Get the data: Drone wars

Yemen: Reported US covert actions 2015

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with President Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia during a foreign leader call in the Oval Office, Jan. 5, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

This page details events reported by US and Yemeni government, military and intelligence officials, and by credible media, academic and other sources.

Many of the US attacks listed below have been confirmed by senior US 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 2015
Confirmed drone strikes Possible drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total reported strikes: 21-22 10 0
Total reported killed: 75-103 30-51 0
Civilians reported killed: 1-7 0 0
Children reported killed: 1-2 0 0
Total reported injured: 8 3 0

The Bureau will continue to add to its knowledge base, and welcomes input and corrections from interested parties. If you have any comments or suggestions please contact us at info@thebureauinvestigates.com with the phrase “Yemen data” included in the subject line.

Click here for our 2001-2011 Yemen data.

Click here for our 2012 Yemen data.

Click here for our 2013 Yemen data.

Click here for our 2014 Yemen data.


January

YEM179
January 26 2015
♦ 3 reported killed
♦ 1-2 civilians reported killed, including 1 child

The first reported US drone strike of the year killed three people travelling in a vehicle in central-southern Yemen. A child was reportedly among the dead.

Sources from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) told reporters the dead were members of the armed group and identified them as: Awaid al Rashidi, a Saudi in his 30s; Abdel Aziz al Zindani (aka Abdel Aziz al Sanaani) a Yemeni from Sanaa; and Mohammed Taeiman al Jahmi, a Yemeni. Al Rashidi reportedly served time in a Saudi jail before joining al Qaeda after his release. He and al Sanaani were “said to be engaged in anti-Houthi activities” though it was not immediately clear what this means. A Houthi source told the New York Times: “[The US] killed militants who were probably planning an attack against us in Marib.” However Jeremy Scahill reported the two men were responsible for drumming up anti-Houthi sentiment and support by spreading propaganda. He said they were “low-level” figures.

It subsequently emerged al Jahmi was a child. He was reportedly either 12 or 15 years old. However Yemeni rights group the National Organisation for Drone Victims (NODV) said Taeiman was “a normal kid”. He was in the sixth grade at school and had recently received treatment in hospital after being kicked by a camel, the group added. NODV also raised questions about the status of another passenger in the car. It told Reuters al Zindani was “a farm worker married to a woman from the Taeiman clan”.

Taeiman’s father, Saleh Qaid Toayman, and then 14-year old brother Jalal were killed in a reported US drone strike on October 24 2011. They were in a known al Qaeda area grazing camels according to another of Mohammed al Jahmi’s brothers, Azzedine. He was injured in the 2011 attack.

It was a CIA strike, according to an unnamed US official. The vehicle was a four-wheel drive vehicle according to pictures purportedly of the aftermath of the strike. It was reportedly a Suzuki Vitara.

This was the first attack since Houthi insurgents forced the country’s president Abdu Rabbu al Mansour Hadi, his prime minister and cabinet to resign. Despite this perilous situation, the day before this strike President Barack Obama told reporters the US would not stop its counter-terrorism effort in Yemen. The President defended his policy in Yemen, saying: “It is not neat and it is not simple, but it is the best option that we have.” The US military suspended its training programme in the country and the embassy in Sanaa was closed though not evacuated.

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Hareeb, Shabwa-Mareb border
References: Associated Press, AFP, Reuters, Aden al Ghad (Ar), Yemen Alaan (Ar), Almasdar Online (Ar), Xinhua, Twitter, Twitter, Associated Press, CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, LA Times, Reuters, Huffington Post

YEM180
January 31 2015

♦ 4 people killed

Sheikh Harith al Nadhari, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's leading spokesman, preacher and propaganidst, sits before a black background in a white hat and black robe. He is emphasising a point with his hadn.
Sheikh Harith al Nadhari, from a AQAP propaganda, posted on January 23 2015 on Jihadology – an academic clearing house for Jihadist material

US drones killed a senior AQAP figure along with three other members of the group. Al Qaeda confirmed their deaths in a release a week after the strike. It was the second strike in a week to target a vehicle in southern Yemen.

The attack killed Sheikh Harith al Nadhari (right), a spokesman and ideologue who released a statement praising the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris. AQAP named the other three dead as Said Bafaraj, Abdelsamie al Haddaa and Azzam al Hadrami.

There was some debate about the significance of Nadhari’s death. He was described as a central figure in the group’s leadership and an important ideologue. However some said his death would not have major ramifications on the group’s continued survival or prosperity.

