Yemen: Reported US covert actions 2001-2011

Key US counter-terrorism actions in Yemen
The US Department of Defense is primarily responsible for counter-terrorism activities in Yemen, just as it is in Somalia. CENTCOM is the lead Pentagon command. Joint Special Operations Command – or JSOC – is the elite force often credited with attacks in Yemen aimed at al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and more recently, Ansar al-Sharia.

US activity has at various times consisted of cruise missile strikes, naval bombardments, air strikes and more recently, drone strikes launched from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and elsewhere. Attacks are at times in conjunction with, or in support of, the Yemen military.

Click here for our 2012 Yemen data.

Click here for our 2013 Yemen data.

Click here for our 2014 Yemen data.

The CIA has only recently taken a more aggressive role, reportedly operating a drone fleet from a secret base ‘somewhere in the Gulf.’ Actions against alleged militants are at times combined operations involving both the CIA and JSOC, for example with the killing of Anwar al Awlaki in September 2011.

As Yemen came under severe pressure during the Arab Spring and militants seized control of cities and towns in the south, the US significantly stepped up its attacks, most notably with drone strikes.

The Data
The events detailed below are those actions which have been reported by US administration and intelligence officials, credible media, academics and other sources since 2001. The Bureau will continue to add to its knowledge base, and welcomes input and corrections from interested parties.

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 2001-2011
Confirmed drone strikes Possible drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total reported strikes: 12-15 10-12 7-44
Total reported killed: 52-108 37-40 120-222
Civilians reported killed: 36 3-5 47-76
Children reported killed: 2 2 21-23
Total reported injured: 14-41 13-14 11-64

Note: only one of these strikes took place before December 2009 – a confirmed US drone strike on November 3 2002 (YEM001).


November 25-27 2001
Yemen’s President Saleh signed a $400m deal with the Bush administration, as part of which the US created a ‘counter-terrorism camp’ in Yemen run by the CIA, US Marines and Special Forces. The deal was made with CIA Director George Tenet, who ‘provided Saleh’s forces with helicopters, eavesdropping equipment and 100 Army Special Forces members to train an anti-terrorism unit. He also won Saleh’s approval to fly Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles over the country’. According to journalist and military expert Jeremy Scahill the Yemen camp was backed up by Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, which housed Predator drones. Among the forces inserted alongside the trainers were members of a clandestine military intelligence unit within the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) known as The Activity. While officially in Yemen as trainers, they also reportedly began to find and track al Qaeda suspects.

Location: Yemen
References: The Nation, Washington Post, Yemen Government

December 2001
Reports claimed that plans were drawn up for British SAS troops to carry out a series of ‘stiletto’, or pin pointed attacks on al Qaeda camps in Yemen, should the US decide that UK forces were required. A report in the Scottish Herald in March 2002 suggested that the US wished to use the UK troops for their ‘unrivaled expertise’, and ‘to defuse growing anti-American feeling’ among Yemeni warlords. The reports marked the first of many claims that British Special Forces were carrying out counter-terror operations in Yemen.

Location: Yemen
References: The Daily Telegraph, The Herald


March 15 2002
During a visit by US Vice President Dick Cheney, Yemen confirmed the expanded US Special Forces presence of around 100 troops (see YEM001), and to allowing them to train its Republican Guard. ‘In Yemen, we are working with the government to prevent al Qaeda forces from regrouping there,’ Mr Cheney said in Egypt. An adviser to Yemen’s President Saleh told the New York Times:

People are understanding the importance of having trainers. They do not want the Americans to come in and do the fighting. They feel it is the Yemenis who should fight against terrorism.’

References: New York TimesBetween Threats and War (Zenko), BBC

April 10 2002
Yemen was officially designated a ‘combat zone’ in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, allowing the US to begin deployment of US Special Forces. It was listed as part of the Afghanistan combat zone.

To qualify as part of the Afghanistan OEF sphere, servicemembers must be serving in Pakistan, Tajikistan, or Jordan (as of September 19, 2001); Incirlik Air Base in Turkey (as of September 21, 2001); Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan (as of October 1, 2001); the Philippines (as of January 9, 2002); Yemen (as of April 10, 2002); or Djibouti (as of July 1, 2002).

References: US Internal Revenue ServiceBetween Threats and War (Zenko), Congressional Research Service

September 19 2002
The US was reported to have moved some 800 troops, including up to 200 elite Special Forces troops to Djibouti along with an amphibious assault ship, the USS Belleau Wood, in readiness ‘for rapid deployment against al Qaeda in Yemen.’ The Yemeni Government denied that it would allow US troops to take part in any operations on its territory.

ReferencesDaily Telegraph, New York Times, BBC

November 3 2002
♦ 6 reported killed

In the first known US targeted assassination using a drone, a CIA Predator launched from Djibouti struck a car killing six al Qaeda suspects. A seventh individual may have escaped. The dead included Al Qaeda leader Qa’id Salim Sinan al Harithi, also known as Abu Mi (one of the alleged masterminds behind the USS Cole attack) and Abu Ahmad al Hijazi, a naturalised US citizen also known as Kemal or Kamal Darwish. Darwish, a US-born Yemeni, was suspected of being the recruiter of a terror support cell that had been rounded up in Buffalo, New York state. The other four killed reportedly belonged to the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, and were identified as Salih Hussain Ali al Nunu or Zono (aka Abu Humam); Awsan Ahmad al Tarihi (aka Abu al Jarrah); Munir Ahmad Abdallah al Sauda (Abu Ubaidah); and Adil Nasir al Sauda (Abu Usamah, initially identified as al-Qia’gaa). All six names were released by the Yemen government three weeks after the attack. 

Harithi was allegedly traced after using a mobile phone that US intelligence had linked to him. A truck-mounted listening device in Kuwait intercepted the call. A JSOC signals intelligence team also participated. In a leaked diplomatic cable from 2004, the US Ambassador to Yemen told an Amnesty International delegation that:

The action was taken in full cooperation with the ROYG [Republic of Yemen Government], against known al Qaeda operatives after previous attempts to apprehend the terrorists left 18 Yemenis dead. Citing the progress on both rights and security, the Ambassador commented that Yemen is an example of how counter-terrorism efforts and human rights can be mutually reinforcing.

The CIA and Centcom co-operated on the strike, with the drone reportedly launched from a base in nearby Djibouti. According to Lt General Michael DeLong, deputy head of Centcom at the time: ‘George Tenet [director CIA] calls me one morning and said, “We’ve got our target.”  I said, “OK, we’re good. I’m going down to the UAV room.” [in Tampa, Florida]. I’m sitting back like this, looking at the wall and talking to George Tenet. And he goes, “You going to make the call?” And I said, “I’ll make the call.” He says, “This SUV over here is the one that has Ali in it.” I said, “OK, fine.” You know, “Shoot him.” They lined it up and shot it. It’s a pretty good-size explosive. In an SUV, you can imagine a big explosion. So we knew everybody in the vehicle was dead.’

Paul Wolfowitz, assistant US Secretary of Defense, appeared to admit to CNN five days later that the strike was the work of the CIA. Reporter Paula Ressa asked him whether ‘in terms of strategy, what we saw in Yemen, for example with the CIA strike. Is that change in strategy now?’ Wolfowitz responded: ‘Not fundamentally. It’s a very successful tactical operation, and one hopes each time you get a success like that, not only to have gotten rid of somebody dangerous but to have imposed changes in their tactics and operations and procedures.’ It would be 10 years before a US official – on that occasion President Obama – would again admit on the record to the US targeted killing programme.

Type of action: Air assault, drone strike
Location: Marib Province
References: BBC, TIME, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, The Nation, The Age, The Tech, The Atlantic, Washington Post, CNN, Wikileaks cable, Amnesty International, UNHCHRChristian Science Monitor, New Yorker, UN Human Rights Council, New Yorker, CBS News, Gulf News, BBC News, CNN (via US government archive), Nasser al-Aulaki v. Barack Obama et al, Middle East Online, ABC News, PBS Frontline, Council on Foreign Relations, PBS Frontline, Washington Post


January 13 2003
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Ms Asma Jahangir, issued her first report on US drone strikes outside the battlefield, in the wake of the November 2002 attack, which she described as ‘a truly disturbing development’. The report notes:

In its letter the Government of Yemen acknowledges that the attack did take place, and gives the names of the six persons killed [see YEM001]. It further informs the Special Rapporteur that the six men had been involved in the attacks on the United States military vessel, the USS Cole, as well as a French tanker out of the port of Aden. It is further reported that the Government on several occasions had, unsuccessfully, sought to apprehend these six individuals. The Government stresses that had the persons come forward all their rights would have been protected, including a fair trial and a defence lawyer during trial. At the time of writing the United States Government had not sent a reply. The Special Rapporteur is extremely concerned that should the information received be accurate, an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of Government. The Special Rapporteur acknowledges that Governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens against the excesses of non-State actors or other authorities, but these actions must be taken in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. In the opinion of the Special Rapporteur, the attack in Yemen constitutes a clear case of extrajudicial killing.

Location: Geneva
References: UN Special Rapporteur

April 14 2003
The United States responded to the UN Human Rights Council. Stating that it had ‘no comment on the specific allegations and findings concerning a November 2002 incident in Yemen, or the accuracy thereof’, the US also claimed that the UN had no jurisdiction: ‘The Government of the United States respectfully submits that inquiries relating to allegations stemming from any military operations conducted during the course of an armed conflict with al Qaida do not fall within the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.’

Locations: Washington/ Geneva
Reference: UN Special Rapporteur


Spring 2004

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued the secret Al Qaeda Network Executive Order, better known as AQN ExOrd, authorising worldwide anti-Al Qaeda activities by US Special Forces, including in Yemen.

Location: Washington
ReferencesNew York Times, New York Times 


November 9 2005
President Saleh arrived in Washington on a state visit ‘with a wish list‘ of rewards for being ‘an indispensable ally.’ He had eliminated every name on a list of al Qaeda leaders the CIA had given him in 2001. And in 2005 he swiftly dealt with a terrorist cell threatening to attack the US embassy in Sanaa. He ‘needed to replenish his armoury’ with US help to fight the third war in three years with Houthi secessionists in the north. But, according to Foreign Policy, Saleh had been so successful at tackling al Qaeda that Washington’s priority in Yemen had shifted from counter-terrorism to promoting democracy. Al Qaeda was yesterday’s problem the US explained. With little sign of political reform in Yemen coupled insidious corruption, the State Department cut aid to Sanaa by $20m. The World Bank also slashed aid from $420m to $280m because of government corruption. Saleh ‘finally lost it’ on the flight back to Yemen after his three day visit. He fired his entire team of economic advisors within minutes of take-off. Weeks later however, ‘when Saleh had calmed down, he rehired most of them.’

Location: Washington
Reference: Foreign Policy


February 3 2006
Twenty three suspected and convicted al Qaeda militants escaped a maximum-security prison outside Sanaa. They tunneled from their cell to a nearby mosque where they said their morning prayers and walked out the front door. This was ‘AQAP’s genesis moment‘. Among the 23 was Jamal Ahmed Badawi who had been sentenced to death in 2004 for his part in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. One of the bombers of the French tanker MV Limburg, Fawaz al-Rabeei, also escaped as did ten more convicted al Qaeda militants. The US intelligence agencies believed the escapees had inside help. But they ‘could only guess at the extent of the conspiracy’. The US had announced aid to Yemen in 2006 would be only $4.6m having ‘decided al Qaeda in Yemen was no longer a threat.’ Through 2006 US attention and aid dollars had to be refocussed on the impoverished state.

Location: Sanaa
Reference: Foreign Policy, New York Times


March 29 2007
Al Qaeda in Yemen assassinated Ali Mahmud Qasaylah, the chief criminal investigator in Marib governrate. The group claimed that Qasaylah was murdered for his role in the November 2002 drone killing of Harithi (YEM001). Yemen’s Ministry of the Interior offered a $25,000 reward for information relating to three named suspects. The attack was the first indication of a resurgent al Qaeda presence in Yemen, as one report put it:

Qasaylah’s death and the subsequent claim of responsibility by al Qaeda in Yemen suggest that the group is reforming with the help of members trained in Iraq and is returning to settle old scores. This could prove to be a dangerous revival of the security threat in Yemen.

