Get the data: Drone wars

Yemen: Reported US covert actions 2014

New Dawn

A US Air Force drone in a hangar in Iraq, August 2011 (Photo: US Air Force/Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

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

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 2014
Confirmed drone strikes Possible drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total reported strikes: 6-8 12 1
Total reported killed: 50-71 18-30 3-4
Civilians reported killed: 4-9 1-2 0
Children reported killed: 1 0-1 0
Total reported injured: 4-11 6-12 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 2013 Yemen data.


January

YEM158c
January 5 2014
♦ 5 reported killed
♦ 0-4 reported injured
The Yemeni Interior Ministry announced an airstrike against ‘locations of Al Qaeda in the province of Abyan, southern Yemen’ took place on January 5. The Ministry said the strike ‘led to a number of dead and injured in the ranks of Al Qaeda’. Military sources in Abyan told The Yemen Times that five suspected operatives of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were killed and four others were wounded when the Yemeni ‘Air Force targeted two [Toyota] Hilux model cars’ in the Al Mahfad district of Abyan.

One news outlet reported the incident was ‘believed to be a US drone strike’. The Bureau is treating this incident as a probable Yemeni airstrike and not including figure of killed or injured in our drone data.

Type of strike: Probable Yemeni airstrike
Location: Abyan province
References: The Yemen Times, Al Masdar (Ar), Nashwan News (Ar)

YEM159
January 6 2014
♦ 0-2 reported injured, possibly civilians

Several outlets reported that at least two people were injured when a suspected US drone strike hit a car on the main highway of Al Bayda province, near the city of Radaa. Eyewitnesses and ‘local sources’ were quoted as saying that ‘an American drone hit a vehicle which was transporting people believed to members of Al Qaeda’. A separate source, however, named the injured as Adnan Saleh Al Taysi and Ibrahim Hussein Al Aarif, whose parents ‘denied the presence of an Al Qaeda members in the targeted vehicle’.

The same source suggested that the strike may have missed its intended target – ‘an old truck carrying seven people’ – instead injuring ‘two civilians’.

The reported strike occurred close to the site of a US drone strike that killed between 10 and 17 people and wounded up to 30 more in December 2013 (YEM155). Several of those reported killed in the strike were members of the Al Taysi family.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al-Bayda province
References: Mareb Press (Ar), Al-Ahed.net (Ar), Shabab Press, Anadolu News Agency

YEM160
January 8 2014
♦ 2 reported killed
♦ 0-2 reported injured

Residents and local officials said a suspected US drone strike killed two alleged AQAP members in the southeastern province of Hadramout. Reuters reported that the drone ‘fired at least one missile’ on a car in Hadramout’s Al-Qatan district, ‘completely destroying the vehicle and killing two people’.

A Yemeni government official told Xinhua news agency that those killed in the strike were ‘suspected Al Qaeda militants,’ adding that two other people were wounded in the incident. A local military intelligence officer said ‘the strike was aimed at a top commander of the Al Qaeda terrorist group travelling in the vehicle’. UPI, quoting a security source, reported that the strike occurred in Wadi Mankhar in Al-Qatan.

Residents told local press that a drone targeted a private vehicle on Al-Qatan’s main road. ‘A source’ suggested that the two bodies at the scene belonged to suspected AQAP members, Aden al-Ghad reported.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al-Qatan, Hadramout province
ReferencesReutersXinhuaUPI (Ar), Aden al-Ghad (Ar)

YEM161
January 15 2014
♦ 1 reported killed
♦ 2 reported injured

♦ 1 civilian reported killed

Either a farmer or an alleged al Qaeda member was reportedly killed in an early morning strike. This was the first report of civilian casualties in Yemen in 2014. Witnesses told Reuters drones fired two missiles but shrapnel hit a farmer walking home in the early hours. The agency did not report any other casualties. However local and Arabic media reported the casualty as an al Qaeda member. A local source told Xinhua: ‘An American drone targeted a person in an area close to the old city of Shibam in the Hadramout province.’

The source added: ‘Fragments from the person’s body were flying due to him being directly hit. A car arrived to the area and took the fragments then left to an unknown destination.’

A Yemeni security source told Al-Medina news a suspected US drone fired ‘three rockets targeting a car containing three members of al Qaeda’. The outlet also reported a fourth ‘person’ who was standing by the side of the road was killed in the strike.

‘Well informed sources’ told Al-Hayat newspaper that the strike killed suspected al Qaeda operative Abdel Majid al-Shahry, a Saudi national. Shahry’s grandfather confirmed his death in a phone call to the newspaper.

A Yemeni security source told Al-Medina news a suspected US drone fired ‘three rockets targeting a car containing three members of al Qaeda’. The outlet also reported a fourth ‘person’ who was standing by the side of the road was killed in the strike.

Al-Motamar news reported that one suspected al Qaeda member was killed and two other suspected al Qaeda members were wounded in a US drone strike.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Shibam, Hadramout Province
References: Shorouk News (Ar), Nashwan News (Ar), AFP (Ar), Xinhua (Ar), Reuters, Al-Madina (Ar),  Al-Motamar (Ar), Al-Hayat (Ar)

YEM162
January 24 2014
♦ 3-4 people killed
♦ ‘Several’ people reported injured
♦ Possible civilian casualties

A reported drone strike destroyed a car carrying three or four people. The dead were allegedly al Qaeda militants.