Said Bafaraj sits smiling in front of tree branches, holding a Kalashnikov rifle and with his head partly covered with a scarf. He is wearing spectacles.
Said Bafaraj was born in Hadramout in 1982 (from AQAP eulogy)

AQAP published a eulogy to Said Bafaraj (aka Obwalulad Hadrami). It said he was born in Hadramout in 1982 and studied both theology and science as a student in 1999. That year he tried to move to Chechnya to fight against the Russians.

In 2001 he joined the Al Faruq camp in Afghanistan where he trained as a fighter. After the US invasion of Afghanistan, he traveled first to Khost province in eastern Afghanistan, and from there to Pakistan. He returned to Yemen and joined AQAP when it formed in 2007.

There were reports a drone crashed in central Dhamar province of the country. It reportedly came down at 8pm local time in a sparsely populated area “between the villages of Makhdara and Resaba“. The security chief for the province of Dhamar, Abdullah al Sadi, confirmed to the Yemen Times the crashed aircraft was a US drone.

The strike came during an ongoing political crisis in Yemen. On January 22 the president, prime minister and cabinet resigned after the presidential palace was attacked by armed Houthi rebels.

The president resigned in the face of a armed group occupying his capital city. The same day as this strike, he refused to reconsider his resignation despite the Houthis trying to compel to do so, “at gun point“, according to the former president.

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Al Saeed, Shabwa province
ReferencesXinhua, Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, Associated Press, Yemen Times, AFP, New York Times, LA Times, Reuters, CNN, Reuters


February

YEM181
February 2 2015
♦ 3-6 people killed

A third confirmed US drone strike in eight days killed at least three people. All were AQAP members, according to an AQAP source identified as Abu Turab al Maribi.

This is the second reported US drone strike since gunmen from the Houthi faction ousted the president, prime minister and cabinet on January 26. There were two drone strikes in Yemen after this point, according to unnamed US officials.

Al Maribi told local newspaper the Yemen Times Saif al Humaiqani, “a commander in charge of a group of 40 fighters,” was among the dead. Al Baida’s security chief, Colonel Najem al Din Harash, confirmed the details of the strike.

Other sources said four or six people died in the strike on a moving vehicle – reportedly a pick-up truck.

The strike reportedly hit a vehicle. A tribal source speculated there could have been weapons or explosives inside the vehicle as “loud explosions were heard after the attack”. Yemeni officials said the drone fired two missiles at the vehicle.

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Maswara, al Baida
References: AFP, Mareb Press (Ar), Voice of America, Reuters, Xinhua, Yemen Observer, Yemen Times, Reuters

YEM181C
February 10 2015

♦ 4-5 people killed

Reports of a US drone strike in Hadramout were strongly contradicted by Yemen and AQAP sources. The Bureau has decided to remove this strike from its casualty estimates until the fundamental contradictions are reconciled.

AFP and Xinhua respectively reported the strike killed four or five people, citing unnamed Yemeni officials. A military source told Xinhua: “The US drone fired three missiles on a gathering of al Qaeda operatives in the Sert Valley in Hadramout province, killing five commanders of the terrorist group.”

However AQAP denied the attack took place, according to Iona Craig.

A military officer in Hadramout also denied the strike happened, saying an explosive device targeted a vehicle belonging to his regiment in First Military Region. He said there were no casualties in the explosion that he blamed on AQAP. The armed group had not claimed responsibility. Yemen Times also reported that “staff at the al Qatan and Shebam security offices also denied any knowledge of a drone strike in the governorate.”

Type of attack: Possible US drone strike
Location: Wadi Sert, Hadramout
References: AFP, Xinhua, Twitter, Yemen Times

YEM182
February 20 2015

♦ 2-3 reported killed

Two or three people were reportedly killed in a suspected US drone strike in southern Yemen. The attack destroyed the vehicle and killed the occupants – described as militants in the reporting. The strike reportedly hit at night, increasing the probability it was a US strike as the Yemen Air Force is incapable of flying at night, besides hit a moving target at night.

Type of attack: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al Houta, Shabwa
References: Middle East Eye, Reuters, Al MJRH News (Ar), Associated Press

YEM183
February 28 2015

♦ 3-4 reported killed

A second consecutive strike to reportedly target vehicles in Shabwa killed three or four people. The attack hit early on February 28 and killed alleged AQAP members. There were “foreigners” and local commanders reported among the dead.