Location: Marib
Reference: Asia Times, Jamestown Foundation

March 31 2007
According to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, a crashed US Scan Eagle reconnaissance drone was found washed ashore. President Saleh assured the US Navy that this would not become an incident. The secret cable noted:

President Saleh clearly believes the unmanned aircraft had been performing reconnaissance in Yemeni territory when it crashed. He could have taken the opportunity to score political points by appearing tough in public against the United States, but chose instead to blame Iran.

Location: Hadramaut
References: WikiLeaks

October 26 2007
Yemen authorities announced they had released USS Cole bomber Jamal al Badawi (right, from US Wanted List), provoking criticism from Washington. He had handed himself in to authorities in early October 2007 after escaping a high security prison near Sanaa in 2006. Badawi had received a death in 2004 (commuted to 15 years) for his leading roll in the attack on the warship that killed 17 US sailors. Frances Townsend, President Bush’s counterterrorism adviser, was assured by President Saleh that ‘Badawi has promised to give up terrorism’ and under close surveillance. The US was unconvinced and cancelled $20m in aid for the second time.

Location: Sanaa
References: New York Times, Associated Press, Newsweek, Newsweek, Foreign Policy


March 18 2008
Al Qaeda in Yemen fired three mortar rounds at the US Embassy in Sanaa. The mortars missed the Embassy, hitting a nearby school. A school guard was killed, and several Yemeni students and Yemeni government security personnel posted outside the embassy were injured in the attack. The attack prompted the United States and other countries to send non-essential embassy staff home, the New York Times reported.

Type of action: Terrorist attack
Location: Sanaa
References: US Embassy, Reuters, New York TimesUS Department of State

September 17 2008
Al Qaeda in Yemen launched a complex attack on the US Embassy, including a suicide bomber. Militants disguised as soldiers ‘drove up and began firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at a checkpoint outside the heavily fortified United States Embassy compound’, then drove through the checkpoint and detonated two car bombs at around 9.15am, reported the New York Times. The attack killed up to 18 people, including 18-year old US citizen Susan Elbaneh, who were waiting to enter the Embassy. Had a Yemeni security contractor not lowered a security bar moments before being shot the Embassy would have been breached, reports Foreign Policy. And according to Ambassador Edward J Hull: ‘The scale of this attack, which rivaled that of the attack on the [USS] Cole, was a wake-up call for all of Washington’. Washington said the attack bore ‘all the hallmarks’ of al Qaeda. Elbaneh was the cousin of Jaber Elbaneh, an alleged member of the ‘Buffalo Six’ group which had trained in Afghanistan at an al Qaeda camp in 2001.

Type of action: Terrorist attack
Location: Sanaa
References: High-Value Target: Countering Al Qaeda in Yemen (p117), US EmbassyReuters, New York Times, US Department of State, Buffalo News, Foreign Policy

Late 2008
A November 2009 CBS news article revealed that the US had been intercepting the communications of American born imam and radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki since at least late 2008. Awlaki was allegedly communicating with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist accused of the Fort Hood massacre, which took place on November 5 2009, causing the deaths of 13 people. Hasan attended a Virginia mosque at the time Awlaki was imam. The Telegraph reported: ‘Communications, believed to be emails, were intercepted by US intelligence services. They were examined at the time but it was decided that they did not require following up.’

Location: Online
References: CBS, The Telegraph, New York Times, Empty Wheel


Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) announces its foundation by video (photo courtesy Channel 4 News)

January 24 2009
Two Gulf al Qaeda ‘franchises’ – from Yemen and Saudi Arabia – announced their merger into Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). According to the Long War Journal ‘the group promised attacks on oil facilities, tourists, and security forces. The statement also said that the governorates of Abyan, Shabwa, Hadhramout, Marib, Al Jawf, and Sa’ada are on the verge of falling into al Qaeda control.’ The new group also declared that it would construct training camps in Yemen for would-be jihadists wanting to fight in Gaza.

Location: Yemen
References: Long War Journal, Channel 4 News

Early February 2009
Yemen’s President Saleh secretly offered the newly rebranded Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula a ceasefire if it stopped attacking Yemeni forces, the US later learned. According to a leaked US diplomatic cable AQAP rejected the offer because it was ‘thriving’:

It is highly likely Salih did indeed offer the truce, as recent information strongly suggests Salih’s most pressing concern remains preserving his own power rather than eradicating Yemen’s thriving extremist community. AQAP’s rejection of the cease-fire highlights the already permissive security environment; AQAP leadership is aware even should ROYG security forces continue their counterterror campaign, such actions are unlikely to significantly affect operational planning and/or execution.

Location: Yemen
References: Wall Street Journal, Long War Journal, Al Nedaa (Arabic), WikiLeaks, Empty Quarter

April 1 2009
According to journalist Jeremy Scahill, General David Petraeus, CENTCOM commander, approved a plan developed with the US Embassy in Sanaa, the CIA and others, ‘to expand US military action in Yemen. The plan not only involved special-ops training for Yemeni forces but unilateral US strikes against AQAP.’

References: The Nation, Senate Armed Services CommitteeWikileaks CableThe Guardian

July 26 2009
In an hour-long meeting at the Presidential Palace in Sanaa on July 26, President Saleh promised CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus full counter-terrorism cooperation ‘without restrictions or conditions’, including pursuing al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Saleh called AQAP ‘a dangerous poison’ and an ‘epidemic’ and said the Yemeni government was committed to hunting down terrorists in Jawf, Sa’ada, Marib, Abyan and Hadramout governorates. He asked for increased information-sharing with the US government in order to better target AQAP’s leaders.

ReferencesWikileaks CableThe Guardian, New York Times

September 6 2009
Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan met with President Saleh. A secret diplomatic cable reports that Saleh:

Pledged unfettered access to Yemen’s national territory for US counterterrorism operations, suggesting that in the process, the USG assumed responsibility for the success – or failure – of efforts to neutralize AQAP in Yemen. Saleh expressed dissatisfaction with the USG’s current level of aid for CT and security operations and insisted the ROYG began its war against the al-Houthi rebellion in northern Yemen on behalf of the US.

The cable noted that since 2001 the US had spent $115m equipping Yemen’s counter-terrorism forces.

Location: Sanaa
References: WikiLeaks, Wall Street Journal

September 30 2009
US CENTCOM commander David Petraeus issued an order creating a Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force to ‘plan and execute covert intelligence gathering in support of covert military operations throughout the CENTCOM area.’ It was reportedly an update of Donald Rumsfeld’s AQN ExOrd of spring 2004 and has been described as a ‘permission slip’ for Special Forces teams. As the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti noted:

Unlike covert actions undertaken by the CIA, such clandestine activity does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress.

Location: Washington
References: New York Times, The Nation

December 17 2009
♦ 55-58 people reported killed
♦ 41 civilians killed in initial strike including 12 women, at least 5 of them pregnant, and 21-22 children. 3-4 also later killed by cluster bombs
♦ 9 injured by cluster bombs after the event

At least one cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs hit the village of al Majala, Abyan province, in the first known US attack in Yemen in seven years. The missile, carrying bomblets filled with incendiary material, allegedly targeted an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) training camp. But attack killed at least 44 civilians out of 58 people reported dead.

Amnesty later released forensically-verified photos of the remains of a US cruise missile designed to carry cluster bombs, and of cluster bomb fragments. Secret US diplomatic cables obtained by Wikileaks confirmed the US was responsible. Klaidman reported that the deputy US National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, the US ambassador to Yemen and the CIA’s local station chief were among dozens who deliberated on whether to launch the attack.

An extensive investigation by a Yemen parliamentary commission which visited the site found:

Five missiles had been fired, killing 14 members of the al-Haidra family in one settlement and 27 members of the al-Anbour family in the other. The sole survivor from the al-Haidra family, a 13-year-old girl was reported to have been sent abroad to receive medical treatment for her injuries.

Three further civilians later reportedly died (Khaled Mohammed Ali, Nasser Saleh al Soueidi and Mithaq al Jild) and nine were injured after stepping on cluster bombs, which according to Yemen’s parliamentary commission were scattered up to 1.5km from the attack site. (see below for a full list of the dead). The report also concluded that 14 possible militants died, though raised some doubts about the status of those killed.

According to Jeremy Scahill at The Nation, ‘authorization for the strikes was rushed through Saleh’s office because of “actionable” intelligence that Al Qaeda suicide bombers were preparing for strikes in Sana’. Other reports on the strike claimed that a leading al Qaeda figure was killed along with 13 other militants: Saleh Mohammed Ali al Anbouri, also known as al Kazemi, who was a Saudi citizen and reputedly an Al Qaeda deputy. In his book Kill Or Capture Klaidman reports that al Kazemi, codenamed Objective Akron by JSOC, ‘was in the late stages of planning a terrorist attack on the US embassy in Sana’a’ and that as an AQAP operational planner he was also ‘believed to have been responsible for a July 2007 suicide bombing that killed nine people including seven Spanish tourists.’ However the parliamentary committee report noted that locals believed ‘he had moved back to Abyan to start a new life, had acquired sheep and goats, and pledged not to work with al Qaeda anymore.’ The Yemen government conspired to cover up the US role in the attack. At a meeting four days later Yemen’s deputy prime minister told the US ambassador that:

Any evidence of greater US involvement such as fragments of US munitions found at the sites could be explained away as equipment purchased from the US.

In March 2012 al-Jazeera re-examined the strike in detail. Tribal leader Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed said the Yemeni government had claimed the target was an AQAP camp with ‘huge stores for all kinds of weapons and ammunitions and rockets’. But when bin Fareed visited the site, he saw ‘goats and sheep all over…the heads of those who were killed here and there. You see children. And you cannot tell if this meat belongs to animals or to human beings…there is no stores, there is no field for training, there is nobody. Except for a very poor tribe.’ An eyewitness told al Jazeera that ‘most of the dead were women, children and elderly…only three of them were young men. 46 people were killed, including five pregnant women.’ The eyewitness showed al Jazeera photographs of three dead children, and one elderly woman. Another eyewitness, a woman who was making bread when the missiles struck around 6am, lost her husband and at least one child in the attack.

In April 2012 the ACLU and CCR filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Pentagon demanding further details. Although the US has never publicly admitted its role, Newsweek reported that senior State department lawyer Jeh Johnson was among many who watched it take place on a video screen.

Johnson returned to his Georgetown home around midnight that evening, drained and exhausted. Later there were reports from human-rights groups that dozens of women and children had been killed in the attacks, reports that a military source involved in the operation termed “persuasive.” Johnson would confide to others, “If I were Catholic, I’d have to go to confession.”

Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who helped expose the civilian casualties inflicted in the raid, was arrested the following year and remains in detention. President Obama has personally expressed ‘concern’ at the possible release of Shaye, due to his association with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Within days of the deadly US strike in Yemen, a 14-man parliamentary commission headed by Sheikh Hamir Ben Abdullah Ben Hussein Al-Ahmar was dispatched from Sanaa to discover what had taken place. That report was presented to Yemen’s parliament on February 7 2010. The government accepted it in full a month later, paying compensation at local rates to affected families, although a Yemen parliamentary spokesman said that  ‘the American authorities did not get involved in this process in any way.’ The report named all civilians killed in the attack, which are here published for the first time in English by the Bureau.

