witnesses told Xinhua the vehicle was ‘engulfed in flame’. Details were scarce in initial reports but it emerged five alleged al Qaeda members were killed. They were named: Abu Habib al Yemeni, reportedly from Yemen; Abu Salma al Russi, reportedly from Russia; Abu Suhaib al Australi, reportedly from Australia; Wadhah al Hadhrami reportedly from Hadramout in Yemen; and Hamam al Masri, reportedly from Egypt. A Bureau researcher said these were nom de guerre, explaining that al Qaeda fighters take their names from the first name of their eldest son and their birthplace.

In April 2014 the Australian government confirmed that two of its citizens were killed in the attack. One was named as Christopher Havard, 27, from Queensland, eastern Australia. He reportedly used the pseudonym Abu Salma al Russi having  been mistaken for a Russian. The second man was a dual Australian and New Zealand national. He went by the name Muslim Bin John – originally Daryl Jones – and fought under the pseudonym Abu Suhaib al Australi. It emerged in May 2014 that the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation had asked the government in Canberra to take away both Jones and Havard’s passports. Spies at ASIO reportedly believed he was involved in al Qaeda. Havard’s grandmother said he had spoken to her weeks before he died. She said he wanted go home to Australia, adding: ‘He’d just had enough. I really don’t believe he wanted to be mixed up in what was going on.’

An unnamed counter-terrorism source told The Australian the two men were ‘foot soldiers’ for AQAP and not the targets of the attack. The source said: ‘The Americans advised us that they had intelligence that suggested they may have been in the car and may have been collateral damage.’ Havard’s mother was adamant her son was not a terrorist, telling The Australian he was an English teacher in Yemen.

Havard was originally from Theodore, a small town northwest of Brisbane – the largest city in Queensland. He attended state school until the age of 16 and was described as having been a ‘troubled’ teen. The father of a former classmate said: ‘He didn’t learn too much at school, and he didn’t learn much after school either.’ The Australian reported his life became more ‘stable’ in his 20s when he converted to Islam when living in Townsville, also in Queensland. He reportedly had a ‘distinctive’ face and a teardrop tattoo under one eye.

It subsequently emerged that Havard had lived in New Zealand for two years. He reportedly moved about the country. By 2010 he was reportedly living in Dunedin, New Zealand. In September that year he ‘scarpered’ to Christchurch, New Zealand, after a local court ordered him to pay NZ$4,000 (£2,000) in unpaid rent and damages. Muslims in New Zealand described Havard as ‘a loner’ and ‘a lanky, heavily-tattooed Australian who used to tie up his Dobermans outside the mosque while praying’, according to the New Zealand Herald.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed two Australians were killed, emphasising ‘there was no Australian involvement in, or prior awareness of, the operation’. The two men were reportedly identified with DNA taken from bone fragments and tissue samples sent by the Yemen authorities to the Australian Federal Police. Harvard’s step-farther Neil Dowrick told The Australian: ‘From what I was told… he went over to teach English.’ He also said the family understood Harvard had been buried on April 11 2014. The New Zealand Prime Minister John Key revealed he was aware Bin John had been in Yemen for ‘quite some time‘. He said: ‘I knew that he had gone there and gone to a terrorist training camp.’ Key had reportedly signed a warrant allowing the New Zealand intelligence service the GCSB to spy on Bin John.

Key said he had been told late in 2013 that it was highly likely Bin John had been killed in the strike. The US did not inform New Zealand of the strike, the GCSB told Key it happened. He told reporters: ‘My intelligence agencies informed me, I don’t know where they got their information from.’ Bin John was reportedly buried in Yemen. Some sources described the attack as an ‘air strike‘ however an anonymous Yemeni officials told the Associated Press the Yemeni government had not carried out any strikes in the area. This was the first possible US drone strike in nearly three months.

