Yemen: Reported US covert actions 2017

The timeline below contains information on all US drone and air strikes and other covert actions in Yemen recorded by the Bureau in 2017. Many of the strikes listed below have been confirmed by senior US or Yemeni officials. However some events are only speculatively attributed to the US, or are indicative of US involvement. We therefore class all strikes in Yemen as either “confirmed” or “possible”. 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”.

Please note that our data changes according to our current understanding of particular strikes. The information below represents our present best estimate.

The US conducted its first known drone strike outside of Afghanistan in Yemen in 2002. The second attack in the country did not take place for another seven years. Both the Pentagon and CIA have carried out strikes in Yemen from bases in Djibouti and Saudi Arabia. The military strikes are carried out under the command of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command.

The strikes have targeted al Qaeda fighters. The first strike, in 2002, targeted Abu Ali al Harithi - a member of al Qaeda since the 1990s and the leader of the group's presence in Yemen. In 2007 al Qaeda in Yemen and al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia united to form al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). This has been the focus of US operations in Yemen since. The strikes have also killed scores of civilians. 

Full data

The Bureau publishes a narrative timeline of US strikes in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen each year. The 2017 timeline for Yemen is below. Links for all other timelines can be found here.

We also publish spreadsheets detailing casualty numbers in each country. You can download the entire Yemen sheet here.

Covert US operations, Yemen 2017
Confirmed US air and drone strikes Possible US air and drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total reported strikes 101 0 2
Total reported killed 39-81 0 46-51
Civilians reported killed 3-10 0 30
Children reported killed 0-2 0 10-11
Total reported injured 0 0 12-13


YEM281 link

16 October 2017

  • 50 reported killed

More than 50 fighters were killed in two strikes on two Islamic State training camps in Bayda province, a US Central Command spokesperson told the Bureau, confirming that this was the first time US forces have hit the group in Yemen. 

At the camps, just over 20 miles apart, ISIS militants conducted endurance training and trained to conduct terror attacks with AK-47s, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers, an earlier Pentagon statement said. Hitting the camps disrupted the organisation attempts to train new fighters, it added. 

The statement had referred to the attack as a single strike, but the Centcom spokesperson said two had taken place. This difference could stem from the way US Central Command counts its strikes - they seem to count the desired effect on target as one strike regardless of the number of pieces of ordnance dropped or even the number of aircraft used. The spokesperson said strike assessments are based on initial reports and may be refined.

Locals told AFP the camps were named after prominent ISIS figures. One was reportedly named after Abu Bilal al Harbi, described as the group's Yemen chief, and the second after former global spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani, who was killed in a US air strike in Syria last summer.

"ISIS has used the ungoverned spaces of Yemen to plot, direct, instigate, supply and recruit for attacks against America and its allies around the world," the Pentagon said. 

YEM280 link

8 October 2017

  • 5 reported killed

A US strike hit Marib province killing five members of AQAP, according to a US Central Command spokesperson. 

The strike hit a vehicle travelling in the province's Raghwan district, a local official and a security official, alongside residents, told numerous news outlets. Tribal leaders told AP the strike occurred in an area named Saud, which it placed in Rawan district, which could be a different spelling of Raghwan. 

A provincial security official told Xinhua the strike killed a local leader of the group named Mohammed Ammar al Adani and four of his armed escorts. The source added that al Adani had been hiding in a house in Raghwan and had come from Shabwah province.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Raghwan district, Marib province 
  • References: US Central Command via email, AP, Reuters, Xinhua, AA

YEM279 link

4 October 2017

  • 1-2 reported killed

A US strike hit Bayda province on October 4 killing one AQAP fighter, a US Central Command spokesperson said. 

AFP had reported a US drone strike in Bayda killing two men travelling on a motorbike, citing unnamed security sources.

One of the men was an AQAP "commander", the sources said, identifying him as Shroum al Sanaani - reportedly a "leading figure" of the group. The identity of the other man was not known.

AFP said the strike took place in Yakala area. This could be a different spelling of Yakla, the area in Bayda province where the January raid took place. 

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Yakla area, Bayda province
  • References: AFP, US Central Command spokesperson via email

YEM278 link

16 September 2017

The US has carried out more than 100 strikes in Yemen so far this year, hitting "AQAP militants, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment", a US spokesperson told the Bureau on September 16.

We were unable to get any information on the strikes not yet in our database - we had recorded between 93 and 95 strikes this year. The additional strikes have been added into our database under this entry and there are now 101 recorded. 