Local media named one of the dead as Mohammed Saeed Jardan – a local of Abeeda. An official told Xinhua: ‘Four people were killed in the U.S. drone strike which took place on Thursday night in coordination with the Yemeni interior ministry.’ The official also said there was ‘an al Qaeda suspect’ among the targets. Explosions ‘rocked the area after the strike’ which suggested ‘the vehicle carried weapons or ammunition,’ according to one report.

The Yemen interior ministry reportedly said it had foiled an al Qaeda attack in Marib province. No further details were reported. The strike reportedly hit near a military position in the wadi – a dry river bed or valley.

The vehicle, reportedly a Suzuki Vitara, was traveling through Marib province at night when it was hit, strongly suggesting a US drone carried out the attack. While Yemen’s air force has carried out strikes against al Qaeda, it is not considered capable of flying precision strikes at night.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Wadi Abeeda, Marib province
References: Xinhua, Associated Press, AFP, Aden al Ghad (Ar), Barakish (Ar), News Yemen (Ar)


February

YEM163
February 3 2014
♦ 0-4 people reported killed
♦ 0-2 reported injured
♦ Possible civilian casualties

Yemen’s Ministry of Interior, citing security sources, announced an ‘airstrike’ took place in Abyan province against alleged al Qaeda militants. ‘Members of al Qaeda at the location were killed and injured,’ it reported. Although it did not specify what type of airstrike had occurred, the announcement was illustrated with an image of US Reaper drone.

Turkish Anadolu News Agency, quoting security sources, said a US drone ‘attacked suspected Al-Qaeda sites in the province’s Al-Mahfad district,’ adding that the number of casualties was unclear. Yemen Press, quoting military sources, said ‘a number of raids’ were launched by US drones against suspected al Qaeda locations in the vicinity. The sources said a number of casualties has been sustained in the raids, without specifying the exact number.

But Erem News reported a local source saying that while four people were killed and two wounded its local source was unable to verify whether or not the casualties were suspected militants. ‘It is feared [the killed and wounded] are civilians,’ it added.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al-Mahfad district, Abyan province
References: Anadolu News Agency, Erem News (Ar), Yemen Ministry of Interior (Ar), Yemen Press (Ar)


March

Yem164
March 2 2014
♦ 2-3 people reported killed
♦ 2 people wounded – reportedly civilians

A reported drone strike targeted a vehicle carrying alleged al Qaeda members near the town of Shebwan, in Yemen’s central  Marib province. Tribal sources told Aden al Ghad that the drone strike ‘targeted the vehicle of a young fighter named Jaber Saleh al Shebwani. The missile turned the vehicle into rubble and killed Shebwani as well as two of his companions.’ The Yemen Times reported two people were killed in the attack – al Shebwani and an unnamed Saudi man.

Source: Facebook - Ali Bakhiti
Source: Facebook – Ali Bakhiti

Quoting local sources, Andolu News Agency suggested Shebwani was sleeping by his car when the drone allegedly struck. ‘The fighter Jaber al Shabwani of the Al Shabwan tribe was sleeping near his vehicle in an open area before the drone launched a missile that hit his vehicle and killed him immediately,’ the sources said.

Several members of the Shebwani tribe have been reportedly killed in air strikes in Yemen. Notably, two strikes in January 2010 targeted Ayed al Shabwani (YEM006 and YEM007) and a botched strike in May that year that killed the deputy governor Jaber al Shabwani.

There was some speculation that Jaber Saleh al Shebwani was the deputy governor’s son. However this was eventually quashed on social media and in news reports.

More detail of al Shebwani emerged in local media. Al Shahaf reported:

He is the son of a respected businessman who works in the oil field and has contracts in Egypt and the UAE and is the head of a business based behind the Japanese Embassy in Sanaa. Activist Hamid Ghareb said that during 2009 clashes with the army in Ma’rib, Shabwani was shot in the hand. He was 14 years old and was released only after his father made a pledge that his son would not return to militancy. According to Ghareb, the prominent AQAP leader Aead al Shabwani…was a far larger influence on Shabwani than his father.

An unnamed interior ministry official told Xinhua two men ‘tending sheep near the targeted car’ were wounded in the attack.

Wasel al Shaif, an official in the governor of Marib’s administration, said armed Shebwani tribesmen retaliated to the drone strike by attacking an oil pipeline in Marib and a military headquarters in the province. Three soldiers were reportedly killed. A military source also reportedly confirmed the strike: ‘A drone had targeted a vehicle carrying members of al Qaeda in the town of Shebwan and had killed three members, amongst them is believed to be a prominent al Qaeda leader.’ The source reported that US drone operations had escalated in recent weeks in Marib province.

Activist Farea al Muslimi reported the exact location of the suspected strike as ‘the village of Akr al Shabwan in al Wadi district,’ Marib province.