Type of attack: Possible US drone strike
Location: Bihan region, Shabwa
References: Reuters, AFP, Associated Press, Xinhua


March

YEM184
March 1 2015
♦ 2-3 reported killed
♦ 3 reported injured

US drones reportedly killed at least two people in what was the third consecutive strike to reportedly hit a moving vehicle in Shabwa province.

Military, security and tribal sources told the Associated Press and AFP that two or three people were killed in the strike, respectively. However conflicting reports appeared to come from AQAP. One source from the group said the strike killed seven. However the report citing that source was taken down within hours of publication. The group’s spokesman denied the attack took place and that anyone died. It is unusual for the group to falsely deny a strike took place.

The strike hit on the border with Bayda province, where AQAP is fighting Houthi militiamen, a security source said.

A military source and a tribal source said the vehicle was loaded with weapons when the strike hit. This a common element to drone strike reports in Yemen. It at times appears to be the product of supposition by a source and used as an explanation for the size of an explosion rather. On this occasion, the military source said: “The al Qaeda gunmen were attempting to move weapons which they looted in the 19th Infantry Brigade last month.”

The strike reportedly hit at night or at dawn, increasing the probability it was a US strike as the Yemen Air Force is incapable of flying at night, besides hit a moving target at night.

Type of attack: Possible US drone strike
Location: Markha district, Shabwa
References: AFP, Associated Press, Reuters, Xinhua, Twitter


April

YEM185
April 12
2015
♦ 3-7 reported killed

A possible US drone strike killed Ibrahim al Rubaish, a senior AQAP figure, according to an al Qaeda statement.

It was not clear how many other AQAP members were killed with local news website Yemen Alaan reported seven killed.

Though the first reported drone strike for more than six weeks, it was not immediately clear if it was a drone strike, coming amidst a concerted Saudi Arabian air war against the Houthi militia.

A map of Yemen showing the aeras under control of different armed groups, including the Houthis and forces loyal to President Hadi. It shows where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsual/AQAP operates and it shows where the Saudi Arabian air strikes have hit.
Conflict in Yemen, as of April 10 2015 (Source: UNOCHA)

An unnamed US official told the Wall Street Journal: “It’s raining bombs in Yemen right now… If you want to increase your chances of being hit by a bomb, go to Yemen.”

However the strike hit near Mukalla, an Arabian Sea port on Yemen’s southern coast and capital of the eastern Hadramout governorate. It was a region that had yet to be targeted by Saudi Arabian or allied jets, according to a situation report released April 10 by the UN’s Organisation for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The CIA and Pentagon are responsible for drone strikes in Yemen. Both declined to comment on reports of the strike or al Rubaish’s death.

This is the first reported drone strike since the situation in Yemen spiraled out of control and the US was forced to evacuate more than 100 special forces soldiers from al Anad airbase in the southern Lahj governorate.

This was widely seen as a crippling blow to the US’s counter-terrorism efforts in Yemen. However the US reportedly continued to fly drones over Yemen, tracking AQAP and in support of Saudi Arabian air strikes, vetting targets for Saudi jets. An unnamed US official told the New York Times: “We continue to actively monitor terrorist threats emanating from Yemen, and we have capabilities postured in the area to address them.”

A headshot of Ibrahim al Rubaysh/Ibrahim al Rubaish - a senior figure in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was originally from Saudi Arabia, spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan and was in Guantanamo Bay prison too.AQAP confirmed al Rubaish (left, from a US wanted poster) “was killed last Sunday night April 12 in a US drone strike along with a group of AQAP mujahideen.” He was a Saudi, from the Qassim region.

The New York Times reported al Rubaish had wanted to fight in Chechnya against the Russians. However while at a training camp in Pakistan in May 2001 he was directed to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He reportedly fought at Tora Bora in Afghanistan. He was captured by Pakistani forces and turned over to the US. He arrived at Guantanamo in January 2002.

He was released from Guantanamo in 2006 into the custody of a Saudi rehabilitation centre. However he fled to Yemen in 2009 and joined AQAP. He was added to the Saudi Arabian 85 most wanted terrorist list in February 2009.

The US described him as “a senior [AQAP] sharia official since 2013” in his Rewards for Justice wanted man poster. The US put out a reward of $5m for information leading to his location being determined.

The US said he was “a senior AQAP sharia official, al Rubaish provides the justification for attacks conducted by AQAP. [He] also serves as a senior adviser for AQAP operational planning, and is involved in the planning of attacks.”

AQAP said he was “was a brave warrior in the front lines, and a good Islamic scholar as well.” He was born in 1979 and had at least one child, a daughter, “born just three months before he was captured“.