Type of strike: US air operation, possible drone strike
Location: Ghayl Bawazir, Hadramout province
References: Xinhua, AFP, Barakish (Ar), Hona Hadramout (Ar), Associated Press, Reuters, Mukalla Star (Ar), Facebook (Ar), The Australian, 3 News, 3 News, The Australian, New Zealand Herald, Associated Press of New Zealand, The Australian

YEM153a
November 20 2013

♦ Unknown casualties

A possible second strike hit the following day. A house was partly destroyed in the attack, according to local media. It is unclear how many were killed.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Shahr, Hadramout
References: Mukalla Star (Ar)

YEM154
November 26 2013
♦ 12 killed

As many as 12 people were killed in a possible US drone strike. They were reportedly traveling in a car through the region of Mahfed in southern Yemen’s Abyan province when the drone hit. The men were badly burnt and the car was ‘incinerated‘ according to the Interior Ministry. The government said the men were al Qaeda, adding it had launched an investigation to find out their identifies. The Interior Ministry also said the attack was carried out by the Yemen Air Force. However the Yemen Air Force capable of taking precision strikes on moving vehicles, or even flying operations at night.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Mahfed, Abyan province
References: Reuters, AFP, Associated Press, World Bulletin/Anadolu Agency, UPI

December

YEM155
December 9 2013
♦ 3-4 killed

At least three people were killed in a strike on a vehicle in eastern Yemen. A moving vehicle was destroyed and the bodies of the three alleged al Qaeda members were left charred, an unnamed Yemeni security official said. It was not possible to identify the dead, the official added. One local media report said the men were diving in a red Vitara laden with explosives. A local military source told Xinhua: ‘Up to four terrorists were in the charred vehicle, which burst into flames shortly after a huge explosion of their small pick-up truck in the Qatan valley in Hadramout.’ And local residents told the agency ‘senior members‘ of al Qaeda were in the vehicle when it was hit.

This was the first strike since 52 died in an assault on the Ministry of Defence in Sanaa. An explosives laden truck hit the gates to the facility and gunmen in military uniform stormed the building. A gun battle ensued with Yemen security forces. More than 162 were injured in the assault. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for drone attacks.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al Qatan, Hadramout province
References: AFP, Associated Press, Marib Press (Ar), Aden al Ghad (Ar), Barakish (Ar), Reuters, Xinhua

YEM155c
December 10 2013
♦ 8 killed

Eight people were reportedly killed in an evening strike. Two vehicles were hit, according to a soldier quoted by the Yemen Times. According to the newspaper, Abyan’s security chief said: ‘The armed men targeted in the last strike were [among] the most dangerous ones in the governorate.’ But he did not identify them. However a Bureau source in Sanaa contradicted suggestions this was a drone strike, saying it was a Yemen Air Force attack.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Ahwar, Abyan province
References: Yemen Times

YEM156
December 12 2013
♦ 12-17 killed
♦ 8-16 reported civilians
♦ 5-30 reported injured

A US drone killed at least 12 people in a strike on a wedding procession. At least eight civilians were killed though several reports said all 12 dead were civilians. The convoy was carrying 50-60 people from the groom Abdullah Mabkhut al Amri’s home to the bride Warda al Sorimi’s home in 11 four-wheel drive vehicles. Four or five were hit by missiles in 4.30pm attack. Al Sorimi was Abdullah Mabkut al Amri’s second wife. She received a cut to her eye and her wedding dress was destroyed. All the dead were reportedly from two families: the al Taysi and al Amiri. A source told the Bureau they were ‘notable’ families in the region. The dead were all from the local area and many were survived by large families, Al Jazeera America reported:

Three men killed from Jishm left behind 17 children between them, and another will be born in about six months. Their fathers either eked out livings growing qat – the mild narcotic plant chewed by a majority of Yemenis – in the barren landscape surrounding the village, or sneaked across Yemen’s northern border into Saudi Arabia looking for work.

The elderly mother of one victim said: ‘Whatever we do, they will never look at us as human beings… We end up with wounds they cannot see.’ The families were outraged by the killings. They took the bodies of the victims to the provincial capital Radaa. Armed tribesmen blocked the main road from the city to Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.

A photograph provided to Repreive shows the bodies of several victims buried in Radaa following the strike. (PHOTO: Repreive)
A photograph provided to Reprieve shows the bodies of several victims buried in Radaa following the strike. (PHOTO: Reprieve)

General Ali Mohsen Mothana and Al Ghahiri al Shadadi, the provincial governor, held a public in meeting in Radaa on December 14 to apologise to the families for the killings that they called a ‘mistake’. The officials gave the families of the dead and wounded 34 million Yemeni Rials, or $159,000 (£95,000) and 101 Kalashnikov rifles – a traditional tribal apology. Despite this sign of contrition and reparations, there were conflicting official accounts of what happened in the strike. Yemeni officials were quick to tell journalists all the dead were militants.