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strikes
  • Location: Unknown
  • References: US Central Command spokesperson via email

YEM277C link

14 September 2017

  • 3 reported killed

Three suspected al Qaeda fighters were killed in a drone strike late on September 14, a local security official and residents told Reuters.

The official said the strike hit a motorcycle in Mudiyah district, Abyan province.

We cannot confirm this strike as yet. It will remain with a C suffix until more information is forthcoming. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike
  • Location: Mudiyah district, Abyan province
  • References: Reuters

YEM277 link

9 September 2017

  • 5-7 reported killed

US forces conducted three strikes against on September 9 in Al Bayda province, killing "several" AQAP members, a US Central Command spokesperson told the Bureau. 

Reports had surfaced of US strikes hitting two or three different targets in Yemen's al Bayda province.

A local official and residents told Reuters five suspected al Qaeda fighters were killed in drone strikes in two villages in the province. “The strikes targeted two villages where al Qaeda is known to be active,” an unnamed local official reportedly said. Residents meanwhile alleged two suspected fighters were killed when a drone struck the car they were travelling in. A further three were injured in the strikes, they said.

Al Masdar reported, according to Bloomberg, that seven al Qaeda fighters were killed in three strikes, citing unnamed local officials. According to them, one strike hit a motorbike killing one fighter and injuring a second, another strike killed three members of the group and injured others who approached the scene in the immediate aftermath of the attack, and a third strike killed three fighters near houses in Quraidah village, al Sumah district. It was not clear where in the province the first two alleged strikes took place. 

We have recorded three strikes in our database and a casualty range of 2-7 as we do not have a clear figures on this from Central Command. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strikes
  • Location: Al Bayda province 
  • References: Bloomberg, Reuters, US Central Command via email 

YEM276 link

13 August 2017

  • 3 reported killed

The US confirmed it carried out a strike against AQAP in Abyan province on August 13, but did not provide any details on possible casualties. 

A security official had told Xinhua that at least three suspected al Qaeda fighters were killed when a drone fired two missiles at a vehicle they were travelling in. The fighters killed were "wanted" members of the group, the official said, without elaborating further. They had reportedly been travelling in the mountainous village of Marakishah. 

Other sources reported two al Qaeda hide-outs were targeted by strikes at around 1400 local time (0900 GMT) in the same area. Reportedly one hit while a meeting was being held in one of the hide-outs. It was not clear whether these were US strikes and no additional details were provided. 

"In coordination with the government of Yemen, US forces are conducting a series of sustained counterterrorism operations in Yemen against AQAP to degrade the group's ability to hold territory and coordinate external terror attacks," a US Central Command spokesperson told the Bureau. 

"AQAP is one of the terrorist groups most committed to and capable of conducting attacks in America, as assessed by the intelligence and defense communities. In recent years, AQAP has taken advantage of ungoverned spaces in Yemen to plot, direct and inspire terror attacks against America, its citizens and allies around the world," the spokesperson said. 

Central Command said it was still assessing the results of the strike. 

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Marakishah village, Abyan province
  • References: Xinhua 

US special forces reportedly aiding Yemeni troops in AQAP operation link

3 August 2017

US special forces and UAE forces are reportedly assisting Yemeni troops in a major operation against AQAP in Shabwah province, the UAE Ambassador to the United States Yousef Al Otaiba has said, although the extent of the US role remains unclear. 

“Earlier today, Yemeni government armed forces launched a major operation against Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants in the Shabwah Governorate of Yemen. The operation is being closely supported by a combined UAE and US enabling force,” Al Otaiba said in a press release reported in Reuters.

The Emirati state media news agency WAM reported that since early morning on August 3, Yemeni troops and Hadrami Elite Forces, with US and UAE backing, have moved to destroy militant groups in the area. 

The Elite Forces, which is under UAE control, are believed to be behind the disappearance of hundreds of men relatives say have been kidnapped in Yemen, a Bureau investigation has found. According to the UN, the Elite Forces were created to counter al Qaeda in Mukalla once the Yemeni government reestablished control of the city in April 2016.

A senior defence official told Fox News, the US special forces are acting in a supporting role, although gave no additional details. “This is not a one-day thing,” the official reportedly said, describing the mission as a multi-day “clearing operation”.  

The US gave limited details on the reports. "US forces are supporting regional CT partners in ongoing operations in Yemen against AQAP to degrades the group's ability to coordinate external terrorist operations and use Yemeni territory as a safe space for terror plotting," Central Command said. "A small number of U.S. forces are present in Yemen to exchange information with capable partners in the region."