It was not immediately clear when precisely the strike took place, with reports varying between the night of March 2, and the morning of March 3.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Shebwan, Marib province
ReferencesAden al Ghad (Ar), Andolu News Agency (Ar), DPA, World Bulletin, Xinhua, Yemen Times, Xinhua, Reuters, Associated Press, Twitter, Twitter, Twitter, Al Shahaf (Ar), Aden al Ghad (Ar), Yemen Times

Yem165
March 3 2014
♦ 1 reported killed

The second air strike in as many days killed at least one person, Walid al Jemayzeh. The attack reportedly narrowly missed killing Abdul Hameed Memon Hatem, a self-identified member of AQAP – reportedly a senior figure. Yemeni journalist Abdul Razaq al Jamal first reported the strike, adding that it happened at night. Yemen’s spokesman in Washington tweeted about an air strike in the province:

#Official: Saturday airstrikes @ Abyan destroyed three vehicles linked to #AQAP militants | #Yemen |

— Mohammed Albasha (@Yemen411) March 3, 2014

An unnamed US intelligence official told the Long War Journal Hatem was ‘a person of interest’.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Mehfad, Abyan province
References: Abdul Razaq al Jamal (Ar), Al Shahaf (Ar), Twitter, Long War Journal, Xinhua

Yem166
March 3 2014
♦ 2-4 reported killed
♦ 2 reportedly wounded
♦ Possible civilian casualties

The second strike of the day killed two to four people. Local media reported two unnamed militants were killed along with two ‘others’, possibly meaning civilians.

The strike came hours after 20 Yemeni soldiers were killed and injured in an ambush while on patrol in Shabwa province. The soldiers had reportedly stopped an earlier mortar and rocket propelled grenade attack on an oil pipeline in the area.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Radhum, Shabwa province
References: Xinhua, Reuters, Associated Press, Aden al Ghad (Ar)

Yem167
March 5 2014
♦ 2-4 reported killed

The fourth strike in three days killed between two and four alleged AQAP members as they drove through northern Jawf province. The vehicle was destroyed in the attack. An alleged local militant leader, Ali Saleh Jraim (aka Ali Juraym), was reportedly killed with 1-3 unnamed associates. Jraim was reportedly a veteran of the Iraqi insurgency.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Khalek, Jawf province
References: AFP, Reuters, Xinhua, Associated Press

YEM167c
March 7 2014
♦ 15 reported killed

A named Yemeni soldier told the Yemen Times 15 people were killed by drones in Mahfed, Abyan province. Unusually, Yemen Times reported the name of their military source. Shaker al Ghadeer was reportedly a soldier with Brigade 111 base in Abyan province. He was the only source of this strike. However a source in Yemen, speaking independently of this attack, told the Bureau several airstrikes have gone unreported in the Mahfed area of Abyan.

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

YEM168
March 10 2014
♦ 1-4 reported killed
♦ 0-1 civilian reported killed, a child

At least one person was killed in the fifth airstrike on Yemen in eight days. Initial reports were conflicted – either one, two or four people were killed when one or two vehicles were destroyed. The attack hit at night, suggesting it was a US drone strike – the Yemen Air Force is incapable of flying strike missions at night. Three missiles were reportedly fired on the vehicle, destroying it.

The dead were all allegedly al Qaeda members though their identities were not clear. Local and international media reported alleged local al Qaeda commanders Mohammed Jabir al Shabwani and Abdullah Mubarak bin Hamad were killed in the strike. A local official told Turkish state news agency Andolu the strike killed Abbad Mubarak Jabir. However local tribesmen said Ebad al Shabwani died while driving the vehicle. The Yemen Times subsequently reported he was a 16-year old child. Brigadier Abdulkhaleq Mohammed Saleh, army operations director in Mareb, told the paper he was a militant ‘with suspected ties to al Qaeda’. Al Shabwani’s family denied this, adding the boy’s friends and family hadalso been targeted in drone strikes – including a friend Mujahid Jabir al Shabwani, killed on March 3 (YEM164).

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Wadi Abeeda, Marib province
References: Xinhua, Reuters, Anadolu Agency, AFP, al Sahafah (Ar), Khabar Agency (Ar), Yemen Times

YEM169
March 12 2014
♦ 2-3 people killed

An airstrike destroyed a vehicle, killing Moajab Aziz Hadban and Ali Hassan Mohammed Hadban. Local media reported Mojab Aziz was a local al Qaeda commander and Hassan Mohammed his bodyguard. This was the sixth strike in 11 days and the second in a week on Jawf province.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Khab Wal Shaaf, Jawf province
References: AFP, Elaph (Ar), Al Masdar Online (Ar), Xinhua, Al Sharq (Ar) Andolu Agency

April 2014

YEM170
April 1 2014
♦ 3 people killed
♦ 4 people injured

Three were killed in the first strike in Yemen in 20 days. The attack reportedly hit an alleged al Qaeda camp, meeting or vehicle at around 1pm local time. The dead were reportedly taken to the town of Shabwa by car. US drones reportedly carried out the attack. The day before Yemen Air Force war planes reportedly targeted an al Qaeda position in Abyan – there were no reported casualties.

