Monthly Updates on the Covert War

April 2013 Update: US covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper/cclark395 - Flickr

An armed Reaper sits on the apron at Nellis Air Force Base. (cclark395/Flickr)

Two CIA strikes kill at least eight in Pakistan, including an al Qaeda commander.

US drone strikes return to Yemen after an 85-day pause.

Militants launch one of their most well organised and deadly attacks to date, on a court house in Somalia.

Pakistan

April 2013 actions

Total CIA strikes in April: 2
Total killed in strikes in April: 8-12, of whom 0 were reportedly civilians


All actions 2004 – April 30 2013

Total Obama strikes: 316
Total US strikes since 2004: 368
Total reported killed: 2,541-3,533
Civilians reported killed: 411-884
Children reported killed: 168-197
Total reported injured: 1,173-1,472
For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.

The US launched two strikes on Pakistan, killing at least eight. CIA drones have attacked Pakistan’s tribal areas twice every month since January, when six strikes killed 27 people.

A strike on April 14 was the first of the month and the first to happen under Mir Hazar Khan Khoso, 84, who was declared caretaker prime minister in Pakistan on March 24. He will be in charge until the general election scheduled for May 11.

Campaigning has been dogged by violence. News agency Reuters reported that more than 50 people have been killed in terrorist actions targeting election campaigning. Militants have attacked rallies and Pakistan Taliban (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud urged his followers to target senior politicians and party leaders. His group’s intention is to ‘end the democratic system’, he declared.

The April 14 strike reportedly killed a senior al Qaeda militant (Ob315), Abu Ubaydah Abdullah al Adam. His death was reported by two alleged militants, Al Wathiq Billah and Barod, on April 20. Al Adam was a Palestinian raised in Saudi Arabia.

An anonymous US intelligence official said he was ‘essentially al Qaeda’s intelligence and internal security chief’ and a ‘very dangerous operative’ who was ‘on the target list’. Al Adam had replaced Mohammad Khalil Hasan al Hakaymah (aka Abu Jehad al Misri) who was killed in a drone strike on November 1 2008 (B38). An alleged local Taliban commander, Madni was reported to have been killed in the second strike of the month, on April 17.

There were no credible reports of civilian casualties in Pakistan in April.

Leaked documents obtained by news agency McClatchy show US intelligence officials were aware of at least one civilian had died in CIA strikes in 2011, despite claims to the contrary by the Agency’s new director, John Brennan. In June 2011 Brennan, at the time President Obama‘s chief counter terrorism adviser, stated publicly that for ‘almost a year’ no civilian had died in US drone strikes in Pakistan.

Yemen

April 2013 actions

Confirmed US drone strikes: 1
Further reported/possible US strike events: 1
Total reported killed in US operations: 4-7
Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 0


All actions 2002 – April 30 2013*

Confirmed US drone strikes: 44-54
Total reported killed: 232-333
Civilians reported killed: 12-47
Children reported killed: 2
Reported injured: 62-144

Possible extra US drone strikes: 78-96
Total reported killed: 277-445
Civilians reported killed: 27-50
Children reported killed: 9-10
Reported injured: 76-98

All other US covert operations: 12-76
Total reported killed: 148-366
Civilians reported killed: 60-87
Children reported killed: 25
Reported injured: 22-111
Click here for the full Yemen data.

* All but one of these actions have taken place during Obama’s presidency. Reports of incidents in Yemen often conflate individual strikes. The range in the total strikes and total drone strikes we have recorded reflects this.

Two strikes hit Yemen this month, at least one launched by a US drone. It was the first confirmed US strike in 85 days. This is the longest break between attacks since May 2011, when the US ended a year-long pause.

The confirmed drone strike on April 17 killed as many as five named alleged al Qaeda militants. One of those killed was reportedly Hamid al Rademi, who has been described as a senior al Qaeda commander by officials and other sources including Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee.  

Others, however, have questioned his al Qaeda links. Writer and activist Farea al Muslimi, a native of Wessab, where the strike hit, claimed al Rademi was called ‘an ordinary man’ by security officials and grew powerful in the area thanks to his government connections, not his terrorist connections.

The strike caused some controversy with campaigners, including al Muslimi, questioning the decision to kill rather than capture al Rademi. The noise around the strike echoed the response to one last year on November 7 (YEM122) which killed Adnan al Qathi – an individual with government and military connections, who like al Rademi could easily have been arrested rather than killed.

The strike that killed al Rademi was described in detail at a Senate subcommittee hearing by al Muslimi who was flown into Washington to testify. He spoke powerfully of the human toll of the US’s covert campaign in Yemen. The subcommittee also heard from retired general James Cartwright who said he feared the US had ‘ceded the moral authority’ through its use of drones. Retired US Air Force colonel Martha McSally also testified. She said there was ‘too much vagueness’ from the chain of command about the legal justification for drone strikes.

Somalia

April 2013 actions

Total reported US operations: 0


All actions 2007 – April 30 2013

US drone strikes: 3-9
Total reported killed: 7-27
Civilians reported killed: 0-15
Children reported killed: 0
Reported injured: 2-24

All other US covert operations: 7-14
Total reported killed: 47-143
Civilians reported killed: 7-42
Children reported killed: 1-3
Reported injured: 12-20
Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia.

 

For the eighth consecutive month, no US strikes were reported on Somalia. This was despite al Shabaab launching one of its most audacious attacks on Mogadishu since US-backed and UN-mandated African Union soldiers forced the militants from the capital in August 2011.

The city has been unstable since the militants were pushed out. Al Shabaab has persistently made it past security to launch terrorist attacks. However the coordinated bombings on April 14 were the most deadly with more than 90 reported dead and wounded.

A suicide squad burst into the court complex in the capital and fought ‘an extended gun battle’ with court guards, witnesses said. Somali investigators told the Toronto Star they believe a Canadian militant named Mahad Ali Dhore organised the assault. A second bombing hit a vehicle carrying Turkish aid officials. Western diplomats said the sophistication of the attacks and explosives used suggest foreign al Qaeda terrorists were involved.

Follow Jack Serle and Chris Woods on Twitter.

To sign up for monthly updates from the Bureau’s Covert War project click here.

In May, support the Bureau’s Naming the Dead project identifying those killed in drone strikes, through the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Click here to donate.