References: Reuters, Fox News, US Central Command

YEM275Cii link

31 July 2017

  • 0-7 reported killed

A security official told AFP at least five suspected members of AQAP were killed in a possible US drone strike in Juba, Marib province. 

It hit a gathering of people “known to belong to Al-Qaeda”, the official said, killing five Yemenis and some "foreigners". The official did not specify their nationality. A total death toll of five people had been noted in the line above.

US Central Command however said there had been no US strikes in Marib province. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike
  • Location: Juba, Marib province
  • References: AFP, US Central Command via email

YEM275Ci link

10 July 2017

A US drone strike was reported to have hit Azzan, a town in Yemen's Shabwah province. 

A tribal source told Aden Tomorrow that the strike hit a car on the outskirts of Azzan, killing those inside. The source said one of the dead was a prominent al Qaeda leader, although they did not know the leader's identity. 

Xinhua said a drone struck a gathering of al Qaeda gunmen also in Azzan, although it gave no source. 

Neither news sites indicated when the strike took place, but both reported it on July 10. 

US Central Command denied conducting any strikes in Shabwah during the relevant time period. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike
  • Location: Azzan town, Shabwah province
  • References: Aden TomorrowXinhua, US Central Command via email 

YEM275C link

9 July 2017

Overnight drone strikes hit al Qaeda sites in Sabar area of Abyan province, causing large blasts, a Yemeni military official told Xinhua. 

A suspected arms depot and a camp used for training the group's recruits were destroyed in the strikes, according to the official. 

Xinhua said an unknown number of gunmen had been killed or injured, with missiles directly hitting their locations.

Residents in the area told the news site that "several blasts were heard in the rugged areas used by al Qaeda militants in Abyan province".

A US spokesperson denied US strikes were carried out in Abyan province during the relevant time frame.  

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike
  • Location: Sabar area, Abyan province 
  • References: Xinhua, US Central Command via email

YEM275 link

1 July 2017

  • 2 reported killed

A US drone strike killed two al Qaeda men on a motorbike, US and Yemeni officials, and local residents said.

The strike hit at night in the al Wadei area of Abyan province. Local sources told Yemeni media the strike may have targeted an AQAP training camp in Wadi al Malh, which is in the al Wadei area.

One of the dead was identified by local residents as Ibrahim al Adani, a local al Qaeda commander.

A spokesperson for Central Command confirmed the US conducted the strike, telling the Bureau in an email: "US forces conducted a precision strike against an [AQAP] target July 1 in Abyan Governorate, Yemen.

"In coordination with the government of Yemen, US forces are conducting a series of sustained counterterrorism operations in Yemen against AQAP to degrade the group's ability to hold territory and coordinate external terror attacks."

YEM274C link

30 June 2017

  • 2 reported killed

A possible US strike killed two men "believed to be al Qaeda militants", Reuters reported - citing "residents and local sources". The US confirmed it conducted a strike on July 1 in Abyan however did not address whether or not it conducted this strike. It remains unconfirmed with a C suffix until more information is forthcoming.

  • Type of attack: Possible US strike
  • Location: Southern Yemen
  • References: Reuters

YEM274 link

16 June 2017

  • 2-3 reported killed

A US strike killed Abu Khattab al Awlaqi, described as the emir for AQAP’s stronghold in Shabwah province, and two of his associates, US Central Command said in a press release

A US spokesperson had previously told the Bureau two not three members of AQAP had been killed. 

The press release described Awlaqi as a senior leader responsible for planning and conducting terrorist attacks against civilians, with significant influence across AQAP's stronghold. He was implicated in planning and leading efforts to exacerbate instability in Southern Yemen, it added.  

AP had reported Yemeni officials saying the strike killed an operative close to the al Qaeda leader in Yemen, named Saad al Awlaki. A military source told Xinhua said the brother of Saad Bin Atef, described as the leader of AQAP in Shabwa province, was killed.

The strike was launched on specific intelligence provided by the Yemeni side, Xinhua reported. 

Local residents however put the death toll at two. They told Reuters they heard a loud explosion that completely destroyed a vehicle carrying armed people.

Yemeni officials reported a drone hitting a a moving vehicle. 

Central Command said the aim of the strike was "to disrupt terrorist compounds, and attack networks in Yemen". 

"The US is conducting a series of sustained counterterrorism operations in Yemen against AQAP to degrade the group’s ability to hold territory and coordinate external terror attacks," spokesperson Major Josh T. Jaques said. 