The attack came the same day as Saudi al Qaeda suspects, Mohamed Samel al Outebi, 30, and Mohamed al Aser, 31, were reportedly arrested in the west of the country. And two alleged al Qaeda members and two Yemeni soldiers were reportedly killed in the north of Yemen.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Mahfed, Abyan province
References: Xinhua, Yemen Post, al Wasat News (Ar), Barakish (Ar), Yemen Fox

April 5 2014
The US military has reportedly been barred from launching drone strikes in Yemen since a botched attack on December 12 2013 left several civilians dead. However CIA has reportedly continued to carry out attacks.

Military strikes were halted after a hit a wedding procession at the end of 2013. The attack killed 12-17, of which 8-16 were reportedly civilians. The dead were all from the local al Ameri and al Taysi families. The bride was wounded by flying shrapnel.

A sattelite image of Camp Lemonnier showing US F-15 jets on the apron (The Aviationist)
A satellite image of Camp Lemonnier showing US F-15 jets on the apron (The Aviationist).

Investigations by Reprieve, Human Rights Watch and Al Jazeera America uncovered details of the attack, including the names of the victims. The US reportedly launched two investigations into the wedding strike after these details emerged. Anonymous US officials said these investigations found all those killed in the attack were militants. However they refused to reveal any details of the two inquiries.

Military operations in Yemen were carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), a secretive Special Forces group. JSOC strikes were launched from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti – the US military’s largest outpost in Africa.

Camp Lemonnier is an old French Foreign Legion base. France still has a presence at the facility. And Nato uses the base for its counter-piracy operations off the east coast of Africa. The Djibouti government asked the US to stop operating drones from Camp Lemonnier in September 2013. The government was worried drones operating from the base were crashing too frequently and could come down on civilian areas. The drones were moved to an axillary field elsewhere in Djibouti.

The CIA launched strikes from a nominally secret airstrip in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert.

CIA drone base in Saudi Arabia
Satellite image purportedly of a CIA drone base in the Saudi Arabian desert (Bing Maps).

The existence of the base was first revealed by Iona Craig for The Times in July 2011. In February 2013 the New York Times also reported the base existed. It also emerged that the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Associated Press had agreed to administration requests not to publish information about the base.

Location: Yemen
References: New York Times, NBC News, Reprieve, Human Rights Watch and Al Jazeera America, Wired, Bing Maps, Washington Post The Aviationist, The Times, The New York Times, Washington Post

YEM171
April 19 2014
♦ 13-21 people killed
♦ 3-8 civilians reported killed
♦ 1-6 people injured

A US drone strike on two cars killed at least 13 people – three civilians among them – in the Sawmaa area of Yemen’s southeastern al Bayda province, multiple sources reported. It was the biggest strike of its kind in Yemen since a military drone attack killed at least 12 people travelling in a wedding procession in December 2013, in the same province as this strike.

Reports offered varying estimates of how many people had been killed, but all described an attack on a vehicle carrying alleged militants, in which a separate vehicle full of civilians was also hit. Unnamed US officials, security officials, military officials and eyewitnesses all said the attack was carried out by a US drone. The US officials specified it was a CIA drone. An unnamed US official told Fox News that US Special Forces soldiers had been ‘sifting through the aftermath’ of the weekends drone strikes.

Despite this, the Yemeni government reportedly paid the relatives of the civilian victims 12m Yemeni Rials (£33,000) and sent them 30 Kalashnikov rifles. Local security chief Ahmed al Azani told the Yemen Times: ‘The victims’ families were very angry, but the Defense Ministry’s move came at an appropriate time.’

A security official said 15 suspected militants and three civilians died in the nearby vehicle. The Associated Press, citing a Yemeni military official, reported that ‘nine suspected al Qaeda militants’ died in a drone strike that ‘inadvertently killed and wounded some civilians’. The official added that ‘at least six’ civilians had been killed or wounded. Associated Press later increased its casualty count. There were reports one alleged militant survived the attack. Tribal sources said: ‘There are no less than eight civilians who have nothing to do with al Qaeda amongst the killed.’

The smoking wreckage of the strike (EPA/STRINGER)
The smoking wreckage of the strike (EPA/STRINGER)

A Yemeni army officer told Xinhua that 16 alleged militants had been killed along with five civilians, putting the total death toll at 21. ‘Another six civilians travelling in another car on the highway of Hazmiah area were also wounded,’ Xinhua reported, citing witnesses. Yemen’s defence ministry website quoted a security source as saying an unspecified number of ‘terrorists‘ had been killed in the strike.

‘This happened after security bodies received confirmed intelligence information about the presence of a car with 11 terrorist elements on board who were planning to target vital civil and military institutions in al Bayda province,’ according to Saba, Yemen’s state news agency.

An unnamed ‘senior’ defence ministry source said three senior AQAP members were among the dead, adding: ‘The militants were on a coordinating mission and we have had our eyes on them for quite a while now.’