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: Reuters, Andy Worthington, AFP, Associated Press, Yemen Alaan (Ar), Rewards for Justice, Xinhua, Wall Street Journal, New York Times

YEM186
April 17
 2015
♦ 2 reported killed

A possible US drone strike killed two people, according to a tribal source quoted by AFP. The overnight strike was said to have targeted a vehicle in the southern province of Shabwa. The source said that both people were members of al Qaeda. An AQAP told the Bureau the strike took place but did not have any details on the casualties.

On April 24 the Washington Post confirmed this was a US strike when it reported unnamed officials “said that JSOC was responsible for strikes in Yemen over the past week.”

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Habban, Shabwa
References: AFP, Washington Post

YEM187
April 19 2015

♦ 2-6 reported killed

At least three alleged members of al Qaeda were reportedly killed in a possible US drone strike in eastern Yemen. The attack killed the three as they transported weapons in Shabwa province, a local tribal chief told AFP.

On April 24 the Washington Post confirmed this was a US strike when it reported unnamed officials “said that JSOC was responsible for strikes in Yemen over the past week.”

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Saeed District, Shabwa
References: AFP, CNN, Washington Post, Barakish (Ar)

YEM188
April 22 2015

♦ 5-7 reported killed
♦ 0-1 child reported killed

Two significant AQAP figures were killed in a US drone strike in Mukalla – the capital of Hadramout province.

Between five and seven people were killed in a strike that hit the Corniche on the sea front in Mukalla. One of AQAP’s key ideologues, Nasser al Ansi, and its chief spokesman, Mohanned Ghallab, were among the dead.

nasser al ansi
Nasser al Ansi (from al Qaeda propaganda video)

Ansi, from the southern Yemeni city of Taiz, was described as al Qaeda’s “deputy general manager” by the Long War Journal. He was deputy to Nasir al Wuhayshi, AQAP’s leader and al Qaeda’s general manager overall. Ansi claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris on behalf of AQAP. The video eulogy said Ansi “took courage and wisdom from” Osama bin Laden, “as well as the jurisprudence of jihad, movement, and the call”. He was said to have “drank from the knowledge of the top leaders”.

Ansi was reportedly a veteran of fighting in Bosnia during the Balkans conflict in 1995. He subsequently traveled to Afghanistan via Yemen and Kashmir to train with al Qaeda. While there bin Laden “tasked him with administrative affairs, before he entered the military field”. He reportedly joined AQAP in 2011.

Ansi’s eldest son, Mohamed, was also killed in the strike. It is not known how old he was when he was killed.

Ghallab was AQAP’s 35 year old Egyptian spokesman. He began contact international journalists in 2012 in a bid to put out “an English-speaking voice to counter the Washington and Western media narrative,” according to The Intercept. The invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 spurred him on his path to Yemen, he said: “I saw good Muslim youth making sacrifices for the sake of Islam while I cared about myself only… I started to reflect on what America was doing. I started to pray and read Quran… I let my beard grow. I looked Islamic. I felt Islamic.”

AQAP spokesman Mohannad Ghallab

By the time he died, he had become a widely quoted, anonymous AQAP source in several Western media outlets – including the Bureau. AQAP overran Mukalla in April, exploiting the chaos of civil war to take territory in eastern Yemen. The group emptied the local branch of the central bank and attacked the prison, releasing hundreds of prisoners. Among them was Khalid Saeed Batarfi who read the 11 minute video eulogy to al Ansi, released online by AQAP on May 7. The drone reportedly hit while the men were eating an evening meal on the Corniche in the coastal city however it was not exactly clear what time.

A source close to AQAP told local news website Mukalla Star said the strike hit at 10pm. However residents told another local news website, Hona Hadramout, that the strike hit at or after midnight meaning the attack may have hit on April 22. Some reports said the men were killed in car, either parked or moving. However there is no evidence of a wreckage from a strike on a vehicle in pictures of the strike published by Hona Hadramout or a video of the strike shot by a local journalist and distributed by Transterra Media.

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: CNN, AFP, Mukalla Star (Ar), Associated Press, Reuters, Hona Hadramout (Ar), Transterra Media, Washington Post, Daily Mail, Long War Journal, AFP, The Intercept


May

YEM189
May 8 2015
♦ 3 reported killed

A possible US drone strike reportedly killed three people in Shabwa governorate. Few details were reported about this strike.