Four names emerged that officials said were wanted militants. And the Yemen government put out a statement declaring all the dead were militants wanted for planning attacks on the ‘armed forces, police and vital institutions’. However a ‘top Yemeni national security official’ told CNN none of the dead were on any list of wanted terrorists. The US did not comment at first. The day after the strike one told Reuters the administration was aware of reports of the strike but said: ‘We have no information that corroborates these reports’. Subsequently unnamed officials told the Associated Press 9-12 militants were killed in the attack. However after successive investigations found evidence civilians were killed, unnamed US officials said Washington would investigate the strike. In February 2014 anonymous US officials told the Associated Press the government had launched two investigations into the strike. Both showed all the dead were militants. However Human Rights Watch’s own investigations found no evidence of a US investigation into the attack. It also emerged that the strike was launched by US military drones, operated by the shadowy Special Forces unit, the Joint Special Forces Command.

Ahmed Mohammed Al-Shafee' holds a picture of his son, Aaref, who was killed in the strike. (PHOTO: Reprieve)
Ahmed Mohammed Al-Shafee’ holds a picture of his son, Aaref, who was killed in the strike. (PHOTO: Reprieve)

Two unnamed US officials said the target was Shawqi Ali Ahmed al Badani. They said he was responsible for an international terror alert in the summer of 2013. It caused the US to shut up to 20 diplomatic missions in the Middle East and Africa, and spurred Washington to launch nine drone strikes in Yemen in a two week period at the end of July and start of August that left 31-49 dead of whom 6-7 were civilians, including three children.

Sanaa had put a reward of $100,000 for the capture of al Badani. However a Yemeni security analyst said before this strike ‘most people had never heard of him’ but after the attack his name had appeared on chat sites after this strike, describing him as an ‘emir of Sanaa’. He was reportedly in the fourth vehicle in the wedding convoy. The occupants had reportedly fled from the vehicle just before the strike hit. However local villagers said it was unlikely Badani was even in the vicinity of the strike, given that he hails from another part of the country.

The US added al Badani to a sanctions list of top wanted terrorists in June 2014. The listing said al Badani ‘has long been involved in terrorist activity as a member of [AQAP]‘. It continued:

In 2012, al Badani reportedly assigned an AQAP operative to target the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, for attacks. He also has been described as being connected to a suicide bomber who killed over 100 Yemeni soldiers in a May 2012 attack. Furthermore, he played a key role in a plan for a major attack in summer 2013 that led the United States to close 19 diplomatic posts across the Middle East and Africa.

Media and human rights organisations investigated this strike comprehensively and found several names of those killed. They also uncovered fragments of Hellfire missiles used by drones. Reprieve, HRW and Al Jazeera America compiled extensive records of the what happened during and after the strike from interviews with witnesses, survivors, relatives of victims and government officials.

Initial reports named four men killed in the strike, saying they were members of al Qaeda. Nayef Ali al Ahraq, 37, and Muhammed Ali al Amiri, 30, were reported dead by one source. Saleh al Taysi and Abdullah al Taysi were named by a separate source. Soon after local media outlets published lists of all the people reported killed in the attack. Al Masdar Online published 11 names from the 13 people it reported as killed:

Hussein Mohammed Saleh Al Ameri, 65
Ali Abdullah Mohammed Al Tays, 35
Zeidan Mohammed Al Ameri, 40
Saif Abdullah Mabkhout Al Ameri, 20
Hussein Mohammed Al Taysi, 20
Motlaq Hamoud Mohammed Al Taysi, 45
Saleh Abdullah Mabkhout [al Ameri], 30
Aaref Mohammed Al Taysi, 30
Saleh Massad Al Ameri, 42
Massad Dayfallah Al Ameri, 25
Mohammed Ali Massad Al Ameri, 30 (see above)