Eyewitness Salem Naser al Khashem said: ‘While we were on the road linking al Sawmaa to the al Bayda city… a car was behind us. Suddenly, a rocket hit the car which was 15 meters away form us.’ The news site interviewed him in hospital. ‘When the car was hit, shrapnel reached our car. We had to get out and hide in a water ditch. However, the car kept on [burning] continually for approximately an hour,’ he added.

Al Khashem went on to tell the paper the drones returned to strike again near the car he was travelling in. This ‘led to the killing of three of our friends who are labourers. I was wounded and a number of my cousins were wounded.’

Yasser Ali Abderabbo Maswad, Hussein al Khashem, and Ahmed Saleh Bubek al Khashem, who was returning to Saudi Arabia to work, were killed at the scene Salem Naser al Khashem said. Abdullah Naswer al Hashem was critically injured and pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital in al Baydah town. Abdulrahman Hussein al Khsahem, Salem Naser al Khashem, Naser Mohammed al Khashem, and two others nicknamed Reem and Hawjan were reportedly injured.

One of the victims’ relatives, Abdurabu al Khashm, said the injured were in a hospital in Aden. The government was paying for their treatment, he said. The families of the injured victims would not say what compensation they were seeking from the government until after the injured were discharged from hospital. He said: ‘We may ask for blood money and monthly salaries for the victims’ families as well as monthly salaries for the injured, particularly the ones who sustained life-long injuries.’


The burning wreckage of a carrying alleged militants destroyed in a CIA drone strike (YouTube).

The dead militants were not from al Bayda province, Yemeni journalist Abdul Razzaq al Jamal reported. He said four were from al Dhale province and one was from Shabwa. A separate source named four of the alleged militants: Saif Mohammed Saif, Abdul Rahman al Sakhera, Ali Saleh al Habani and Adnan Ali Mohsen. A further source reported these names and added alleged AQAP member Abu Osama al Hasni and Akram al Hafza among the dead.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Sawmaa, Al Bayda province
References: ReutersAFPAssociated PressXinhuaBBCBBC ArabicAl-Jazeera EnglishAl Ghad (Ar), Associated PressCNN, Associated Press, The Guardian, Yemen Times, Al Bida Press (Ar), McClatchy News, Long War Journal, New York Times, Gulf News, NBC News, NBC News, Al Masdar Online (Ar), Fox News, Yemen Times

YEM172
April 20 2014
♦ 24-31 people killed
♦ 1 children reported killed
♦ 1-3 people injured

A series of air strikes hit alleged AQAP training camps in Yemen’s southern Abyan province. The attacks follow a reported US drone strike the previous day in which at least three civilians were reportedly killed. The attacks were carried out by US drones and Yemen Air Force jets, US and Yemeni officials said.

The New York Times reported unnamed US officials saying all the strikes were carried out by CIA drones. And Fares al Saqqaf, advisor to President Hadi, said ‘it wasn’t only drones but Yemeni fighter aircraft’ that launched the attack.

Initial reports suggested three to five alleged AQAP members killed. Yemen’s defence ministry website quoted an official source in the High Security Committee saying three suspected militants had been killed in an air strike in Abyan’s Mahfad district. The source said ‘leading and dangerous’ al Qaeda militants had been targeted.

But later reports put the casualties far higher, describing three linked attacks taking place after dawn. Local sources told Reuters 25 bodies were removed, while a tribal chief said more than 30 people had died. Xinhua added that helicopter gunships operated by the Yemeni military had later shelled the area.

There were reports that Saudi Arabian fighters who had been fighting in Syria were killed in this or the other strikes. An unnamed US official told Fox News that US Special Forces soldiers had been ‘sifting through the aftermath’ of the weekends drone strikes.

In late May 2014 AQAP published a eulogy of one of the group’s commanders: Ali bin Lakraa al Kazimi al Awlaki., the group’s leader in al Mahfed. He reportedly was injured in the strike and ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

Local media and militant sources reported a child was killed in the attack. Yemeni journalist Abdel Razzaq al Jamal tweeted: ‘Jarullah Ibn Sheikh Abdelmajid al Hattari was killed in the US strikes on Mahfed. He was 14 years old.’

Al Hattari’s father, Sheikh Abdelmajid al Hattari, wrote a eulogy to his dead son. The father, an Imam in Sanaa according to his Facebook page, wrote:

He went, without asking my permission, to a session to memorise the Qoran, as he said. I overlooked him going without my permission because he was so young. I was happy that he had the desire to memorise the Qoran and support Muslim jihadi causes despite his young age. Now I have been told he was among the 50 martyrs killed by American planes in Abyan.

There were seven more people named by the Yemeni media:

Mohammad Salim Bin Ghazi al Malkab – a native of Mukalla in Hadramout province
Abu Fada Abdullah Bin Ali Khalaf al Bakri al Yafai
Khaled al Afifi
Ibrahim al Afifi
Sultan al Afifi
Omar al Hamikani
Abdullah Ali al Bakri

The Yemeni Ministry of Interior reported an hours-long series of air strikes against suspected al Qaeda positions.

‘Security authorities in Abyan revealed the killing of three dangerous al Qaeda members during the air strikes that targeted al Qaeda gatherings in the areas of Lawdiya, al Khayala and al Ramtha as well as other regions [on April 20],’ a statement on Yemen’s interior ministry website said.