YEM273C link

23 May 2017

Yemeni officials commenting on the US raid in Marib province on May 23 (more information in the entry above) told AP that bombing had also occurred in Bayda province. 

However, a spokesperson for US Central Command said no other US operations, including strikes, had been carried out outside of the raid during that time frame. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike
  • Location: Bayda
  • References: AP

YEM273 link

23 May 2017

  • 7-12 reported killed
  • 5 civilians reported killed, including 0-1 children
  • 5-6 reportedly injured

US special forces conducted a raid on what the US described as an "AQAP associated compound" in Marib province in the early hours of May 23 (Yemen time). 

The compound comprised of a few buildings, Pentagon Spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis said, used by AQAP as "a headquarters, a place to meet and plan for external operations and to lead the group”.

The operation marked the first time the US conducted an operation into Marib, he said, and the location was the "deepest the military has gone into Yemen to fight al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula".

The raid, involving both "small-arms fire and precision air strikes", killed seven members of AQAP, a US Central Command press release said. It added that the operation was conducted with the support of Yemen's government.

While Davis said the aim was to disrupt AQAP operations, Colonel John Thomas, a Central Command spokesman, told the New York Times the raid aimed to seize potentially important information. It was not an attempt to kill or capture a particular target, Thomas said.

"Raids such as this provide insight into AQAP's disposition, capabilities and intentions, which will allow us to continue to pursue, disrupt, and degrade AQAP," the Central Command statement said.

The exact location was not given in the statement, but Yemeni officials told AP that the raid took place in the al Sirim area of Marib province. 

AP said helicopters landed in the outskirts of the town of Jouba near al Sirim, which it said was known as one of AQAP's hideouts and has been the target of a series of recent air strikes. 

Two unnamed US officials told Reuters that the raid was carried out 40-45 km (25-30 miles) north of the botched January raid, which killed nine children under 13 years of age. A US Navy SEAL also died. 

The US officials said that there were no known US casualties in this raid. Colonel Thomas also said there were no indications of US casualties. One of the officials said there had been no immediate reports of civilian casualties. 

Iona Craig, a journalist who has spent a considerable amount of time in Yemen, disputed the above, saying five of those killed were tribesmen in a tweet. Craig published an article in The Intercept shortly after. Eyewitness accounts in that claimed five civilians were killed, including one child, and another five were wounded.

The raid involved 40-60 commandos supported by eight or nine attack helicopters and other aircrafts, alongside Emirati forces, according to local residents. The raid allegedly took place al Adhlan, a hamlet in the village of al Khathlah, al Jubah district. US Central Command would not answer whether it had been a joint US-UAE raid, directing us to the Emirati side for more information. 

The child was named as 15-year-old Abdullah Saeed Salem al Adhal, reportedly shot as he fled from his home with women and children after Apache helicopters began firing at buildings. His brother told the Intercept, "My little brother Abdullah ran for his life with the other women and children. They killed him as he was running.”

Seven men, guests at a house in the village, were also killed, according to a senior figure in the village. The figure said there had been a long-standing debate regarding locals providing guest-houses for Al Qaeda fighters. These seven could account for the seven AQAP members the US has said it killed. 

None of the villagers The Intercept spoke to were aware of any materials or people taken by the commandos during the raid, which contradicts US claims it was undertaken to gather electronic devices for intelligence purposes. 

Reprieve, a human rights organisation, also claimed five of the dead were civilians. A further six villagers were seriously injured, it said. 

Witnesses told Reprieve that Nasser al-Adhal, a 70-year-old man who was partially blind, was shot when he tried to greet the Navy SEALs, mistaking them for guests. Four others were reportedly killed after an argument started with the soldiers over Nasser's death. Witnesses from the village of Al Jubah identified the four as Al Ghader Saleh Salem Al Adha, Saleh Al Taffa, Yasser Al Taffaf Al Adhel and Shebreen Saeed Salem Al Adhal, Reprieve said. 

According to their account, at least two AQAP fighters were killed after engaging in a firefight with the US soldiers, after being alerted to their arrival by gunshots in the village. The Navy SEALs then reportedly left via helicopter. 

US Central Command told the Bureau it had received the reports of civilian casualties and was looking into the matter. 

Iona Craigأيونا كريچ on Twitter

Five tribesmen amongst killed in US raid last night were not AQ. They were tribesmen of young activists who drove me from Mareb into Yakla.