Type of attack: Possible US drone strike
Location: Mafraq, Shabwa
References: Anadolu Agency, 24.com.eg (Ar)

YEM190
May 10 2015
♦ 1-4 reported killed

A suspected US drone strike destroyed a car killing at least one and as many as four people. Sources believed the dead were members of AQAP. They were all reportedly part of the Awlaq tribe – a large and powerful family in Yemen. The attack destroyed a car in the city of Ataq, capital of southern Shabwa. It reportedly hit as it was driving near the al Farouq mosque in the south of the city. Photographs published by local news website Shabwah Press suggested the strike did not cause much damage besides destroying the vehicle. The website also published a graphic image of the remains of one of the people killed in the strike and therefore should be viewed with caution. This level of precision suggests US drones carried out the attack, as reported by witnesses and local and military officials. However Saudi Arabia was responsible for other airstrikes in the Shabwa area suggesting this was US attack.

Type of attack: Possible US drone strike
Location: Ataq, Shabwa
References: Anadolu Agency, 24.com.eg (Ar), Associated Press, Barakish (Ar), Shabwah Press (Ar)

YEM191
May 11 2015
♦ 4 reported killed
♦ “Others” reported injured (2+)

A third reported US drone strike in 36 hours hit Mukalla, a port on the southern coast of Yemen and capital of the eastern Hadramout province. The attack killed four AQAP members were reportedly killed. They were identified as: Maamoun Hatem, Abu Anwar al Kutheiri, Mohammed Saleh al Gharabi and Mabkhout Waqash al Sayeri.

Images of Maamoun Hatem (from Twitter)

In Yemen, Hatem was reportedly among the most prominent supporters of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (Isis). All four were described as senior AQAP figures. The attack hit near the entrance to the presidential palace in the centre of Mukalla. Residents photographed a plume of smoke rising above the town.

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: Reuters, Barakish (Ar), Mukalla Star (Ar), Anadolu Agency, AFP, Dawa al Haq (Ar), Associated Press

YEM192
May 16 2015

♦ 3 reported killed

A US drone strike reportedly killed three men in a vehicle in Shabwa governorate according to a tribal source and a Yemeni security official. The strike hit in a region that had been targeted by Saudi warplanes however it came on the final day of a five day humanitarian ceasefire in the ongoing civil war and Saudi air campaign.

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Shabwa
References: Associated Press, AFP

YEM193
May 22 2015
♦ 3-5 reported killed

A US drone strike on a vehicle in Shabwa reportedly killed three or five alleged members of AQAP.

The strike was reported by local officials, tribal sources and security officials.

It hit the same day as Saudi Arabia’s jets continued to strike Houthi positions. There were reported air raids outside Sanaa, in the second city of Aden, the northern city of Saada, and in Mareb province.

The UN said the ongoing conflict in Yemen had killed 1,037 civilians including 234 children and 134 women, adding the eight weeks of fighting had heavily damaged Yemeni infrastructure.

This drone attack could be a misreported Saudi strike. However it was a precision strike on a moving vehicle. This is a level of accuracy potentially beyond the fast jets of the Saudi air force. A botched Saudi attack in Aden on the same day demonstrates the potential for precision air strikes to go awry. It missed the Houthi fighters and managed to kill four members of the southern resistance movement.

Type of attack: US drone strike
Location: Shabwa
References: AFP, Associated Press, Reuters


June

YEM194
June 2 2015
♦ 5-20 reported killed

A suspected US drone strike killed at least five people travelling in two or three vehicles in northern Yemen. It was not immediately clear if the dead were al Qaeda or from a militia loyal to the exiled president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The strike reportedly destroyed the convoy as it passed through an area that has become the frontline in fighting between the Houthis and anti-Houthi, Sunni militias. Tribal sources and residents said the strike targeted al Qaeda vehicles.

However militiamen from the anti-Houthi, Popular Resistance group told South American news agency EFE the drones killed 10 Popular Resistance fighters. The BBC subsequently reported 20 Popular Resistance fighters were killed by mistake.

If confirmed as a US attack, this would be the first drone strike outside Hadramout and Shabwa since the Saudi Arabian bombing campaign began in March. On February 2 US drones killed 3-6 people in al Bayda province.

Type of attack: Air strike – possible drone strike
Location: al Jawf
References: AFP, Reuters, EFE, BBC (Ar)

YEM195
June 9 2015

♦ 3 reported killed

US government
Photo: US government

A suspected signature strike by CIA drones killed the leader of AQAP, Nasser al Wuhayshi (right). His death was confirmed in a White House statement and a eulogy video released a week after this strike.