‘The security authorities stated that the air strikes, which lasted for several hours, killed around terrorists from al Qaeda, including three movement leaders.’ It named among the dead alleged militants Saleh Saeed Mehrak; Salem Abedrabbo al Mushaybi, from Lawdar in Abyan province, he lived in the area of al Mamdara in Aden; and Hussein al Mehrak, a local – from Mahfed in Abyan.

Al Qaeda confirmed one of its local leaders was killed in the attack. Ali bin Likra al Kazimy, a commander in the Mahfed area, reportedly died from wounds he suffered in this attack. Al Qaeda published a statement made by al Kazimy shortly before his death. He said: ‘Americanized Yemeni army, which wants to insult and humiliate the tribes in accordance with the guidelines of the Americans.’

A local government official said it was a US drone that carried out the strike. ‘The US drone targeted an al Qaida-held training centre in Abyan’s mountainous region of Mahfad, killing five militants and injuring three others,’ the official said. Local residents told Xinhua that a suspected US drone had fired three missiles at an alleged militant hideout, destroying an unspecified number of vehicles at the site.

Type of strike: US drone strike, Yemen Air Force strike
Location: Mahfed, Abyan Province
References: Reuters, CNN, AFPXinhua, Yemeni Interior Ministry (Ar), McClatchy News, Long War Journal, Al Bayan (Ar), New York Times, NBC News, Twitter (Ar), Facebook (Ar), Dawa al Haq (Ar), Facebook (Ar), Hona Hadramout (Ar), Fox News, Financial Times, Buzzfeed, al Jazeera English, Associated Press, Long War Journal, Facebook (Ar), Long War Journal, Reuters

YEM173
April 20 2014
♦ 3-4 reported killed
♦ 1 child reported killed

Elite US and Yemeni Special Forces soldiers ambushed a car in Shabwa, an eastern Yemeni province to the north of location of the previous two attacks. At least three people were killed in the attack that may have involved US drones as well as ground forces. First reports of the attack started emerging around 10.30pm local time though some reports had the attack hitting just before midnight on April 20 or shortly after, in the small hours of April 21.

The operation was reportedly either an ambush by the Yemen Army’s Counter-Terrorism Unit and US Special Forces troops from JSOC or a drone strike followed by a Special Forces ground operation to retrieve bodies of suspected senior militants. Yemeni security officials and tribal chiefs reportedly said ‘a local militant commander’Munnaser al Anbouri, was killed in the attack.

The Times reported Yemeni troops ambushed a four-wheel drive vehicle and, after a gun battle, potentially killed al Asiri. The US-trained CTU forces dropped from helicopters onto the highway in Shabwa before engaging in a brief fire-fight with the occupants of a vehicle thought to have been carrying al Asiri. An unnamed US official subsequently told CNN US forces piloted the Russian-made Yemen Air Force helicopters in the raid. It was not clear precisely which operation the CNN report referred to. The US forces wore night vision equipment, according to the senior US official. This suggests the report corresponds to this strike, the only on of the three to reportedly take place at night. However the report also said US involvement in the operation involved ‘flying Yemeni commandos to a site where they killed scores of suspected al Qaeda members’. This would associate it with the previous attack (YEM172) which killed at least 24 people.

Unnamed US officials told the New York Times the CIA had carried out the drone strikes. And other unnamed US officials told the paper US Special Forces ‘had supported the Yemeni operations on the ground with intelligence and possibly logistical assistance’. NBC News reported this third of three strikes was a Yemeni Special Forces operation. The broadcaster reported that ‘it did not appear any top militants were killed’, according to an anonymous Yemeni source.

Notorious al Qaeda bomb maker Ibrahim al Asiri and AQAP leader Nasser al Wuhayshi were initially reportedly killed either by drones or in the Special Forces ambush. There were reports a high-value target had been killed however sources cautioned that this was not confirmed and US officials said al Asiri and al Wuhayshi were not the target of the three strikes.

The Times subsequently revealed neither al Asiri or al Wuhayshi were among the dead. DNA tests carried out in Saudi Arabia confirmed they were not killed in the attack.

However it seems a 16-year old boy was among the dead. And locals claimed Abdullah al Khalidi, the Saudi Arabian diplomat kidnapped in Yemen in 2012 and held by AQAP, was also killed in the attack.

Al Asiri was one of the top targets in the US covert drone war. In 2009 al Asiri designed the bomb his brother Abdullah al Asiri used in a failed attempt to assassinate Prince Mohammed Bin Nayyaf, then Saudi deputy interior minister. The charge was concealed inside Abdullah’s rectum. Ibrahim al Asiri is also credited with designing the bomb Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab concealed in his underwear bomber that was intended to bring an airliner down over the US on Christmas day 2009.

Militants reportedly stormed a hospital in Azzan, Shabwa province, as well as two smaller clinics in nearby districts. They forced the medical staff out of the facility and brought in fighters for treatment. The men were reportedly wounded in the US-Yemeni raids.

