Monthly Updates on the Covert War

July 2014 Update: US covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

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AMISOM and Somali Troops Advance to Afgooye during Anti-Shabaab Operation

Troops advance during an anti-al Shabaab operation in Somalia (UN Photo/Stuart Price)

Pakistan has the bloodiest month of drone strikes in two years.

July is the first month of the year with no drone attacks in Yemen.

Six months without a reported US attack in Somalia.

Naming the Dead database records 700 names.

Pakistan

July 2014 actions

Total CIA strikes in July: 3
Total killed in strikes in July: 32-46


All actions 2004 – July 31 2014

Total Obama strikes: 338
Total US strikes since 2004: 389
Total reported killed: 2,342-3,789
Civilians reported killed: 416-957
Children reported killed: 168-202
Total reported injured: 1,097-1,657
For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.

At least 32 people died in three CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, making this the bloodiest month since July 2012. The strikes all reportedly occurred in and around Datta Khel in North Waziristan.

The high death toll from just three attacks dramatically increased the casualty rate – the average number of people killed in each strike on average. This month the casualty rate was 10.7 people per strike. That is more than double the rate for June (4.6) and the highest since April 2011, when 24 people died in two attacks.

Just three of those killed have been named. All were members of al Qaeda according to Sanafi al Nasr, a Syrian-based al Qaeda leader, who eulogised the men. Fayez Awda al Khalidi, Taj al Makki and Abu Abdurahman al Kuwaiti died with three unnamed men in an attack on July 10 that reportedly destroyed a house and vehicle in Mada Khel village, near to Datta Khel.

July 16 saw the largest strike in Pakistan in over a year, killing at least 15 people. The CIA were targeting an important meeting, according to an unnamed security official. However one source said two mosques were targeted, killing 12 “people” in one and eight “people” in the other, without specifying whether they were civilians or members of an armed group. The Bureau has been unable to confirm these possible civilian casualties, or the report of strikes on mosques.

Three days later on July 19, Mada Khel village was reportedly hit again. At least 11 people died when a drone reportedly fired multiple missiles at a building or group of buildings.

The Pakistani army offensive against the Taliban in the region continued. The Pakistan military claims to have killed 500 militants with no civilian casualties since the offensive began in June.

On July 16 the military bombed the remote Shawal valley near the border of North and South Waziristan. The military claimed to have killed 35 militants. However AFP later reported that 37 civilians were killed, “including 20 women and 10 children”.

The military offensive has cleared entire towns of people, reportedly displacing a million people. Over 75,000 are said to have gone to Afghanistan and more than 990,000 have been registered in Pakistani camps just outside the tribal regions. The German government announced on July 30 that it would provide €1m (£796,000) to support the World Food Programme’s relief effort.

Yemen

July 2014 actions

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


All actions 2002 – July 31 2014*

Confirmed US drone strikes: 65-77
Total reported killed: 339-494
Civilians reported killed: 64-83
Children reported killed: 7
Reported injured: 78-196

Possible extra US drone strikes: 95-114
Total reported killed: 318-509
Civilians reported killed: 24-48
Children reported killed: 6-9
Reported injured: 85-118

All other US covert operations: 14-79
Total reported killed: 150-386
Civilians reported killed: 60-89
Children reported killed: 25-27
Reported injured: 22-115
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 we have recorded in US drone strikes and covert operations reflects this.

There were no reported drone strikes in July, making this the first month without a drone strike in Yemen this year.

This is in contrast to a year ago when a seven-week pause in attacks ended with a 15-day bombardment that lasted into August. Nine drone strikes killed 31-49 people, including three children. It was caused by a global terror alert that made the US close 20 embassies around the world – a move one analyst described as “crazy pants“.

This month a Freedom of Information request revealed that the Australian Christopher Havard, killed in a drone strike in Yemen last November, was subject to an Australian police arrest warrant. Havard was wanted for alleged involvement in a 2012 plot, linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), to kidnap an Austrian and two Finnish citizens in Yemen.