The dead from the Haydara clan:

Family of Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala




Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala



Nousa Mohammed Saleh El-Souwa



Nasser Mohammed Nasser



Arwa Mohammed Nasser



Fatima Mohammed Nasser



Family of Ali Mohammed Nasser Jaljala:




Ali Mohammed Nasser



Qubla Al-Kharibi Salem



Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser



Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser



Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser



Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser



Family of Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala:




Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala



Qubla Salem Nasser



Mouhsena Ahmed Adiyou



The dead from the Anbour clan:

Family of Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye




Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Saleha Ali Ahmed Mansour



Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye



Family of Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye




Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye



Hanaa Abdallah Monser



Moheile Mohammed Saeed Yaslem


Safaa Ali Mokbel Salem



Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye



Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye



Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye



Family of Mokbel Salem Louqye:




Fatima Yaslem Al-Rawami


First Wife

Maryam Awad Nasser


Second Wife

Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye



Family of Abdullah Awad Sheikh:




Abdullah Awad Sheikh



Family of Hussein Abdullah Awad Sheikh:




Hanane Mohammed Jadib



Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad



Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad



Family of Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh:




Maryam Mokbel Salem Louqye



Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh



Family of Mohammed Saleh Mohammed Ali Al-Anbouri:




Amina Abdullah Awad Sheikh



Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed



Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed



Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed



Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed





Swiss human rights group Alkarama published a report that analysed 10 US strikes, including this one, in October 2013. It listed the names of those killed which differed slightly to the tables above. The differences are detailed below:

  • The family of Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye lost one more daughter in the strike, Sumia Abdallah Muqbil Salem Louqye, aged one and a half
  • Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye was injured and survived the strike
  • Abdullah Awad Sheikh’s daughters Mokbel Abdullah Awad Sheikh, 22, and Ahmed Abdhullah Awad Sheikh, 18, died
  • Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad was Hussein Abdullah Awad Sheikh’s son. His daughter, Khadija Hussein Abdullah Awad, 2, also died
  • Mohammed Saleh Mohammed Ali Al-Anbouri died in the strike
  • Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed, Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed and Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed were Mohammed Saleh Mohammed Ali al Anbouri‘s daughters.

Type of action: Air assault, cruise missiles with cluster munitions
Location: al Majala, Abyan Province
References: Original Yemen government claims, New York TimesThe GuardianAmnesty (via CNN),  Amnesty, Amnesty, The Nation, The Guardian, US Diplomatic Cable (Guardian), AFP, CNN, Al Jazeera, Long War Journal, ABC News, Al Jazeera, Human Rights Watch, Salon, The Nation (US), White House, US diplomatic cable, ACLU, The Bureau, Newsweek, Kill Or Capture/Daniel Klaidman pp199-210, Center for Constitutional Rights, Alkarama, Human Rights Watch

Jeremy Scahill’s film for al Jazeera examines the al-Majala strike

December 17 2009

♦ 4 reported killed
♦ 4 arrested

A second operation of the day reportedly took place on a house in which Qasim al Raimi (also called al Raymi) was believed to be living. Al Raimi, reportedly AQAP’s military commander, survived the attack. He appears to have been JSOC’s Objective Toledo or Cleveland, according to Klaidman. A US diplomatic cable confirmed US bombs were dropped on targets in Arhab. However it was not clear if US personnel were used in a ground assault element of the operation. Another US diplomatic cable reported Yemen’s Ministry of Defence as saying that

Operations against AQAP militants were targeted to foil suicide bombers planning attacks against Yemeni and foreign installations, that the raids resulted in killing four suicide bombers and arresting four others.

A separate cable confirmed that Yemen’s counter terrorism forces had participated in the operation. The Nation (US) reported that the strike was ‘launched in Arhab, a suburb of Sanaa, followed by raids on suspected Al Qaeda houses conducted by Yemeni special-ops troops who had been trained by JSOC forces as part of a special Counter-Terrorism Unit’. US officials told ABC News that an ‘imminent attack against a US asset was being planned’ at this second location, likely to be the US embassy attack reported by Klaidman. ABC also reported that ‘President Obama placed a call after the strikes to “congratulate” the President of Yemen, Ali Abdallah Saleh, on his efforts against al Qaeda, according to White House officials’.

Type of action: US airstrike, possible US ground assault
Location: Arhab, Sanaa
ReferencesThe NationABC News. Kill Or Capture/ Klaidman pp199-201, US diplomatic cable, US diplomatic cableUS Diplomatic Cable

December 21 2009
A detailed secret WikiLeaks cable from then-US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche rehearsed the lines Washington and Sanaa would take in covering up US involvement in air strikes and in ‘collateral damage’. The cable noted Yemen’s support for the campaign, with President Saleh reportedly urging the US to continue ‘non-stop until we eradicate this disease.’

The Ambassador cautioned [deputy prime minister] Alimi that the ROYG may need to nuance its position regarding US involvement in the event more evidence surfaces, complicating its ability to adhere to the official line that ROYG forces conducted the operations independently. Alimi appeared confident that any evidence of greater US involvement – such as US munitions found at the sites – could be explained away as equipment purchased from the US.

The cable also carried an explicit admission of civilian casualties in the December 17 strike:

Given that local and international media will continue to look for evidence of a US role in the December 17 strikes against AQAP, the ROYG must think seriously about its public posture and whether its strict adherence to assertions that the strikes were unilateral will undermine public support for legitimate and urgently needed CT [counter terrorism] operations, should evidence to the contrary surface. Thus far, the ROYG has deployed influential local leaders to the affected area in Abyan to explain the need for the strikes in an effort to quell potential unrest; however, it has not attempted to provide any context for the civilian casualties, which might help to counter overblown claims of ROYG disregard for the local population – in this particular case, southerners. END COMMENT. SECHE

Location: Sanaa, Washington DC
References: US secret cable, Harper’s

December 24 2009
♦ 30-34 reported killed total

The first known US attempt to assassinate American-born cleric Anwar al Awlaki. Yemeni security and government sources said that the strike, on an Awlaki family home in Shabwa province, killed at least 30 suspected militants. The Yemeni Embassy in Washington said Awlaki was ‘presumed’ to be at a meeting with other al Qaeda members, including Nasser al Wuhayshi, al Qaeda’s regional leader, and his deputy, Said Ali al Shihri, when he was targeted. Al Shehri would go on to avoid being killed by the US at least three times before the drones killed him at some point in 2013.

The air strike may have been accompanied by a ground operation. It was not clear what weapons system was used in the attack, though the New York Times wrote in an August 2010 investigation:

“On Dec. 24, another cruise missile struck in a remote valley called Rafadh, about 400 miles southeast of the Yemeni capital and two hours from the nearest paved road.”

Yemeni officials said that the men were ‘planning an attack on Yemeni and foreign oil targets.Terrorism expert Evan F. Kohlmann noted that al Awlaki may have suspected an airstrike due to the presence of ‘yellow-and-green military-style spotter balloons floating above the area in the three days before’. US Presidential authorisation to kill Awlaki was not given until May 2010. Interviewed after the attack, Awlaki’s father Nasser al Awlaki told the Washington Post: ‘If the American government helped in attacking one of [its own] citizens, this is illegal. If Obama wants to kill my son, this is wrong.’ Daniel Klaidman reported that President Obama was personally involved in the decision to carry out the strike:

On one late evening in late 2009 [General Hoss] Cartwright and [John] Brennan met with Obama in the Oval Office to consult with him on a target in Yemen that the president had previously declined to approve. The two men had General David Petreaus, at the time head of Centcom, on the phone. Petraeus wanted to add the target for whom they unexpectedly had a clear shot, to an operation in mid-execution. To Cartwright’s surprise Obama, after assuring himself that the man in question was a legal targe and the operation had been suitably vetted, reversed himself and gave approval for the hit.’

Type of action: Air assault
Location: Rafd, Shabwa province
References: Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Associated Press, Time, The Nation, Amnesty InternationalUS Diplomatic Cable, AFP, Long War Journal, Saba News, ABC News, US diplomatic cable, Kill Or Capture/ Klaidman p52, New York Times

December 24 2009
♦ Unknown killed

A second reported drone strike on Christmas eve hit the southern Abyan province according to a report into civilian casualties from drone strikes, submitted to a UN investigation in July 2013.

Type of action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Abyan province
References: Alkarama

December 25 2009
Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a US plane – Northwest Airlines Flight 253 – en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. Concealing the bomb in his underwear, Abdulmutallab tried to detonate the device as the plane, carrying 289 people, approached Detroit. However, the bomb failed, and he was pinned to the floor by passengers. It was reported during his trial that in August 2009, Abdulmutallab had gone to seek out his ‘mentor’ Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Staying at his house for three days, he was then taken to meet bomb maker Ibrahim Al Asiri. Awlaki reportedly approved the mission. On February 17 2012, following his trial, Abdulmutallab was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors dubbed him an:

unrepentant would-be mass murderer who views his crimes as divinely inspired and blessed, and who views himself as under a continuing obligation to carry out such crimes.

A US administration official told the Washington Post that information provided by Abdulmutallab during questioning was ‘a piece of the puzzle’ enabling the US to track down and kill al-Awlaki on September 30 2011.

References: AP via Daily Mail, US Justice Department, Washington Post, FBI


President Obama on the so-called ‘underwear bomber’

January 3 2010

A single report claimed that a team of about 30 SAS personnel had flown to Yemen in a new drive against terrorists in the mountainous regions of the country. An intelligence source reportedly told the paper: ‘A team from 22 SAS Regiment will be arriving soon in the Yemen. Some are already there. They will help hunt down and capture terrorists and train the Yemeni special forces to pinpoint al Qaeda cells, spy on them and destroy their camps.’

ReferenceThe Mirror 

January 2-4 2010
CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus met with Yemen’s President Saleh. According to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, despite concerns by Saleh Petraeus claimed that only three civilians had been killed in the December 17 and 24 raids.

AQAP STRIKES: CONCERN FOR CIVILIAN CASUALTIES (S/NF) Saleh praised the December 17 and 24 strikes against AQAP but said that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in Abyan. The General responded that the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site, prompting Saleh to plunge into a lengthy and confusing aside with Deputy Prime Minister Alimi and Minister of Defense Ali regarding the number of terrorists versus civilians killed in the strike. (Comment: Saleh’s conversation on the civilian casualties suggests he has not been well briefed by his advisors on the strike in Abyan, a site that the ROYG has been unable to access to determine with any certainty the level of collateral damage. End Comment.) AQAP leader Nassr al-Wahishi and extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may still be alive, Saleh said, but the December strikes had already caused al Qaeda operatives to turn themselves in to authorities and residents in affected areas to deny refuge to al Qaeda.

Yemen also said it would continue to ‘lie’ about US attacks:

Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are “not very accurate” and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just “lied” by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.

Location: Sanaa
ReferencesUS diplomatic cable, The Nation, CNN

January 6 2010
A moderate Yemeni cleric warned US political officers that military activity in the country may radicalise young people, according to a secret cable:

He characterized the US military role in AfPak as having ‘increased the support of the people for al Qaeda’ and warned that the same thing would happen in Yemen if the US took direct military action on Yemeni soil.  

Location: Sanaa
Reference: WikiLeaks  

For the Bureau’s full data on US covert action in 2012 click here

January 12 2010
♦ 1-2 reported killed

Alleged Al Qaeda local commander Abdullah Mehdar was reportedly killed by Yemen security forces after he was tracked to a safe house in Shabwa and surrounded. Mohamed Val, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Sanaa, said that ‘the government confirmed Mehdar was killed along with another fighter, and that three others escaped.’ Local tribal leader Sheik Atiq Baadha challenged the view that Mehdar was part of AQAP and warned that his death might lead to more militancy: ‘They were young men who went astray, but I don’t think they were really members of al Qaeda.’ There was no suggestion of US involvement in the operation at the time.

However later reports indicated that ‘two dozen’ US ground operations involving JSOC took place between December 17 2009 and January 31 2010 – only some of which have been located. US intelligence efforts may also have contributed to the killing. The Yemen Observer detailed other raids by Yemeni forces, including one on January 4 2010 on Arhab, about 40-50km east of the capital Sanaa where ‘at least two al Qaeda operatives were killed’. Editor of the Yemen Post Hakim Almasmari told Voice of America that ‘Abdallah Mehdar was killed because he did not surrender.  He’s not one of the top al Qaeda leaders but he is a member of al Qaeda. The good thing is that there were no civilian casualties reported for the attack.’ He also told the agency that the national security army ‘was trained by the US for terrorist combating’.