An unnamed US official told Fox News that US Special Forces soldiers had been ‘sifting through the aftermath’ of the weekends drone strikes.

President Abdu Rabbu al Mansour Hadi sent a letter of thanks and the Medal of Bravery to the CTU force that carried out the raid, the state news agency reported. According to the New York Times, US officials had ‘sought to play down the United States’ role’ in the operation to allow Hadi ‘to bolster his domestic credibility and claim credit for the operations’.

Local officials said at least three al Qaeda members had been killed when a US drone fired a missile at the car they were travelling in the early hours of April 21. A Yemeni military source said ‘at least four’ alleged militants were killed when ‘the US unmanned aircraft fired two missiles at a small pick-up truck travelling in a desert road’.

A senior Yemeni official said this was the third of three air strikes on consecutive days. The official said the attacks were part of an ‘unprecedented operation’ that was launched on ‘information that al Qaeda was plotting attacks on vital installations, military and security, as well as foreign interests in Yemen.’ Witnesses said an unmarked helicopter landed at the scene of the strike to retrieve the bodies of those killed.

Four officers and two soldiers were assassinated in the days following this strike. They were shot by gunmen on motorcycles in Sanaa and Mareb provinces.

Type of strike: US-Yemeni Special Forces raid, possible US drone strike
Location: Usylan, Shabwa Province
References: BBC, AFP, Associated PressXinhua, FOX News, CNN, RT, Associated Press, Yemeni Interior Ministry (Ar), Long War Journal, The Times, New York Times, NBC News, SABA News, McClatchy News, CNN, Fox News, Yemen Times, The Times, Financial Times


The April 29 Offensive
The Yemen armed forces launched a concerted offensive on April 29, targetting al Qaeda positions in the south and centre of the country. The military attacked AQAP in Abyan and Shabwa provinces. These areas have borne the brunt of the US air war in the country. More than 50% of possible US air strikes recorded by the Bureau have hit these provinces.

Both sides suffered losses. A Yemeni official claimed hundreds of AQAP fighters were killed and sources said scores of Yemeni soldiers had been killed and injured. Thousands of civilians were reportedly displaced by the fighting.

Several foreign fighters were reportedly killed in the operations. Abu Muslim al Uzbeki, an Uzbek fighter, and Abu Islam al Shishani, a Chechen who reportedly fought the Russians in Chechnya, were killed on May 2 and May 3 respectively. However a separate source named al Shishani and a second Chechen as Abu Muslim al Shaishani. A Yemeni official said: ‘Most of those militants are from Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Somali, [the Russian Republic of] Chechnya and other countries.’ The Long War Journal reported five Saudis were killed Ubadah al Sharori, Abdulrahman al Hutti, Abu Ubaidah Malek al Makki, Hussien al Budwi and Bin Hayzoun.

Al Nakhaie or Mikassa, a Pakistani; Abu Dujana, a Saudi and a man from the Russian Caucuses, Taymour al Dagestani, were reportedly killed in Shabwa. A senior al Qaeda fighter from Algeria, Abu Ayoub al Jazaeri, was also killed. Two French citizens, Mourad Abdullah and Taha al Esawi, were arrested by Yemeni security forces at an airport in the far eastern province of Hadramout.

Senior AQAP member Wael al Waeli was reported dead on May 8. Al Waeli was reportedly responsible for a spate of assassinations and kidnappings, targetting westerners.

Al Waeli was said to have been behind the killing of a French security officer working in Sanaa with the European Union (EU).

The US, EU and other Western governments closed or reduced their diplomatic presence in Sanaa as a result of the Yemeni military offensive. Al Qaeda retaliated to the attacks on their positions in southern and central Yemen by launching attacks on military positions and energy infrastructure in southern al Baida province and central Mareb province.

The terrorist group also attacked government targets in the centre of Sanaa. Four or five guards were killed when the group attacked the presidential palace. And on May 8 gunmen ambushed the defence minister’s convoy however no one was killed or injured in the attack. On May 11  a suicide car bomb killed 12 soldiers and a civilian in an attack on a military base in southeastern Yemen.

Tribal groups reportedly at one point tried to negotiate a peaceful settlement but military sources were said to be bullish, refusing to negotiate.

The Yemeni military launched a major offensive in the same provinces in 2012. AQAP took advantage of the chaos of the youth uprising in 2011 that went on to oust then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The terrorist group took control of several towns in Abyan that year. In 2012 the US and Yemen managed to oust al Qaeda from their positions. US air power played a considerable part in the operations, more than 50% of the air attacks recorded by the Bureau in 2012 hit Abyan.

Though the previous offensive dislodged al Qaeda, the central government did not have sufficient power or authority in the areas to stop the terrorists from returning. The latest attacks reportedly drove al Qaeda from its positions in Abyan and Shabwa. But a shortage of fuel reportedly threatened their ability to hold the gains.