The attack that killed Havard also killed a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen named Daryl Jones. A retired politician has urged New Zealanders to demand more information from the government over Jones’ death. Jones and Havard have been reported as the first Australians to die in a drone strike. However, the Bureau has previously reported the case of Saifullah, known locally as “the Australian”, who was killed in a July 2011 strike in Pakistan. The Australian government has denied he was a citizen.

AQAP continued to launch attacks, targeting military sites and personnel in three southern provinces. Local officials said at least eight people died in an attack on two army outposts on July 27.

Security was tightened on US-bound flights from 20 foreign airports, with efforts focusing on scrutinising phones and laptops. US officials said no specific threat caused the increased security measures, although CBS reported that shortly before the alert, AQAP released a video showing the “underpants bomber” shortly before his attempt to blow up an airplane in 2009.

The Guardian and others reported intelligence community fears that notorious AQAP bomb maker Ibrahim al Asiri was working with armed groups in Syria, raising concerns that he would seek to implant “invisible” bombs in fighters with Western passports in order to conduct attacks on European or US targets.

The US designated Anders Dale, a Norwegian, as a terrorist. The State Department alleges Dale joined AQAP and has travelled to Yemen multiple times since 2008. It claims he received terrorist training, including learning to make “bomb-belts, improvised explosive devices, and larger explosives used in car bombs”.

Somalia

July 2014 actions

Total reported US operations: 0

All actions 2007 – July 31 2014

US drone strikes: 5-8
Total reported killed: 10-24
Civilians reported killed: 0-1
Children reported killed: 0
Reported injured: 2-3

All other US covert operations: 8-11
Total reported killed: 40-141
Civilians reported killed: 7-47
Children reported killed: 0-2
Reported injured: 11-21
Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia.

For the sixth successive month there were no reported US operations in Somalia, though government troops and soldiers from the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) continue to battle al Shabaab.

On July 8 al Shabaab fighters attacked the presidential compound. The interior ministry said the president was elsewhere at the time though at least three militants and as many as 15 guards died. This is the second attack on the presidential palace of the year, following one in February that killed 12.

On July 15 Somali soldiers and Amisom peacekeepers repelled an al Shabaab attack on Mogadishu’s airport, stopping a car packed with explosives from entering the airport. Less than a week later on July 21, Amisom troops met officials from the new south-western regional state of Somalia, which brings together six provinces. The new administration declared war on al Shabaab, with the regional police chief vowing to kill the relatives of militants who continued to kill innocent civilians.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamed, president of Somalia, leaked information about a new, 150-strong, CIA trained counter-terrorism force called Gashaan, or “the shield”. Meanwhile the government of Djibouti said it would send an additional 950 troops to support Amisom.

On July 23 Somali MP and musician Saado Ali Warsame was killed by militants in a drive-by shooting. She was the fourth MP killed this year. An al Shabaab spokesman said she was killed for her politics and not her music. On the same day the group also reportedly executed a 13-year-old girl following a show trial in southern Somalia, after accusing her of spying for Somali armed forces and Amisom. The al Shabaab “judge” said of the girl: “She was trained to assassinate senior members of the group and pass sensitive information to our enemies.”

Other news from the drone war

A Bureau study on the use of drones in Afghanistan found that despite there being at least 1,000 drone strikes on the country in the past 13 years, almost nothing is known about where they took place or who they hit. Afghanistan is the most heavily drone-bombed country in the world, yet more is understood about the US’s secret campaigns in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan.

A new Pew Research Center survey found that 39 of the 44 countries surveyed were opposed to US drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan, with opposition to drone attacks increasing in many nations since last year. Israel, Kenya and the US are the only surveyed nations where at least half of the public supports drone strikes.

Naming the Dead

The Naming the Dead project has now recorded over 700 names of those killed by CIA drones in Pakistan. Almost half of those identified were civilians, and 99 were children. Though the database of names has grown since the project launched last year, fewer than one in three of the 2,342 reportedly killed in drone attacks have been identified so far.

New case studies have been added, including profiles of TTP deputy leader Wali ur Rehman, senior al Qaeda operative Abu Sulaiman al Jazairi, and Mohammed Haqqani, who was the brother and son of senior fighters, but may not have been an active member of an armed group himself.

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