Type of action: Ground assault, possible US involvement
Location: Shabwa
References: Christian Science Monitor, BBC, The Nation , Yemen Observer, Associated Press,Voice of America, Al Jazeera English 

January 15 2010
♦ 0-6 reported killed

A reported JSOC strike targeted Abu Hurayrah Qasim al-Raimi (see YEM003) and Ayed Jaber al Shabwani, a local AQAP leader, along with al Qaeda leaders Ammar Obada al Waili, Saleh al TaisAbdullah Hadi al Tays and an Egyptian known as Abu Ayman al Masri, also known as Shaykh Ibrahim Muhammad Salih al-Banna. The Yemeni government said its air force struck two cars in Al Ajasher, a mountainous region between Saada and Jawf, reportedly near the village of Yatama. However, given the precision nature of the strike on two moving vehicles, and the limitations of the Yemeni air force,  the Bureau believes this unlikely.

Critical Threats website reported that ‘eight al Qaeda militants were in the two cars – six were killed and two escaped, pursued by Yemeni security forces’. But while the Long War Journal reported that both Shabwani and al Masri were thought to have been killed, al Masri, also known as Ibrahim al-Banna, was reportedly arrested six months later, in August 2010, and Shabwani was reported killed on July 21, 2011 (YEM018). The deaths were not confirmed by the US, and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the strike. AQAP issued a statement on jihaddist forums ‘asserting all their members escaped, some with minor wounds’. Ammar al Waili was later reported killed by a US drone on June 3 2011. (YEM012) 

Type of action: Airstrike, possibly Yemen Air Force
Location: Al Ajasher
References: Saba News, Long War Journal, Critical Threats, The Nation, Inspire 6, The Bureau, Jane Novak blog, Jamestown, Reuters, Al-Shorfa

January 19 2010
The US designated al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) a terrorist group under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The US also called on UN members to impose sanctions on AQAP and the men it identified as AQAP’s ‘two top leaders’ –  Nasir al-Wahishi and Said al-Shihri. Anwar al-Awlaki was not named. According to a State Department spokesman ‘These actions prohibit provision of material support and arms to AQAP and also include immigration related restrictions that will help stem the flow of finances to AQAP and give the Department of Justice the tools it needs to prosecute AQAP members.’

The actions taken today against AQAP support the US effort to degrade the capabilities of this group. We are determined to eliminate AQAP’s ability to execute violent attacks and to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat their networks.

References: US State Department, AFP

January 20 2010
♦ At least 2 killed

A number of airstrikes, possibly by the Yemen Airforce, targeted the home of Ayed al Shabwani, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Marib province, in the village of Erq al Shabwan, casting doubt on Yemeni government assertions that Shabwani had been killed in the strike five days earlier (YEM006). A Yemeni official claimed that there were three strikes on the house and one on an orange grove. The Long War Journal quoted the editor of the Yemen Post as saying that Shabwani had been the primary target of several recent attacks. It also stated that an orange grove near to Shabwani’s home was hit, where ‘Al Qaeda fighters were reportedly sheltering’. A Yemeni tribal source confirmed the air strikes in Erq Al Shabwan village to news agency AFP, and said a ‘number of people had been killed’. Yemen Post editor Hakim Almasmari told Voice of America that there had been 17 raids throughout the day, targeting Shabwani. ‘They are still ongoing…Until now, there is only one al-Qaida leader killed. [Yemeni security forces] have troops on the ground, but doing nothing. Most of the attacks are from the air,’ he said.

Type of action: Airstrike, possibly Yemen Air Force
Location: Erq al Shabwan, Mareeb Province
References: Al Jazeera, Long War Journal, AFP, Voice of America, The Nation

Late January 2010

Over a six week period, US Special Forces carried out more than 24 ground raids in Yemen according to a single credible source – The Nation. ‘By late January 2010, JSOC had been involved with more than two dozen ground raids in Yemen, which kicked off with the December 17 strikes. Scores of people were killed in the campaign, while others were taken prisoner. At the same time, JSOC began operating drones in the country as the covert war expanded.’ The Washington Post contravened this, saying that JSOC was not directly taking part in the raids but was helping to ‘plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and munitions’. The Post said that,’Highly sensitive intelligence is being shared with the Yemeni forces, including electronic and video surveillance, as well as three-dimensional terrain maps and detailed analysis of the al Qaeda network’. JSOC was operating in a ‘newly built joint operations center’, also referred to in a secret US cable by Yemen’s President Saleh.

Type of action: Ground assault, multiple raids
Location: Across Yemen
References: The Nation, Washington Post, US diplomatic cable

March 14 2010
♦ 2-3 reported killed

A JSOC night time precision strike killed two alleged militants in an air raid on a suspected terrorist training site in Abyan province, a known al Qaeda haven. According to AFP Jamil Nasser Abdullah al-Anbari, also known as Abi Saber al-Abyani, believed to be the leader of al Qaeda in southern Abyan province, was one of two militants killed. However, Critical Threats reported that three alleged al Qaeda members were killed – the others named as Samir al Sanaani, (also known as Abu Fawwaz al-Sanaani or Amin al-Maqalih), and Ahmed Amzarba. A brief statement from the Yemen government said the raids were carried out in Moudia, with an official saying that up to nine people died.

Yemeni soldiers were reportedly dispatched to the scene of this and the subsequent strike to take samples from corpses for DNA analysis. AQAP later set up a Jamil al Anbari Martyrs’ Brigade, and released an audio eulogy to the ‘fallen fighters’, which stated that Al-Anbari and al-Maqalih (Sanaani) was trying to connect to the net when he was killed by an air raid in the area of Jiza in Abyan province.

Type of action:US airstrike
Location: Jeezat al Qatan, Modia district, Abyan province
References: AFP, Long War Journal, al Motomar, Xinhua, New York Times, Nefa Foundation, Middle East Observatory, US Congressional Research Service, SITE Intelligence via Critical Threats, Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters

March 15 2010

♦ 7-20 reported killed
♦ 0-20 civilians reported killed

A second attack killed at least seven more people, according to an unnamed Yemeni official. Local residents told AFP that the attacks on consecutive days had caused an unspecified number of civilian casualties, and told Reuters that up to 20 people may have been killed. It was not clear from the reporting if this was a second US attack, or a seperate Yemeni operation.

Type of action: Possible US airstrike
Location: Modia district, Abyan province
References: AFP, Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters

April 6 2010
The US approved the targeted killing of American citizen Anwar al Awlaki, which was formally signed off by the US Office of Legal Counsel in June 2010, although the documentation remains secret. ‘The danger Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words’ a US official told the New York Times. ‘He’s gotten involved in plots… The United States works, exactly as the American people expect, to overcome threats to their security, and this individual — through his own actions — has become one. Awlaki knows what he’s done, and he knows he won’t be met with handshakes and flowers. None of this should surprise anyone.’ Rep. Jane Harman, speaking to the House of Representatives Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, described Awlaki as ‘probably the person, the terrorist, who would be terrorist No. 1 in terms of threat against us.’ In October 2011 Harman urged the Obama administration to publish the memo, signed off by the OLC approving the killing, to increase transparency. Reuters stated that ‘US counter-terrorism officials described Awlaki as the main force behind AQAP’s decision to transform itself from a regional threat into what US spy agencies see as al Qaeda’s most active affiliate outside Pakistan and Afghanistan’.

References: ReutersNew York Times, CNN, Empty Wheel, US Department of Justice

May 24 2010
♦ 3-4 people reported killed
♦ 3-4 civilians killed
♦ 2-3 civilians injured

A botched US airstrike killed Marib Province’s deputy governor, Jaber al-Shabwani. His cousin Ayed was the local al Qaeda leader, and Jaber had been attempting a reconciliation mission. Jaber’s uncle Fahed al-Shabwani and two of his escorts, Ben Aziz and Mohammad Saeed Jameel were also killed. Two others, Fahed Jaber Hassan Al-Shabwani and Fahed Saud Al-Shabwani, thought to be Jaber’s sons, were reported injured.

However Swiss human rights group Alkarama named three who died in the strike in a October 2013 report. Along with deputy governor al Shabwani, the researchers found Abd al Majid Said Anij al Shabwani and Ali Aziz al Jauri al Dhamari were killed. The uncle, Fahed al Shabwani, was injured, according to the report. Fahed Ben Saoud Ben Majal al Shabwani and Mohammad Saeed Jameel were also reported as injured.

A local security official told Reuters: ‘The deputy governor was on a mediation mission to persuade al Qaeda elements to hand themselves over to the authorities, but it seems that the airstrike missed its target and struck his car, killing him instantly in addition to three companions.’ The strike occurred in the late evening of Monday May 24, as reported by Yemen media in the immediate aftermath. Soon afterwards the date of May 25 was more commonly stated.

The strike led to an uprising of local tribes, with attacks still occurring ten months later, and a reported boost in support for AQAP. In revenge for his son’s death Sheikh Ali al-Shabwani destroyed a section of one of Yemen’s largest oil pipelines, leading to billions of dollars in lost revenue for the Yemeni government. The pipeline helped funnel crude oil to the nation’s main oil terminal in the southern port city of Aden, and the attack led to a major fuel shortage. It also increased anti-US feeling throughout the country. An Institute for Social Policy and Understanding report in February 2011 stated that ‘according to several Yemeni opinion-makers…the killing of al-Shabwani sent shock waves through the regime and undermined the hard-pressed government’s legitimacy in the eyes of tribes and the public at large. The New York Times claimed that the intended target of the strike was AQAP leader Mohammed Saeed Jardan, with whom Shabwani was said to be meeting to negotiate a surrender. It would be 12 months before the US struck again in Yemen.

In late 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that some current and former US military officials were now claiming that they were fed misleading intelligence which ‘may have been intended to result in Mr. Shabwani’s death.’ But there was also a clear suggestion of incompetence. An official involved in the operation told the paper: ‘It turned out you didn’t really know who was at all those [Yemeni] meetings. JSOC, frankly, wasn’t as up to speed as they should have been.’ The paper went on to say:

In Washington, it soon became clear the attack hit someone besides its intended target. Mr. Obama’s top White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, angrily demanded answers. “He was pissed,” one senior US official said. Mr. Brennan wanted to know if something went wrong and why a deputy governor was supposedly meeting AQAP operatives. If a mistake was made, [Mr. Brennan] wanted to know about it so that we could take corrective actions and deal with the fallout appropriately,” another senior official said

The Yemen government reportedly provided intelligence used in the strike but denied that it had misled the US in any way.

Location: Marib Province
ReferencesNew York Times, The NationReutersThe HinduBBCAl JazeeraRTT NewsNew York TimesReuters , Wall Street JournalReutersISPU Report, Amnesty, Yemen Observer, Middle East Political Science, The Peninsula, Congressional Research Service, 3Walq, ABC Australia, Alkarama

June 11 2010
Claims were once again made that the UK SAS had been deployed to Yemen to hunt for US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, following concerns that Awlaki was radicalizing British extremists who ‘could unleash a wave of easily planned guerrilla-style terrorist attacks, similar to the massacre in Mumbai’.

Location: Yemen
Reference: Daily Telegraph

June 21 2010
New York Times Square attempted bomber Faisal Shahzad cited US drone attacks in Yemen and elsewhere as a factor in inspiring his terrorist activities. At that time, no US drone strikes had so far taken place in Somalia, and none in Yemen since 2002:

I’m going to plead guilty a hundred times over because until the hour the US pulls it forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops killing the Muslims and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking US, and I plead guilty to that.