Days after the strike, AQAP executed four men it accused of spying for Saudi Arabia and the US. Two of them were reportedly crucified on a bridge – one, Human al Hamid, was accused of calling in the drone strike that killed Wuhayshi. Two others were reportedly shot in front of a large crowd of Mukalla residents.

Initial reports said two or three alleged AQAP members were killed on the sea-front in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramout. A “leading figure” in AQAP was reportedly among the dead.

This appeared to have been Wuhayshi. CNN first reported his death in English, citing two unnamed Yemeni officials and tweets from “known al Qaeda operatives”. His deputy and AQAP’s military commander, Qasim al Raymi, was named as the group’s new leader.

Al Qaeda confirmed his death in June 15 video statement read by Khaled Omar Batarfi. He said: “We in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula mourn to our Muslim nation… that Abu Baseer Nasser bin Abdul Karim al Wuhayshi, may God have mercy on his soul, passed away in an American strike which targeted him along with two of his mujahideen brothers”. Wuhayshi’s death would not halt AQAP’s efforts, he added “Did jihad end? Did its pulse stop? Did the will of resistance and fighting die among Muslims? No, the death of this [leader] leads to more determination.”

The US did not immediately confirm reports of Wuhayshi’s death, saying it was reviewing its intelligence on the strike. However on June 16 the White House confirmed his death. In a statement, the White House said his “death strikes a major blow to AQAP, al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliate, and to al Qaeda more broadly”. The administration cautioned that AQAP “will remain persistent in their efforts to threaten the United States, our partners, and our interests” before saying Wuhayshi’s death “brings us closer to degrading and ultimately defeating these groups”.

The original reticence to confirm Wuhayshi’s death suggested the US was treating al Qaeda’s proclamation with caution. The group has been known for declaring its fighters dead only for them to reappear years later.

However reporting by the Washington Post confirmed it was a signature strike and the US had not known Wuhayshi was among the targets. Signature strikes are attacks that are carried out based on a targets’ observed patterns of behaviour rather than their actual identity. Unnamed officials told the Washington Post the CIA had been unaware they were targeting Wuhayshi in the strike.

Officials said President Obama had relaxed rules governing drone strikes, allowing the CIA and military to resume signature strikes in Yemen. This shift away from a 2013 policy declaration came earlier in 2015 when Yemen plunged into a civil war, depriving the US of much of its on-the-ground intelligence, gleaned from the Yemeni intelligence services.

However, Bloomberg reported this was a personality strike. The CIA built “a methodical case on [Wuhayshi’s] whereabouts over months from information collected through” drones and satellites.

Wuhayshi had led AQAP since it was formed in 2009 out of the remnants of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia and al Qaeda in Yemen, which he led since 2007 after the death of Fawaz al Rabii, Osama bin Laden‘s hand picked leader sent to the country in 2001, according to the book The Last Refuge. In 2013, Wuhayshi was reportedly named the second-in-command of al Qaeda overall.

He was born in Abyan province in Yemen on October 1 1976. He graduated from a private religious school in Yemen in 1998 and traveled to Afghanistan where he attended an al Qaeda training camp near Khost. He quickly swore allegiance to al Qaeda and became bin Laden’s personal secretary and apprentice – a role he filled for the next four years.

Wuhayshi fought with bin Laden in the battle for Tora Bora. When the al Qaeda leader fled Wuhayshi took his small group of men into Iran. Tehran had him arrested and after two years in prison before being sent back to Yemen. He served a further two years of jail time before escaping Yemeni custody in 2006 with several other terrorists under dubious circumstances.

The US added Wuhayshi to its list of al Qaeda terrorists in 2010 and put out a reward of $10m for information on his location.

This the second strike to reportedly hit the Corniche in Mukalla. A strike on April 22 killed 5-7 people, including one of AQAP’s key ideologues, Nasser al Ansi, and its chief spokesman, Mohanned Ghallab.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: AFP, Al Tagheer (Ar), BBC (Ar), Barakish (Ar), Xinhua, CNN, AFP, US Department of State, The Last Refuge, BBC, Reuters, The White House, Washington Post, New York Times, Fox News, Bloomberg

YEM196
June 24 2015

♦ 4-5 reported killed

Four or five alleged AQAP members were killed in a US drone strike. It hit a vehicle near Mukalla, the capital of the eastern province of Hadramout.

None of the dead were named though a provincial official said “a local al Qaeda chief” was among the dead.

Residents, and local and security officials said US drones carried out the attack. It hit a moving vehicle at night in a region the US has targeted frequently this year – supporting the assertion it was a drone strike.