Samaa News and Al Bayda Lyom published lists with the same names as al Masdar Online. They both added Shayef Abdullah Mabkhout al Ameri to this list of the dead. And Al Bayda Lyom also reported the names of four more people killed: Hussein Mohammed Al Tomayl Al Taysi, 20 Salem Mohammed Ali Al Taysi Ali Mohammed Abdullah Al Taysi Rajeh Ali Massad Al Taysi HRW published the results of its field investigation in February 2014. The report included a list of 12 people reportedly killed. This list corroborated the 11 published by al Masdar and one published by al Bayda Lyom. Local sheikh Abdullah Muhammad al Taysi was driving one of the vehicles in the convoy. He described the attack and aftermath to HRW: 

Blood was everywhere, the bodies of the people who were killed and injured were scattered everywhere… I saw the missile hit the car that was just behind the car driven by my son. I went there to check on my son. I found him tossed to the side. I turned him over and he was dead. He was struck in his face, neck, and chest. My son, Ali!

HRW also reported the names of six seriously wounded men, including their ages and injuries:

Abdullah Muhgammed al Taysi, 52, multiple shrapnel wounds
Mohammed Ali Abdullah al Ameri, 45, multiple shrapnel wounds
Naif Abdullah Ali al Taysi, 30, lost vision in one eye, broken leg
Mohammed Ali Ahmed al Ameri, 40, lost body parts including part of one leg
Nasser Ali Ahmed al Ameri, 36, wounded in the back, leg
Abdullah Aziz Mabkhot, 30, broken hand and leg

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: al Qaifa, Radaa, al Bayda province
References: AFP, Huaib al Mosawa, Barakish (Ar), Al Tagheer (Ar), Al Karameh (Ar), Yemen Press (Ar), Aden al Ghad (Ar), Al Hayat (Ar), Al Masdar Online (Ar), ReutersAssociated Press, New York Times, BBCEFE, AFP, CNN, Radio Sawa (Ar), Shorouk News (Ar), Al Masdar Online (Ar), Samaa News (Ar), Al Bayda Lyom (Ar), Reuters, CNN, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, CNN, New York Times, Associated Press, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, NBC News, Reprieve, Al-Jazeera America, Human Rights Watch, Associated Press, Rolling Stone, Department of State

YEM157
December 27 2013
♦ 1-6 killed

An attack on a vehicle killed suspected AQAP members in the southern city of Shiban. Initial reports disagreed on how many had been killed, with estimates ranging from one (Associated Press) to six (local news site Sahafah). Local officials told reporters the strike was carried out by a US drone. An anonymous official told Gulf News the attack took place at about 5.15pm and hit a vehicle travelling near an oil station, on the outskirts of a small town between the towns of Seiyun and Shiban. ‘The airstrike burnt the bodies of the two men who were carried to Shibam hospital,’ the official said. But another anonymous official was cited by Xinhua saying: ‘The US drone hit a small car immediately after it left an Al-Qaeda-held house near the historical city of Shibam. Four militants were killed.’ Residents cited by Xinhua said a US drone was chasing high-ranking AQAP commanders. Yemeni lawyer Ibrahim Bafana tweeted what was described as a photo of the wreckage:

The strike was the first alleged US drone strike since an attack on a wedding convoy reportedly killed at least six civilians on December 12. Also on December 27, Yemeni army tanks fired on mourners at a funeral in Daleh province, reportedly killing at least 13.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Shiban, Hadramout province
References: Associated PressSahafah (Ar), AFP, Gulf News, Reuters, Xinhua, Long War Journal

YEM158
December 31 2013
♦ 2-6 killed
♦ 0-3 reported injured


An interior ministry press release stated that two alleged AQAP members were killed and three others were injured in an attack that ‘targeted Al-Qaeda-owned cars in the Sahara area of Al-Mahfad district’. But local military spokesman Shakir Al-Ghadir told Yemen Times that two cars were hit and six people were killed, one of whom he identified as Abu Yousif Al-Sana’ani, ‘an AQAP leader in Abyan’.

The government press release did not indicate who had carried out the strike. But Yemen’s air force is weak – by President Hadi’s own admission it cannot carry out strikes at night – and is not believed to be capable of strikes on moving vehicles, meaning this reported attack may have been a drone strike.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al-Mahfad district, Abyan province
References: Yemen Times, Sahafah (Ar), BBC (Ar), Yemen Press (Ar), IRIB Radio (Ar), Al Jadeed (Ar), Yemen Economist (Ar)