Location: New York
References: Associated Press, New York Times, Bloomberg, Court transcript

July 16 2010
Anwar al-Awlaki, born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was formally designated a terrorist by the US Treasury. This came two days after the publication of the first edition of Inspire, AQAP’s English-language magazine, in which Awlaki exhorted people to carry out terrorist acts. It was one month after the order to kill Awlaki was formally signed by the US administration, and nearly seven months after the first reported attempt to kill him. Awlaki had been linked to a number of terrorist plots outside Yemen, including Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a commercial airliner on its descent into Detroit in December 2009.  ‘Anwar al-Awlaki has proven that he is extraordinarily dangerous, committed to carrying out deadly attacks on Americans and others worldwide,’ said Stuart Levey, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement. On July 29, 2010 intelligence sources told US National Public Radio’s national security correspondent that there had been ‘almost a dozen drone and airstrikes targeting [Anwar al] Awlaki in Yemen’ since late 2009. In an email, the NPR reporter told the Bureau that while the strikes ‘are not public source information’, they had been confirmed by her sources.

References: Long War Journal, International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, BBC News, NPR, US Department of Justice, Inspire 1, NPR, US Treasury (archived)

August 29 2010
Yemen’s government denied that US and British forces were engaged in fighting al Qaeda within the country. A Defence Ministry official said: ‘We are surprised at groundless allegations in several media reports lately on the presence of British soldiers and on the arrival of US forces to aid in fighting terror in Yemen.’ He reported that Yemen’s co-operation was restricted to the exchange of information which facilitates its hunt (for) terrorist elements and handing them over to justice.’ Four weeks later officials also denied the presence of US drones within Yemen.

Location: Sanaa
References: Al Arabiya, UPI, White House

September 16 2010

Jonathan Evans, head of British domestic security service MI5, made a rare public speech in which he raised concerns about extremism in Yemen:

The other area of increased concern in respect of the domestic threat to the UK is Yemen. The AQ affiliate based in Yemen, known as “Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula” is the group that among other things developed the concealable non-metallic underpants bomb used in both the attempt to murder the Saudi Security Minister His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Naif in 2009 and in the narrowly averted Christmas 2009 aircraft bombing over Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The operational involvement of Yemen based preacher Anwar Al Awlaqi with AQAP is of particular concern given his wide circle of adherents in the West, including in the UK. His influence is all the wider because he preaches and teaches in the English language which makes his message easier to access and understand for Western audiences.

Location: London
Reference: MI5

October 13 2010
In an indication of how commonplace US surveillance drones had become in the skies above Yemen, a Reuters journalist filmed a US drone circling above a tribal meeting in Wadi Abida, in the volatile eastern province of Maarib. A tribesman told the reporter that ‘I wish I had a weapon that could reach that aircraft.’

Reference: Reuters

October 28 2010

AQAP boasts its UPS plot in a 'special edition' of its magazine.
AQAP boasts its UPS plot in a ‘special edition’ of its magazine.

At 3.28am, Leicestershire police were called to East Midlands Airport to inspect a suspicious parcel shipped aboard a United Parcel Service (UPS) courier plane. The plane was en route from Yemen to Chicago via the UK. Within the package, they found a printer containing an ink cartridge with protruding wires, covered in white powder. The white substance was confirmed to be the high explosive PETN. The US government was informed. By October 29, 2010, four UPS planes had been quarantined in the US, and a second device, described as identical, was intercepted aboard a freight plane in Dubai. On November 5, 2010, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the bombs. AQAP also claimed that they were behind the crash of a UPS cargo plane in Dubai on September 3, which killed two crew members. An al Qaeda statement said:

We downed the plane belonging to the American UPS company, but because the media of the enemy did not attribute responsibility for this work to us we kept quiet about the operation until the time came that we hit again. We say to Obama: ‘We struck three blows to your aircraft within one year. Allah willing, we will continue to strike blows against American interests and the interest of America’s allies’.

Anwar Al-Awlaki was alleged by some to be the mastermind behind this plot. The Telegraph reported that the printers were created ‘by bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, with copies of Great Expectations and The Mill on the Floss to make them look as though they were being sent home by a Western student’. Following the interception of the bombs, the New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Division labeled Anwar al Awlaki ‘the most dangerous man in the world.’ After the plot’s discovery President Obama stated:

Going forward, we will continue to strengthen our cooperation with the Yemeni government to disrupt plotting by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and to destroy this al Qaeda affiliate.

Locations: London, Dubai
References: ABC News, CBS News, BBC news, The Telegraph, Fox News, White House, White House

October 28 2010

On the same day that the UPS bomb plot was discovered, Sir John Sawers, the head of Britain’s foreign security service MI6, made his first ever public speech. In it Sawers indicated that British intelligence agencies were involved in the fight against al Qaeda in Yemen:

Precisely because we are having some success in closing down the space for terrorist recruitment and planning in the UK, the extremists are increasingly preparing their attacks against British targets from abroad. It’s not just the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa pose real threats to the UK. From his remote base in Yemen, Al-Qaida leader and US national Anwar al-Awlaki broadcasts propaganda and terrorist instruction in fluent English over the internet. Our intelligence effort needs to go where the threat is. One of the advantages of the way we in SIS work is that we are highly adaptable and flexible. We don’t get pinned in one place.

Days later the Daily Telegraph claimed that British Special Forces were also stationed in Yemen, where they ‘operate as part of a counter-terrorism training unit, assisting in missions to kill or capture al Qaeda leaders, and Britain also has an intelligence presence in Yemen seeking to gain information to help the Yemenis target al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP).’

Location: London
Reference: The Guardian (transcript), Channel 4 News, Daily Telegraph

President Obama talks with Yemen’s President Saleh Nov. 2 2010 as counter terror adviser John Brennan looks on (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

November 6 2010
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abubakr Qirbi told CNN that US drones were only involved in ‘surveillance operations’ over his country and that there was ‘intelligence information that is exchanged about the location of the terrorists by the Americans.’ The Washington Post reported that US drones ‘had not fired any missiles because the US lacked sufficient intelligence on militants’ locations,’ possibly indicating that Yemen’s intelligence support may have been withdrawn following the May 24 incident (YEM010).

Location: Yemen
References: CNN, Washington Post

December 15 2010

Four CIA employees escaped injury in Sanaa after a bomb exploded under their vehicle outside a restaurant. An anonymous US official told the Washington Post that there was ‘no indication that the perpetrators knew specifically who they were targeting.’ The employees were initially described as US embassy personnel. Critical Threats reported that ‘their armored Toyota Hilux exploded while they were in the restaurant, likely from an explosive placed in or underneath the truck,‘ while Fox News reported that the four were ‘picking up pizza… when the suspect put a satchel explosive device either in the truck bed, or underneath’. The Yemeni police reportedly arrested a  28-year old Jordanian suspect believed to be an al Qaeda member.

Location: Sanaa
References: Washington Post, Yemen Times, Critical Threats, Fox News, Associated Press via Yemen online

December 23 2010
Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan once again spoke by phone with Yemen’s President Saleh:

To emphasize the importance of taking forceful action against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in order to thwart its plans to carry out terrorist attacks in Yemen as well as in other countries, including in the US Homeland.  Mr. Brennan emphasized the need to strengthen the already close cooperation between Yemeni and US counterterrorism and security services, as well as with other partner nations, including the timely acquisition of all relevant information from individuals arrested by Yemeni security forces.

Location: Washington DC, Sanaa
Reference: White House


January 8 2011
President Obama’s personal interest in Yemen’s security situation was made clear in White House official reports of a phone call:

Assistant to the President John Brennan called President Ali Abdallah Saleh of Yemen this morning to relay President Obama’s personal condolences on the murder of more than a dozen Yemeni security forces by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula over the past two days. Brennan said that President Obama strongly condemned the brutal attacks, which reflect the group’s clear intent to kill Yemenis who are valiantly seeking to stop al-Qa’ida’s attempts to carry out terrorist attacks in Yemen as well as in other countries.  Brennan told President Saleh that the United States is determined to stand with the government and people of Yemen in confronting al-Qa’ida.

Location: Washington DC, Sanaa
Reference: White House

February 8 2011
A US Predator drone reportedly crashed in Yemen. The drone came down in Jahayn village near Loder, in Yemen’s Abyan province, where al-Qaida has a strong presence, and was found by local residents, an official told AFP. Although the wreckage was initially seized by police, their convoy was ambushed by al Qaeda, who stole the machine. However, the security director of Lawdar district  Ahmed Ali al-Qofeish told the Yemen Observer that it could not be confirmed that the pieces of metal found were part of a drone, claiming they could be ‘remains of a missile’. ‘It is unlikely the remains were of a US drone. You cannot tell the difference from just small parts’, he told the Yemen Observer. He also refuted the claim that al Qaeda militants made off with the wreckage, saying ‘Once the locals informed us, we [sent] troops there and collected all the parts. These parts filled about four large bags and they are sealed’. 

Location: Loder, Abyan Province
References: AFP, Xinhua, Fox News, Yemen Post, Yemen Observer

April 19 2011
The US revealed on July 5 that three months previously JSOC had captured Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, (‘aka Khattab, aka Farah, aka Abdi Halim Mohammed Fara, aka Fareh Jama Ali Mohammed’) who had been indicted in New York on charges of ‘providing material support to al Shabaab and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).‘ During the initial stages of his detention Warsame had been kept prisoner on a JSOC ship, the USS Boxer.

Type of attack: Ground assault, rendition
Location: Off the coast of Yemen
References: US Dept of Justice indictment, StrategyPage, Channel 4 News, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CagePrisoners

May – June 2011
♦ Unknown killed

An anonymous Yemen defence ministry official claimed that a significant number of US drone strikes had taken place between mid-May and mid-June 2011. Strikes began in Shabwa province from May 3 onwards. According to The National, 15 US strikes took place between June 1 and June 15, including one on June 11 in which there were no casualties. Abdullah Laqman, deputy governor of Abyan province, told the publication: ‘These are the lives of innocent people being killed. At least 130 people have been killed in the last two week by US drones.’

Type of action: Drone strikes
Location: Yemen various
Reference: The National (Emirates)

May 2011
Newsweek later reported that the US military proposed the simultaneous targeted killing of 11 AQAP leaders, ‘by far the largest request since it stepped up operations in Yemen.’ However following concerns raised by Obama administration officials the list was reduced to four names. ‘all of whom were eliminated’.

Location: Washington DC
Source: Newsweek 

May 5 2011
♦ 2 reported killed

In the first recorded US attack during Yemen’s Arab Spring uprising, a fresh attempt was made to kill US-born cleric Anwar al Awlaki in a co-ordinated drone strike. Instead two AQAP-linked brothers died, identified by Yemeni government officials as Abdullah Mubarak and Mosaad Mubarak (or al Harad). ABC News featured a special investigation on the attack, stating that on the morning of May 5, ‘the US military dispatched a fearsome array of heavily armed warplanes including Marine Harrier jets, predator drones and a special operations aircraft carrying short range Griffin missiles to follow a pickup truck in which Awlaki was a passenger’. But the US troops were unable to keep missiles locked on Awlaki’s truck. One missile grazed his bumper, then, ‘the Harriers, which were almost out of gas, had to leave. The remaining aircraft tried to keep following Awlaki to take another shot. But then cloud cover got in the way. Awlaki was able to exploit a moment of hesitation while the targeting pods and the surveillance aircraft were refocusing to jump out of his pickup truck and move to another.’ Awlaki later mocked the failed attack in AQAP’s English-language jihadist magazine Inspire, saying ‘It looks as if someone was a bit angry with us this evening.’

The drone strike was the US’s first in Yemen since 2002 (see YEM001) with the Wall Street Journal reporting that ‘JSOC strikes returned in May, this time using armed drones as well as manned aircraft. The CIA inaugurated its own parallel drone program in Yemen in September [2011] with the successful strike on Anwar al-Awlaki.’ The Wall Street Journal offered more detail on the assault, which it said consisted of two elements:

In the first strike, the US fired three rockets at a pickup truck in which Mr. Awlaki and a Saudi national and suspected al Qaeda member were traveling outside the village of Jahwa, located some 20 miles away from the Shebwa provincial capital, said local residents and the Yemeni security official. Those missiles didn’t hit their target. Two Yemeni brothers, who were known by local residents for giving shelter to al Qaeda militants, rushed to the scene of the attack. Mr. Awlaki switched vehicles with them, leaving the two Yemenis in the pickup. A single drone then hit the pickup truck, killing the Yemenis inside. Mr. Awlaki escaped in the other vehicle along with the Saudi.’