The attack reportedly destroyed the vehicle inside the former headquarters of the Yemeni army’s 27th Brigade. The soldiers abandoned the position in April. AQAP took control of the facility that month as it swept across Hadramout.

AQAP has reportedly taken advantage of chaos and civil war across Yemen to establish itself as the de facto authority in the province, in place of the crumbling central government.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Al Rayyan, Mukalla, Hadramout
References: Associated Press, Barakish (Ar), Anatolia Agency (Ar), EREM News (Ar), Al Masdar Online (Ar), Reuters, AFP

YEM196C
June 24 2015
♦ Unknown people killed

A single source reported a second drone strike. Citing an unnamed provincial official, AFP reported: “A second Al-Qaeda vehicle was targeted Wednesday evening in a drone strike in the town of Ghil Bawazir in the same province but there was no word of casualties.”

Type of attack: Air strike – possible US drone strike
Location: Ghil Bawazir, Hadramout
References: AFP

YEM197
June 25 2015
♦ 4 people killed

US drones reportedly either a vehicle carrying AQAP fighters, killing them all according to a local official and tribesmen. Or it hit a training camp.

Type of attack: Air strike – possible US drone strike
Location: Rafadh, Shabwa
References: AFP, Barakish (Ar), Yemen Akhbar (Ar), Barakish (Ar), Al Mashad Al Yemeni (Ar)

YEM198
June 25 2015
♦ 4 reported killed

A second strike of the day reportedly hit a “gathering” of al Qaeda fighters in Mukalla, the capital of Hadramout, around three hours after the previous attack in Shabwa. A source “close to Ansar al Sharia” told Mukalla Star the strike hit near the Yemeni army’s 27 Mechanised Brigade’s former headquarters. AQAP took control of the facility in April as it tightened its grip on Mukalla.

Type of attack: Air strike – possible US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: Yemen Akhbar (Ar), Barakish (Ar), Mukalla Star (Ar)


July

YEM199
July 3 2015

♦ 4 people killed

A dawn strike killed four alleged AQAP members – two Yemenis, a Kuwait and a Saudi.

The strike hit a car as it left the headquarters for the Yemen army’s 27 Mechanised Brigade. AQAP took control of the facility in April when the group moved into Mukalla, taking advantage of the growing instability in the rest of the country.

A local official identified two of the dead as Shuaib al Maliki of Saudi Arabia and Abdul Aziz al Otaibi from Kuwait.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: AFP, Reuters, Associated Press, Barakish (Ar), Mukalla Star (Ar)

YEM200
July 10 2015
♦ 3-10 people killed

Suspected US drones reportedly fired two missiles in a strike in Mukalla, eastern Yemen. At least three people were killed in the night strike.

Reports were conflicted over how many people had been killed in the attack with some saying three, Associated Press reporting four killed, and others including AFP putting the death toll at 10 alleged AQAP fighters. An official told AFP three of the dead were local chiefs.

There was near unanimity that a senior AQAP figure had been killed. Abu Hajar al Hadrami had reportedly been arrested by security services but managed to escape from the prison in Mukalla in 2011.  Sources close to Al Quaeda reportedly confirmed his death.

According to local Yemen officials, the raids targeted a vehicle and a container loaded with weapons late Friday in Mukalla port, the provincial capital of Hadramout.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: AFP, Reuters, Associated Press, Ennahar Online (Ar), 24 (Ar), El Mogaz (Ar), Aden Alghad (Ar), Almasdar (Ar), Al Tagheer (Ar)

YEM201
July 29 2015
♦ 4-5 reported killed

Local officials said US drones destroyed a vehicle carrying alleged al Qaeda members from Mukalla, the group’s stronghold in the eastern province of Hadramout.

One of the dead was identified as Ahmed al Kazimi, a local AQAP commander.

The attack hit overnight and targeted suspected al Qaeda members, demonstrating this was a US drone strike. It could have been a Saudi Arabian air force attack – also capable of carrying out precision strikes. However, while it had been bombing Yemen for more than four months, its campaign appeared to have ignored AQAP in the east of the country. The US had consistently targeted AQAP suspects in vehicles in south-eastern Yemen in 2015.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Wadi Dikha, Abyan
References: AFP, Barakish (Ar), Reuters


August

YEM202
August 12 2015
♦ 5 reported killed

A US drone strike killed five alleged members of AQAP as they drove between Mukalla and Rukob on the southern coast of the eastern province of Hadramout.