Type of action: Yemeni military offensive, al Qaeda counter-attacks
Location: Abyan, Shabwa and Sanaa
References: BBC, Vice News, Saba News, Yemen Times, Yemen Times, Sky News, Long War Journal, Al Jazeera English, Long War Journal, Daily Sabah, IANS, NBC News, Voice of America, Associated Press, Reuters, Al Arabiya, AFP, New York Times, AFP, Reuters, Reuters


May 2014

YEM174
May 12 2014
♦ 4-6 reported killed

At least four people were killed in a US drone strike in Mareb. They were travelling in a vehicle travelling to a farm in the area. Witnesses named two of the victims as: Naif Faraj and Mousleh al Arahabi. All the dead were allegedly al Qaeda but it was not immediately clear what was the Faraj or Arahabi’s rank or what roll they played in AQAP.

The attack came over two days after it emerged that, on April 24, a CIA spy and a lieutenant colonel with JSOC shot dead two armed men in Sanaa. The two US officers were at a barber in Sanaa when the unnamed Yemenis reportedly tried to kidnap them. The two US officers quickly left the country, with the blessing of the Yemeni government. Jeb Boone reported it was not clear if the two men were targeted because they were US officers or merely victims of an attempted kidnapping.

Boone, who covered the youth uprising in Yemen in 2011, said US intelligence officers are easy to identify in Sanaa, if the would-be kidnappers had targetted the men specifically. Boon, writing in Vice News, said: ‘Their out-of-uniform uniform, ubiquitous and often including 5-11 cargo pants, a pair of Oakley sunglasses and full beards, functioned as a caricature that could be plucked right out of the latest installment of the Call of Duty franchise.’

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Al Husan, Wadi Abeeda district, Mareb province
References: AFP, Reuters, al Khabarnov (Ar), Associated Press, BBC, Reuters, VoA, Xinhua, Mareb Press (Ar), Aden al Ghad (Ar), Vice News, New York Times


June 2014

YEM175
June 4 2014
♦ 3-4 reported killed

At least three alleged AQAP members were killed in a reported US drone strike on a vehicle in Wadi Abeeda – also the site of the previous reported strike. A local official told Xinhua, cited by news agency IANS, that the attack was carried out by a drone, and tribal sources confirmed this to Reuters and Xinhua. Reuters reported that at least three were killed in the attack, while Xinhua put the death toll at four. IANS, citing Xinhua, reported that tribal sources identified the vehicle as a ‘small pick-up’ belonging to Jafar al-Shabwani, described as a mid-level AQAP commander. His three companions were not named in the report.

The attack came as the Yemeni military continued its offensive against AQAP positions in the central and southern Yemeni provinces of Shabwa, Abyan and al Bayda. Yemeni journalist Farea al Muslimi called the campaign the ‘largest and most comprehensive attack led by the Yemeni army against al Qaeda’. The UN estimates more than 24,000 refugees have been displaced by the fighting, as of May 20. The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Yemen Red Crescent have been providing humanitarian relief.

Days before, AQAP released a video describing the execution of four men who it said had helped target drone strikes by planting electronic chips in the cars of AQAP members. In the video, a man identified as Abi Islam Al-Muhajer, a member of AQAP’s ‘security department’, claimed: ‘The number of drone strikes has decreased in the six past months since Al-Qaeda gunmen stormed security and intelligence institutions accused of cooperating with the [U.S.] drone program targeting jihadists. Discovering the spies who install the electronic chips has decreased the opportunities for targeting Al-Qaeda affiliates.’ 

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Wadi Abeeda district, Mareb province
ReferencesIANS, Reuters, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ICRC, AFP

YEM176
June 13-14 2014
♦ 5-6 reported killed

At least five alleged AQAP members were killed when their vehicle or convoy of vehicles was hit by several missiles fired by a US drone either late on June 13 (Reuters) or on June 14 (Associated PressXinhua). The men included local resident and reportedly ‘leading AQAP figure’ Musaed al Habshi al Barasi al Awlaqi (aka Musaad al Habashi), and Reuters quoted local tribesmen saying the dead included two unnamed Saudis. The Long War Journal noted that al Habashi’s ‘role in AQAP is unclear’ and that AQAP has not acknowledged the death.

The province’s deputy governor, Sheikh Nasser al Malish, said ‘the suspected drone strike‘ targeted alleged AQAP militants in a sparsely populated, mountainous area and did not cause any civilian casualties. Xinhua put the number of dead at ‘about six’. ‘A US unmanned aircraft fired missiles at a two-vehicle convoy of the al-Qaida gunmen in al-Saeed rugged region of Shabwa, killing about six terrorists inside the travelling cars,’ an anonymous military official told Xinhua.

Type of strike: US drone strike
Location: Mafraq al Saeed, Shabwa province
ReferencesAssociated PressXinhuaReutersAl JazeeraLong War Journal, Yemen Times

YEM177
June 21 2014

♦ Casualties unknown

Associated Press reports that an anonymous Yemeni security official claimed a US drone attacked unspecified targets in al Bayda, but did not provide any further details. Local Arabic website al Masdar Online said the strike hit a presumed al Qaeda site. It reported there were no casualties. Access for reporters to the southern province is currently severely limited due to ongoing Yemeni military operations against AQAP.

Type of strike: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al Bayda province
References: Associated Press, al Masdar Online (Ar)