In April 2013, Jeremy Scahill reported in The Nation that the Mubarak brothers were killed after they had swapped vehicles with Awlaki in the confusion: ‘As the two vehicles took off in opposite directions, the Americans running the operation had to decide which one to follow. They stuck with Awlaki’s truck. Awlaki looked up and saw the drones still hovering. He managed to make it to the mountains. From there, he watched as another round of missiles shot out of the sky and blew up the truck, killing the Harad brothers. As JSOC celebrated what it thought was a successful hit, Awlaki performed his evening prayers and reflected on the situation.’

Type of action: Drone strike, airstrike
Location: Shabwa Province
References: Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, The Daily Star, Xinhua, AFP, Washington Post, CNN, The Bureau, The Guardian, GQ Magazine, ABC News, Fox News, Long War Journal, Inspire 5, The Nation (US)

May 9 2011
♦ Unknown killed
♦ At least 1 child injured

In August 2012 Al Akbar reported that 14-year old Ali Alkhadr was severely injured in an unspecified air strike against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, As the paper noted:

Returning from a family visit in al-Mihrab village, Ali was hit by shrapnel from an air-strike that tore his jaw wide open. Air-strikes in the South that target al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) often indiscriminately kill or wound anyone in the surrounding area, including civilians, without a warning.
According to Ali’s father, Alkhadr Ali Hassan, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) generously conducted 1 million Yemeni Riyal ($4,660) worth of reconstructive surgery. Yet Ali still needs a lot more. The once studious teenager dropped out of school due to depression. “He refuses to see his classmates because he is disfigured. It’s been eight months and there is nothing I can do to help my son,” said the boy’s father. “He does not want to go to school and one time I hospitalized him because he overdosed on drugs. I believe he wanted to end his life, and it pains me to see that. I don’t know what to do,” he added.

Type of action: Air strike, possible drone strike
Location: al Mirab
Reference: Al Akbar

June 3 2011
♦ 7 killed
♦ 4 civilians killed

The New York Times reported that a US airstrike in the city of Zinjibar killed Abu Ali al Harithi, a ‘veteran of Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq currently serving as a commander in the al Qaeda affiliated Aden Abyan Islamic Army,’ and a number of other militants as well as four civilians, according to witnesses.

The New York Times reported that a jet carried out t he strike. However, anonymous US officials told ABC News a military drone ultimately fired the lethal missile but that US jets were nearby but did not release weapons.

However, an AQAP fighter named Abu al Harithi was also claimed to be killed in the first ever US drone strike on Yemen, November 3 2002 (YEM001), as noted by Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen. Nevertheless, AQAP later confirmed through Inspire magazine the deaths of al-Harithi, Ammar Abadah Nasser al Waeli, a ‘veteran’ of Afghanistan, and Abu Jafar al Adeni, stating that Wa’eli was killed ‘with his brother’ Adeni.  The magazine described Harithi’s death:

While fighting in Abyan, his vehicle was struck by a missile from an American drone. Nothing remained from him except small pieces of flesh scattered around. That was the death Abu Ali wanted for.

The Jamestown Foundation identified the June 3 strike as that which killed al-Harithi and al Wa’eli. And on June 9 2011, the Yemeni Defence Ministry announced that al Waili (also known as Waeli) and Adeni were killed ‘in ongoing operations by the Yemeni army against the organization in Abyan province.’ Two weeks earlier, President Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan had spoken by phone with Yemen’s President Saleh, where: ‘He affirmed the commitment of the United States to stand with the Yemeni government and people as they… combat the security threat from al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula.’

In May 2012 Newsweek reported on a JSOC operation that appears to match this event:

In May 2011, the [US] military proposed killing 11 AQAP operatives at once, by far the largest request since it stepped up operations in Yemen. The Arab Spring’s turmoil had spread to the country, and al Qaeda was moving quickly to take advantage of the chaos. Gen. James Mattis, who heads U.S. Central Command, warned darkly of an emerging new terror hub in the Horn of Africa. Obama and a few of his senior advisers, however, were wary of getting dragged into an internal conflict—or fueling a backlash—by targeting people who were not focused on striking the United States. Obama and his aides reduced the target list to four people, all of whom were eliminated.

However Daniel Klaidman reports that the decision to kill a large number of AQAP targets was not taken until 6pm Washington time on June 11, and that ‘a few days later all of them were eliminated.’ If correct, that indicates either that YEM013 occurred between June 12-15, or that another unreported strike at that time killed a number of senior AQAP figures.

Type of attack: Drone strike
Location: Zinjibar, Abyan Province
References: New York Times, Long War Journal, Almotamar, ABC News, CNN, Inspire 6, Reuters, Waq-al-Waq, Jamestown FoundationAl-Shorfa, White House, Newsweek, Kill Or Capture/ Klaidman pp254-256

June 10 2011
♦ 1+ killed

United Press International (UPI) reported that ‘at least one top insurgent was killed in the US military-led strikes by unmanned aircraft’, which began in Zinjibar. While Reuters reported that airstrikes on Zinjibar stemmed from ‘state forces’, according to the editor of the Yemen Post, a strike on June 10 was the sixth by US drones since the May 5 attempt on Anwar al Awlaki. Hakim Almasmari told The Bureau that a Yemeni Ministry of Defence official had confirmed to him that 13 air force strikes claimed by the Yemeni government in the past month were actually the work of US drones: ‘Our aircraft fleet is very limited. Given that, and the targets being struck, and what the eye witnesses see, we have to believe what our sources on the ground are telling us.’

As the February uprising against President Saleh generated chaos in Yemen, the US appeared to be bolstering its attacks on militants. However it became increasingly difficult to disentangle reports of ‘drone strikes’ from US or Yemeni air  strikes, or other forms of combat. CNN reported that, throughout Zinjibar, ‘heavy gunfire and explosions were heard… and planes were seen flying overhead and conducting airstrikes’, the fighting resulting in the deaths of at least ‘twenty-one al Qaeda members and 10 Yemeni soldiers’ between June 10 and 11 2011.

Type of attack: Air strike, possible drone strike
Location: Zinjibar, various Yemen.
References: The Bureau, UPI, CNN, Reuters

June 10 2011
♦ 2-3 killed
♦ 2-3 civilians reported killed, including 1 child
♦ 1 reported injured

A security official from Abyan province claimed that one of three linked strikes against militants resulted in the deaths of up to three civilians. Nader al Shaddadi was not home during the attack but an official said his father, mother, and sister were killed in the raid. No al Qaeda suspects were killed, the official claimed. Locals said drones had carried out the attacks. In December 2012, Amnesty International subsequently reported that Moti’a Ahmed Haidara (11) was killed. Al Shaddadi’s mother was also killed and her teenage niece left disabled by the strike. Moti’a Haidara’s father was in the market at the time of the raid. He told Amnesty:

When the first shell landed…my wife was alarmed so she told Moti’a to go to our neighbours, Nader al Shaddadi’s parents, who live adjacent to us, to tell them: ‘If you want to go to a safer area, let us know so that we go with you.’ As soon as Moti’a went to their house, the aircraft hit it.

Amnesty International said the strike was carried out by the Yemen Air Force. But the NGO added it ‘cannot exclude the possibility that some of the air strikes documented in this report may have been carried out by US drones’. A security official said a US drone killed al Shaddadi’s father, mother and sister in the attack. And neighbour Abdul Hadi Mohammed allegedly told the National: ‘Was Shadadi’s mother and father terrorist? They were killed by the US drone. They are both over 60 years old.’

Type of attack:Air strike, possible drone strike
Location: Raia, Abyan Province.
Reference: Yemen Post, National (UAE)Amnesty International

June 14 2011
US media report that the CIA will now begin flying its own armed drone missions over Yemen. According to the Wall Street Journal ‘The U.S. military strikes have been conducted with the permission of the Yemeni government. The CIA operates under different legal restrictions, giving the administration a freer hand to carry out strikes even if Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, now receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia, reverses his past approval of military strikes or cedes power to a government opposed to them.’

References: Wall Street Journal, Associated Press

June 18 2011
♦ 6 civilians reported injured

The Yemen Post reported that six civilians were wounded in an apparent drone strike targeting ‘senior jihadists’. However, no AQAP militants were reported to be hit in the attack. Yemeni sources reported that the targets of the attack were al Qaeda fighters under the command of Sheikh Khalid Abdul Nabi, a leader in the south of the country.

Type of attack: Air strike, possible drone strike
Location: Jaar, Abyan
References: Yemen Post, Press TV, The National, Kavkaz Center

July 14 2011
♦ 6-50 reported killed
♦ 30 civilians reported killed

At least six people were reported killed in a US strike in Abyan province. Al Jazeera English stated the six were militants who had taken over the Wadeea district police station. An eyewitness told al Jazeera that while six bodies of killed gunmen were pulled from the ruins of the police station, the death toll could ‘climb with ongoing rescue operations’. The New York Times claimed the same strike killed eight, whilst CNN claimed that as many as fifty people were killed. ‘The casualty toll is high because fighters were gathered in that area with family members,’ a senior security source in Abyan allegedly told CNN.

Witnesses also told the channel that ‘at least 30 civilians’ were among the dead. However, according to CNN, ‘the government said that a US drone was not involved in the attack and that its air forces conducted the raid. The Interior Ministry said on its website that nine fighters were killed and dozens were wounded and that the number of deaths was expected to rise.’ However, Yemeni officials told the Associated Press that the strike must have been carried out by an American plane ‘because Yemeni planes aren’t equipped for nighttime strikes’.

Resident Mohammed al Mashraqi told AP that weapons stored inside caused the police station to catch fire after the strike. ‘Dozens of militants rushed to the scene to evacuate the wounded and dig search the rubble for the dead, he said.Wired wrote up its own report on the huge variation in reporting on this strike. Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee claimed that ‘some 20 Al Qaeda fighters were killed… including leaders Hadi Mohammed Ali and Abu Bilal‘.

Aden News TV raw footage of the strike damage on Wadeea police station

Four days earlier, President Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser had met Yemen’s President Saleh in Saudi Arabia, where among other points:

Mr. Brennan emphasized the importance of resolving the political crisis in Sanaa so that the Yemeni Government and people can successfully confront the serious challenges they face, including the terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, which have claimed the lives of hundreds of Yemeni citizens.

Type of attack: Drone strike
Location: Wadeea district, Mudiya, Abyan
References: Long War Journal, New York Times, CNN, Wired, Nasser Arrabyee, Al Jazeera, Associated Press, White House, Aden News, Akhbar Al Youm

July 14 2011

An airstrike on a car targeted Fahd al Qusaa, also known as Quso, an al Qaeda leader and suspect in the USS Cole bombing. It was a US attack, according to the New York Times quoting an AQAP representative. He claimed that Qusaa had left the car minutes earlier and was unharmed.

According to the Long War Journal, Qusaa (pictured), was being sheltered by the Awlaki tribe, and was allegedly involved in the failed AQAP airline bombing attack over Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee claimed that the car was travelling between Shakra and Zinjibar in Abyan Province.

Type of attack:Air strike, possible US drone strike
Location: Between Shakra and Zinjibar, Abyan province
References: New York TimesLong War Journal, Nasser Arrabyee

July 21 2011
♦ 11 reported killed
An al Qaeda leader and 10 others were killed in a battle in South Yemen. Deputy Information Minister Abdo al Janadi told a news conference in Yemen’s capital city that the US provided assistance ‘by bringing in food supplies’. An official in Abyan told AFP that ships and boats believed to be American were seen in the area of Zinjibar. Ayad al Shabwani, a leader of the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was once again reported killed.

Type of attack: Yemeni operation withUS logistical and naval support
Location: South Yemen
References: AFP, Telegraph, Associated Press

July 27 2011

♦ 5 reported killed

Xinhua news reported a local official as saying that five AQAP militants, including a field commander, were killed by a US drone strike on Karadeef, in western Zinjibar. Aden-online stated that a ‘prominent al Qaeda leader and four terrorists’ were killed in an air strike in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan, but did not mention drones. One of the four was claimed to be ‘the son of Nasser al Marqashi’.