The attack reportedly hit at dawn with military and security officials, local officials, local residents, and eye-witnesses all claiming the dead were AQAP fighters. The group is based in Mukalla however there were scant details about the people killed in this attack.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Between Rukob and Mukalla, Hadramout
References: AFP, Rasd24 (Ar), Aden Ghad (Ar), Mukalla Star (Ar), Barakish (Ar), Associated Press, Reuters

A Google Earth satellite picture of the Hadramout coast between Mukalla and Rukob
A Google Earth satellite picture of the Hadramout coast between Mukalla and Rukob

 

YEM203
August 21 2015
♦ 3 reported killed

Three suspected militants were reported killed in a strike in the central province of Marib. Unnamed tribal sources told AFP that a drone hit the men at dawn as they drove through the desert region of Harib.

Type of attack: Air strike – possible US drone strike
Location: Harib, Marib
ReferencesAFP, Alsulta-Alrabea (Ar)

YEM204
August 23 2015
♦ 4 reported killed

Four suspected al Qaeda members were reported killed in an overnight strike in eastern city of Mukalla, an unnamed local official told AFP. According to the official, a drone fired a missile them as they drove across the tarmac of al Rayane airport. Two Saudis, a Yemen and an Afghan were killed, according to a local official and residents.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
ReferencesAFP, Reuters, Al Mashad Al Yemeni (Ar) Almesryoon (Ar)

YEM205
August 26 2015
♦ 5 reported killed

Five people were reported killed in the second suspected drone strike in Mukalla in as many days. Residents told Reuters that five suspected al Qaeda members were killed when a missile hit their car as they travelled in the middle of the night.  A local official told AFP however that the militants were killed in a strike on a house as they gathered for a meeting.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: Reuters, AFP, 7Adramout.net (Ar)


September

YEM206
September 9 2015
♦ 3-6 reported killed
♦ 0-4 civilians reported killed
♦ 2 reported injured


A US drone strike destroyed a four-wheel drive vehicle near the capital of the eastern province of Hadramout. How many people were killed, and who they were, remains unclear.

Most media reports had three or four alleged AQAP fighters killed. However a local media source said only two AQAP perished, four others were civilians.

The strike hit the vehicle near the airport in the provincial capital Mukalla, according to local residents. It is not clear if the vehicle was parked or moving when it was hit.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: Reuters, AFP, Al Masdar Online (Ar), Al Ghad al Arabi (Ar), Aden al Ghad (Ar)

YEM207
September 12 2015
♦ 4 reported killed

Four alleged AQAP were killed in a possible US drone strike on a vehicle crossing from Jawf province into Marib.

Tribal and security sources described the attack as a drone strike, saying two missiles hit the vehicle. However Marib province was the site of an air and ground offensive by Gulf forces and their local allies against the Houthi militias. While the Saudi-led coalition had held off on targeting al Qaeda, without more information it was not immediately possible to confirm US involvement.

Type of attack: Air strike – possible US drone strike
Location: Jawf-Mareb border
References: Associated Press, Reuters, Baraqish (Ar), Al Ghad al Arabi (Ar)

YEM208
September 12 2015
♦ 4-5 reported killed

Four or five alleged AQAP fighters were reportedly killed in a drone strike in Mukalla, in the south-eastern province of Hadramout.

The attack hit at about 8pm local time (5pm GMT). It reportedly destroyed a vehicle near a military base on the outskirts of the coastal city, capital of Hadramout province. This was the fifth consecutive strike on the Mukalla area.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Mukalla, Hadramout
References: Reuters, Barakish (Ar), Mukalla Star (Ar), Aden al Ghad (Ar)

YEM209
September 21 2015
♦ 2 reported killed

US drones reportedly destroyed a vehicle in a night strike in Marib province, killing two alleged al Qaeda fighters. The strike hit on the outskirts of Marib city, the provincial capital, a local official told AFP.

The air attack came amid considerable fighting between Houthis forces and soldiers from the Saudi-led coalition which had sent ground troops into Yemen, as well as continuing its air attacks. Reuters reported Saudi-led air strikes had hit Sanaa as the Gulf alliance pushed towards the capital.

Type of attack: Air strike – possible US drone strike
Location: Marib city, Marib
References: AFP, Shahfah (Ar), Aden al Alarabi (Ar), Reuters


December

YEM210
December 22 2015

♦ 4 reported killed

US drones reportedly destroyed a car carrying four alleged members of AQAP. The evening was the first reported US drone attack since September 21.

Type of attack: Air strike – US drone strike
Location: Nata district, border of al Bayda and Shabwa provinces
References: Reuters, AFP, Xinhua

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