Type of attack:Aitstrike, possible US drone strike
Location: Karadeef, Zinjibar
ReferencesXinhuaAden-online via Yemen Post 

For the Bureau’s full data on US covert action in 2012 click here

August 1 2011
♦ 13-16 reported killed
♦ 12-17 injured

Two or three airstrikes killed up to 16 alleged militants, including local al Qaeda leader Nader Shadadi. The Washington Post reported that three attacks took place and that Yemeni local and security officials claimed the strikes stemmed from US Predator drones. But Reuters reported that Yemeni warplanes conducted at least one of the strikes, on the village of al-Khamilah. Critical Threats reported that ‘Yemeni airstrikes “in and around” Zinjibar killed local al Qaeda leader Nader Shadadi and at least 15 other militants.  One strike targeted an al Qaeda roadblock near al Wahda (Unity) stadium.  Another strike destroyed an armored troop carrier, while two others struck militant positions in Khamila area, five miles south of Zinjibar.  Seventeen others were wounded in the strikes.’

Type of attack:Drone strike possibly with Yemen Air Force
Location: Al Khamila, Abyan Province
References:  Yemen Post, Washington Post,, Long War Journal, Pakistan Today, Reuters, Critical Threats, AFP

August 24 2011
♦ 30 reported killed
♦ 40 reported injured

An air strike targeted militants near the town of Zinjibar. AP reported Yemeni officials as saying that: ‘A first round of airstrikes early Wednesday killed 30 militants near Zinjibar’. The officials told AP that 40 militants were also wounded in the operation, which was a ‘deadly blow’ to the militants. It is not clear whether this was a US or Yemeni airstrike. Residents in Zinjibar, Abyan, told CNN that ‘air raids on militant hideouts are heard at least five times a day’.

Type of attack: Airstrike
Location: Zinjibar
ReferencesAP (via Air Force Times)MSNBC, CNN, AP (Guardian)Explosive Violence Monitoring Project

AQAP propaganda images from Inspire issue 2


August 24 2011
♦ 6 reported killed

An airstrike killed a group of alleged militants in Arkoub, with medical sources telling AFP that six bodies were taken to a hospital in Jaar. AP reported that a pair of suicide bombings had killed 11 anti-al Qaeda tribesmen in the town days earlier. However, a tribal source speaking to AFP ‘was unable to confirm whether the air strike was carried out by the Yemeni air force or by a US drone’.

Type of attack: Airstrike, possible US drone strike
Location: Arkoub, Abyan Province
References: AFP, AP, Dawn, Explosive Violence Monitoring Project, AFP (via Yahoo News), AFP (via Dawn)

August 25 2011
♦ 8 reported killed
♦ 3 people injured

Eight suspected al Qaeda-linked militants were killed in an airstrike. They were reportedly members of Ansar al-Sharia, or ‘supporters of Islamic Sharia’. According to website Critical Threats, Yemeni officials said that one of the militants killed was a local leader, Abu Jaber al Sanaai. It is not clear whether this was a US or Yemeni strike.

Type of attack: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Wadi Hassan, Abyan Province
References: Critical Threats, Associated Press, DawnExplosive Violence Monitoring Project

August 31 2011
♦ 30 reported killed

US airstrikes killed at least 30 alleged al Qaeda militants over August 31 and September 1 near Zinjibar. ‘The airstrikes freed a Yemeni military unit besieged in southeast Abyan for several weeks,’ Yemeni military officials told The Associated Press. The Long War Journal posited that the Yemeni military unit involved was the 25th Yemeni Mechanized Brigade, ‘known to have been under siege by AQAP fighters just outside of Zinjibar’. During the fighting the US military provided aerial resupply drops to the encircled forces using US aircraft, reported the Washington Institute.

On September 1 White House counter terrorism adviser John Brennan said the US had urged Yemen to send more troops into Zinjibar to free the besieged unit. On the Yemeni government, he said: ‘This political tumult is… leading them to be focused on their positioning for internal political purposes as opposed to doing all they can against AQAP.’

US military officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on airstrikes, but said: ‘We continue to provide counter-terrorism aid, intelligence, and logistical support to Yemeni forces’.  On the first day of strikes, Wednesday 31 August, Reuters reported that 17 militants were killed as ‘army troops pushed back the militants from an area about 8 km (5 miles) from Zinjibar, the provincial capital seized by the militants in May’. Yemeni troops then ‘seized several arms caches’, initially suffering no casualties. However, a later report by Reuters stated that three government soldiers died.

Type of action: Airstrikes
Location: Abyan Province
ReferencesLong War Journal,  The Atlantic WireAP (via Critical Threats)antiwar.comAl JazeeraReutersReutersAssociated Press, Washington Institute

AQAP’s propaganda indicates growing impact of US airstrikes – Jan 2011, from Inspire 4

September 2 2011
Reports emerged that the CIA was building a secret drone base ‘in the Arabian Gulf’ -rumoured to be Saudi Arabia or Oman- from which to conduct a parallel campaign against militants in Yemen. The new base was later reportedly used to attack and kill Anwar al-Awlaki. ‘The new CIA base provides a backstop, if al-Qaida or other anti-American rebel forces gain control’, one senior US official told the Associated Press.

Location: Arabian Gulf
References: Washington Post, Associated Press

September 5 2011
♦ 3-7 killed
♦ 3-7 civilians reported killed
♦ 4+ wounded, including a child

A strike targeted the Great Mosque in Jaar shortly before noon prayers. Up to seven civilians were reported killed in the attack. The target was a smaller mosque in the town, according to a local official. But Amnesty International subsequently reported that fifteen minutes before the attack at least two militants stood near to the Great Mosque and opened fire at a military aircraft. The militants kept firing at the circling aircraft despite being admonished three times by mosque workers and passers-by outraged by the violence close to a mosque and civilians. The aircraft returned to attack the mosque.

The mosque is in the middle of Jaar’s market – crowded at the time of the strike – and market seller Hazza Ahmed Atta Baheb was killed along with Haidara Mohsen Ali al Abidi. Jaber Qassem Aslem was wounded by shrapnel but died of his injuries the following week. At least four people were injured, including Omar Qassem (11).

The attack was reported as a ‘botched‘ Yemen Air Force strike. But in 2010 President Ali Abdullah Saleh ‘did not have any objection’ to plans for US strike fighters fly strikes in Yemen. He told General Petraeus ‘we’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.’ And while Amnesty International reported the strike was carried out by the Yemen Air Force, the NGO said it ‘cannot exclude the possibility that some of the air strikes documented in this report may have been carried out by US drones’.

Type of action: Airstrike
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
ReferencesAmnesty International, Wikileaks, AFP, The National (UAE), CNN, BBC

September 5 2011
♦ 9-11 reported killed
♦ 1 child reported killed
♦ 2+ reported injured

At least nine people were killed in a pair of strikes in Jaar. At least eight alleged AQAP militants died in a strike on al Razi Hospital in the city. NPR’s Kelly McEvers told the Bureau ‘militants were known to have set up shop in the hospital.’ Amnesty reported that militants had taken control of the second floor of the hospital and its ambulance. But the NGO asserted that the emergency facilities on the first floor were still being used by civilians.

The lives of several civilians injured in the earlier strike on the Great Mosque were put at risk in the strike, Amnesty added. The NGO also reported eight-year-old Wafaa Mohammed Ahmed al Hamza was killed by shrapnel in a second strike. In June 2013 peace activists from the Code Pink group visited Yemen. Wafaa’s father Mohammed Ahmed Baggash described how his daughter died. He had taken his daughter and one son to the market at about 10.30am when the first strike hit. He ran to a local school with his children. A second missile hit and Baggash and his son Sabr were injured. He later told the BBC: ‘It was as if everyone was burning. It was all dark. When the smoke cleared, I saw my son’s leg was bleeding, and my daughter was hit on the back of the head.’ She bled to death on the way to hospital. Several other children were also injured, he added.

Type of action: Airstrike
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: National Public RadioAmnesty International, AFP, The National (UAE), Mondoweiss, BBC

September 7 2011
♦ 3-10 reported killed
♦ 2-24 reported injured

Multiple strikes. A Predator drone strike allegedly struck a makeshift al Qaeda checkpoint in Mihfed, Abyan Province. AFP reported that a local security official said that the US drone strike had killed three militants and wounded two more. Meanwhile, Xinhua reported that ’10 al Qaida militants were killed and dozens of others were injured’ on the evening of 7 September when a US drone struck ‘several targets’ in Abyan. Xinhua said that Predator drones ‘bombed an abandoned hotel and a primary school on the eastern outskirts of Jaar city’ in Abyan, and that local residents in Jaar said that dozens of families have fled to nearby provinces of Aden and Lahj, ‘fearing renewed botched air strikes by the Yemeni air forces and the US drones’.

Type of action: Air assault, drone and air strikes
Location: Mihfed, Abyan Province
References: Daily Times,  CNTV, Xinhua, Long War Journal, AFP

September 7 2011
♦ Unknown

An unknown number of militants were killed in a strike on al Razi Hospital in Jaar. NPR’s Kelly McEvers told the Bureau ‘militants were known to have set up shop in the hospital’.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
ReferencesNational Public Radio

September 21 2011
♦ 4 reported killed

There were two alleged US drone strikes reported on this day. The first killed four militants and was apparently targeting Saeed al-Shehri, AQAP’s Saudi ‘number two’, who escaped. A local official told the AFP that: ‘US drones carried out two air strikes on Al-Mahfad (in the southern Abyan province) where al Qaeda militants – among them al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) number two Saeed al-Shehri – are present.’  According to Aden Online, the four fighters were on a mountain pass in al Mahfed, Abyan, eyewitnesses saying that ‘an American military aircraft bombed a vehicle [which] was heading on a mountainous road in Saraw’. A later article on October 3 by AFP stated that, according to a tribal chief, Anwar al-Awlaki was with al-Shehri in Al Mahfad when the strike occurred, but both escaped.

Type of action: Air assault, drone strike
Location: Al Mahfad, Abyan Province
References: AFP, Al Arabiya (via NeoClassics), Critical Threats, AFPLong War JournalAden OnlinePress TV, BBC

September 21 2011
♦ 6-7 reported killed
♦ 3 people injured

A second strike reportedly targeted militants in the southern port city of Shaqra, killing up to seven al Qaeda fighters, according to The Long War Journal and Aden Online. AFP stated that the second wave killed six ‘al Qaeda gunmen’ and wounded three, according to an official from the town of Shaqra (under AQAP control). The Long War Journal contacted US military officials for a comment on the reported airstrikes, but officials would only confirm that ‘US forces are supporting Yemeni forces’.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible drone
Location: Shaqra, Abyan Province
References: Long War Journal, Aden Online, Press TVAFP

September 30 2011

♦ 4 reported killed

Anwar al Awlaki, the US-born cleric, apparently became the first US citizen to be deliberately killed by the CIA in a drone strike, part of Operation Troy. The attack – assisted by JSOC – also killed US citizen Samir Khan, editor of AQAP’s Inspire magazine, Abu Muhsen al Maribi (or Mohammed bin Muhsen) and Salem al Marwani (aka Salem bin Arfaj). Bomb maker Ibrahim Hassan al Asiri was also initially reported killed in the blast but Associated Press reported he survived. Al Asiri reportedly made the bomb for the December 2009 ‘underwear bomber’ plot to bring down a jet over Detroit. He is also said to have been behind the devices sent to targets in the US aboard a cargo plane in October 2010. Following this strike al Asiri went to ground, resurfacing more than six months later.In a May 2013 letter Attorney-General Eric Holder revealed the US deliberately targeted al Awlaki. However Khan was ‘not specifically targeted by the United States’, Holder added. The letter was a response to requests for information on drone strikes from Patrick Leahy, chair of the US Senate Judiciary Committee.According to the Washington Post, after locating al-Awlaki the CIA assembled a fleet of armed drones to target him.’The choreography of the strike, which involved four drones, was intricate. Two Predators pointed lasers at Awlaki’s vehicle, and a third circled to make sure that no civilians wandered into the cross hairs.’ The Nation reported that even more military hardware was involved:

As the vehicles made their way over the dusty, unpaved roads, US drones, armed with Hellfire missiles, were dispatched to hunt them down. The drones were technically under the command of the CIA, though JSOC aircraft and ground forces were poised to assist. A team of commandos stood at the ready to board V-22 helicopters. As an added measure, Marine Harrier jets scrambled in a backup maneuver.

According to the New York Times, the CIA had just finished building a secret drone base in Saudi Arabia and President Obama’s chief counterterrorism advisor John Brennan directed the Agency take full responsibility for killing Awlaki. David Petraeus, then director of the CIA, ordered several drones be relocated from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia. Newsweek later reported that the US had been observing Awlaki at the location for two weeks but did not attack because of the presence of children. On the morning of September 30, however, Awlaki and several of his companions left the safe house and walked about 700 yards to their parked cars. As they were getting into the vehicles, they were blown apart by two Hellfire missiles fired by Reaper drones.

The killing of Khan and Awlaki – and Awlaki’s 16-year old son a week later – led for calls for the US to publish the legal basis on which it had ‘extrajudicially executed US citizens’, as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) put it. On December 20 2011, the New York Times filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, seeking the release of the Justice Department legal opinion in the Awlaki case, which the department would not disclose. The New York Times had previously reported that the secret memo which authorised the killing stated that it would be lawful ‘only if it were not feasible to take him alive’.

The memo was ‘narrowly drawn to the specifics of Mr Alwaki’s case’ and circumvented ‘an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war,’ said the New York Times. In November 2012 it emerged that the US had tried to strip Awlaki of his US passport six months before his death. On the first anniversary of his death, Anwar al Awlaki’s father alleged that Yemen’s government was complicit in his death,  saying that ‘there was an agreement between the Yemeni intelligence and the CIA, under which the former abided to submit daily reports on the activities of Anwar al-Awlaki and his movements.’ Dr Nasser al-Awlaki also said that he last met his son in April 2009 after former President Ali Abdullah Saleh had asked him to convince Anwar to return to Sana’a:

But Anwar refused, because the then Interior Minister ordered Shabwah governor and security director to arrest Anwar for no reason.

In April 2014 a US court said that Washington officials could not be held accountable for the death of Anwar al Awlaki, Samir Khan or Abdel Rahman al Awlaki (YEM034). The court dismissed a suit brought against several officials including then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-CIA Director David Petraeus on behalf of Awlaki’s parents by the ACLU and Center for Constitutional Rights. Circuit Court justice Rosemary Collyer said allowing the suit to continue against individual officials ‘would impermissibly draw the court into “the heart of executive and military planning and deliberation”.’ She added: ‘In this delicate area of war-making, national security, and foreign relations, the judiciary has an exceedingly limited role.’

Type of action: Drone strike
Location: Jawf
References: New York Times, Washington Post,  Reuters, Los Angeles Times, TIME Magazine, Financial TimesCritical Threats, Flashpoint IntelWashington Post, Daily Beast, Lawsuit transcript, New York TimesDepartment of Justice, Associated Press, Newsweek, Yemen Fox, CagePrisoners report, Fox News, CNN, New York Times, The Nation (US), Department of Justice, Bloomberg, Associated Press, US District Court Ruling

October 5 2011
♦ 5 reported killed
♦ 7 reported injured

This strike targeted alleged militant hideouts in al Arqoub, east of Zinjibar, the embattled provincial capital of Abyan in southern Yemen. Officials told the Associated Press that the strike killed five and injured seven. The Long War Journal stated that the exact target of the strike was not disclosed, and no ‘senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders have been reported killed’.

Type of action: Airstrike possible drone strike
Location: al Arqoub, Abyan
References: Associated PressYemen ObserverLong War Journal

Father and Grandfather Nasser al Awlaki interviewed by Christiane Amanpour for CNN.

October 14 2011
♦ 0 killed

In the first of several attacks on this day, a drone attack struck a house in the Azan district of Shabwa, targeting the Egyptian-born AQAP Yemen media chief Ibrahim al-Bana, but the occupants of the house had left two minutes earlier, according to local tribal elders (see also YEM033).

Type of action: Airstrike, drone strike
Location: Azan, Shabwa
References: CNN,  GlobalPost, Business Insider, Yemen Post, ABC, AP (via Taiwan News)

October 14 2011
♦ 7-9 people killed, including 16-year and 17 year old boy
♦ 2 teenage children reported killed

A second drone attack then struck either a vehicle or a restaurant area. PBS Frontline later filmed at the scene of the attack, the footage showing the ruined foundations of a small building along with a nearby crater. Abdel Rahman Anwar al Awlaki, the 16-year old son of al Awlaki, had been killed in the strike.

A statement from Abdel-Rahman’s family read, “he left with some friends for dinner under the moonlight when an American missile landed, killing Abdel-Rahman and his friends”. In a separate statement, the family said:  “On October 14th, 2011 Abdulrahman, along with some of his tribe’s youth have gone barbecuing under the moonlight.  A drone missile hit their congregation killing Abdulrahman and several other teenagers.” A second teenager and family member, Ahmed Abdel Rahman al Awlaki, 17,  is known to have been killed in the strike. Five to seven others were also killed, including Sarhan al Qusa (aka Farhan al Quso) brother of AQAP leader Fahd al-Qusa or Quso, according to a member of Awlaki’s tribe. Reuters later claimed that the dead men were planning to renounce al Qaeda before they were killed. Elders claimed that four other Awlaki tribal members died in the strike.

Also initially reported killed was militant Ibrahim al Bana. However, two weeks after the strike, AQAP released leaflets stating that he had not been killed. Ansar al Sharia also reported in its second October newsletter that al Bana’s death was “a lie”. He was confirmed to be alive by the US State Department on January 5 2016 when it announced that al Bana had been designated “a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Executive Order (E.O) 13224” and a reward of $5 million was offered for information leading to his killing or captured.

The Washington Post reported that it was JSOC rather than the CIA which carried out the attack:

When pressed on why the CIA had not pulled the trigger, US officials said it was because the main target…an Egyptian named Ibrahim al-Banna, was not on the agency’s kill list. The Awaki teenager, a US citizen with no history of involvement with al Qaeda, was an unintended casualty. In interviews, senior US officials acknowledged that the two kill lists don’t match, but offered conflicting explanations as to why.

In April 2012 the Toronto Star featured an interview with Nasser al-Awalaki, grandfather of Abdel-Rahman and former Yemen government minister. In it he said that former Yemen President Saleh had sent him a message insisting that he had had no role in his grandson’s death: “Tell Dr. Nasser I swear to God that I have nothing to do with the killing of his son.” Nasser al-Awlaki also said he would be taking legal action: “I am only a university professor and I’m not the kind of guy who would enlist tribal people. My only chance now is to go to court and I hope as far as Abdulrahman at least, they will be fair to us. They cannot claim he’s collateral damage.”

In April 2013 Jeremy Scahill added further controversy to the attack, reporting:

A former senior official in the Obama administration told me that after Abdulrahman’s killing, the president was “surprised and upset and wanted an explanation.” The former official, who worked on the targeted killing program, said that according to intelligence and Special Operations officials, the target of the strike was al-Banna, the AQAP propagandist. “We had no idea the kid was there. We were told al-Banna was alone,” the former official told me. Once it became clear that the teenager had been killed, he added, military and intelligence officials asserted, “It was a mistake, a bad mistake.” However, John Brennan, at the time President Obama’s senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, “suspected that the kid had been killed intentionally and ordered a review. I don’t know what happened with the review.”‘

And in May 2013 US Attorney-General Eric Holder told US lawmakers Abdulrahman was “not specifically targeted by the United States”. In a letter, Holder explained Anwar al Awlaki was a legitimate target and that “[US] citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted”. He said three other US citizens, including Abdulrahman, had been killed by US drones during Obama’s presidency.

Abdulrahman’s grandfather discusses his death in a July 2012 interview for ACLU and CCR

Type of action: Air assault, drone strike
Location: Azan, Shabwa
References: CNN,  GlobalPost, Business Insider, Yemen Post, ABC, AFP (via Taiwan News), Reuters,Press TV, AP, Washington PostLong War Journal, LA Times, ReutersYemen Post,  Time Magazine,, Empty Wheel, Salon, Al-Awlaki family statement, Empty Wheel, Toronto Star, PBS FrontlineCNN, The Nation (US), Department of Justice, The Intercept

October 14 2011
♦ 15-17 possible killed

Reports indicated a possible third strike which may account for between 15-17 casualties.

Type of action: Possible air assault, drone strike
Location: Unknown
References: CNN,  GlobalPost, Business Insider, Yemen Post, ABC, AP, AP (via Taiwan News), AFP (via Taiwan News), Reuters, Press TV, AP

October 14 2011
♦ 2 reported killed
♦ 1-2 civilians killed, including 1 child

Saleh Qaid Toayman 
and his 14-year-old son Jalal were reportedly killed in an overnight strike in Azan. They were grazing camels ‘in an area known to be controlled by al Qaida,’ and had then slept by a mosque, according to Toayman’s 15-year-old son Azzedine who survived the strike. One strike hit their car and was quickly followed by a second attack, Azzedine told NPR:

I heard a huge explosion. But I stayed where I was, hidden under a tyre. I did not move until the morning. Then, when I woke up, I was scared. I went to see my father and my brother. They were scattered into pieces.

Toayman had fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s but the family claimed that he had recently renounced ties with the group, adding that he had been employed by Yemeni intelligence for a time. ‘If they wanted to arrest him – or even kill him – they knew where he lived,’ one relative stated. ‘Why did they have to kill him like this?’ Toayman’s eldest son was reported to have joined Ansar al Sharia following the strike.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible drone 
Location: Azan, Shabwa province
Reference: National Public Radio, Reuters

October 14-15 2011
♦ 2 reported killed
♦ 12 reported injured

AP claimed that a further two strikes occurred over a weekend, with 2 killed and 12 wounded.

Type of action: Possible drone strikes
Location: Unknown
Reference: AP (via CBS)

Hundreds in Sanaa – including many children – protest the deaths of Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki and others, November 2nd 2011

November 8 2011
♦ Unknown number reported killed

The militant stronghold of Rumeila was targeted by ‘five US drone strikes,’ according to an unnamed Yemeni official based in Jaar.

Type of action: Air assault, drone strikes
Location: Rumeila
Reference: AFP

A US Navy helicopter on the tarmac at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti (DoD/ Flickr)


Late 2011
As revolutionary chaos continued to grip Yemen the US withdrew most of its military assets from the country. Co-ordination of counter-terrorism operations passed to Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. The New York Times reported that the US ‘pulled out about 75 Special Forces trainers and support personnel in Yemen, and counter-terrorism training ground to a halt’. However on January 23 2012 The Atlantic magazine claimed that the number of US troops on the ground (working under JSOC) was still in the 300 to 500 range.

Locations: Yemen/ Djibouti
References: The Atlantic, New York Times

December 22 2011
♦ 1 reported killed

A US drone strike reportedly killed Abdulrahman al Wuhayshi, the younger brother of Nasser al Wuhayshi, a Yemeni who leads AQAP. Wuhayshi was initially reported to be a victim of Yemeni military action by the Associated Press. However, Reuters reported that Wuhayshi was targeted by a US drone attack on Zinjibar, Abyan province. The Long War Journal reported that this was ‘the first reported attack by the US since the strike in Azzan in Shabwa province that killed Abdul Rahman al Awlaki’. It must be noted that Wuhayshi’s death has not been confirmed by AQAP.

Type of action: Airstrike, possibledrone strike
: Zinjibar, Abyan province
References: AP, Reuters, Long War Journal, National Yemen

For the Bureau’s full data on US covert action in 2012 click here