YEM272 link

29 April 2017

  • 4-5 reported killed

US Central Command confirmed a strike had been carried out in Marib province on April 29, targeting four alleged members of AQAP.

There had been reports of a strike hitting Marib, but there was some confusion over the dates. A military official told AFP an early morning drone strike targeted a car transporting arms from Yakla in Bayda province on April 30, the site of the botched US raid in January. The official said the car, which was hit in Marib province, belonged to a local AQAP leader. Five suspected AQAP members were killed, the official added. 

Local news site Yemen Ajel also reported a strike hit a car transporting weapons to Marib province, but it did not specify the point of departure. It was also unclear on the date - a drone fired three consecutive missiles at either 22:30 GMT on April 29 or 12:30am local time on April 30, it said, according to Al Jazeera.

AP reported Yemeni tribal and security officials saying four people were killed in a drone strike while also driving a car in Marib. While the report stated they were members of al Qaeda, it also said two of the men were identified as belonging to one of the local tribes and the other two people remained unidentified. 

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Marib province
  • References: AFP, AP, Yemen Ajel, US Central Command via email

YEM271 link

29 April 2017

  • 3 reported killed

US forces conducted a strike in Shabwah province on April 29, according to US Central Command. The strike targeted three AQAP fighters, it said. 

Reports had surfaced of a possible US strike hitting a car in the province but it could not be confirmed at the time. An unnamed Yemeni security official told AFP that three suspected Al Qaeda members were killed while driving their car in Rawda in Shabwah. While AP mentioned this strike in their reporting of another possible strike, they referenced no sources.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Rawda district, Shabwa province 
  • References: AFP, AP, US Central Command via email 

YEM270 link

24 April 2017

  • Unknown reported killed

US forces have conducted 80 strikes in Yemen since March, Pentagon Spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said on April 24. 

“Since February 28, we've conducted more than 80 precision strikes against AQAP militants, infrastructure, fighting positions and equipment, and we'll continue to conduct operations including strikes against known terrorists,” he added.

We had recorded 70 strikes between February 28 and April 2 as a result of earlier comments from Captain Davis. Since April 2, the Bureau had recorded two confirmed strikes. An additional eight strikes have been added to our database. 

References: US Department of Defence news article

Below is a list of possible strikes we had recorded since April 2 but had been unable to confirm: 

April 19:

  • 2-5 reported killed

AFP reported two possible US drone strikes overnight based on information from military sources, one of which hit a vehicle in Shabwah province. Two suspected fighters were killed, the sources said. 

Yemeni security officials also told AP about two suspected US drone strikes. One of these hit Shabwah but the official said this killed five suspected fighters and took place a day earlier. These could be two separate strikes.

However, while a spokesperson for US Central Command confirmed a strike on April 19 in Marib province, they did not confirm that a strike took place in Shabwah on either April 18 or April 19. 

References: AFPAP, US Central Command via email

April 7:

  • 2 reported killed

Unnamed local security sources told AFP that two suspected al Qaeda fighters were killed in a US drone strike. They were reportedly targeted on the evening of April 7 as they rode a motorbike through Sawmaa area in Bayda province. 

This strike is the third reported to have hit a motorcycle in possibly three consecutive days. We have been unable to confirm neither this strike, nor the other two strikes, due to vague sourcing.

References: AFP

April 6: 

  • 2-3 reported killed

Reports surfaced that Khattab al Wuhayshi had been killed in a possible US strike. He was identified in the reports as a close relative of the former leader of the Yemen-based al Qaeda branch, Nasir al Wuhayshi.

Xinhua reported that Khattab al Wuhayshi, described as the nephew of Nasir al Wuhayshi, and his bodyguard were killed when a missile fired from a possible US drone hit their motorcycle on the night of April 5 in Bayda province. The source for the information was an unnamed security official. This seems similar to an account of a drone strike hitting a motorbike and killing two men, one being a suspected al Qaeda official, on the same night, but this reportedly happened in Abyan province. 

AP reported Yemeni tribal and security officials saying a suspected US strike in Bayda province killed Khattab al Wuhayshi, described as the brother of the late leader, and two others. The strike hit on April 6, it said. 

References: XinhuaAP

April 5:

  • 1 reported killed

AFP reported an unnamed security official saying a drone strike killed alleged Al-Qaeda provincial official Ahmed Ali Saana while he was riding his motorbike in the town of Khabar al Muraqasha in Abyan province late on April 5. 

The sourcing is too vague to confirm this strike and include it in our strike tally as yet.

References: AFP

YEM269 link

23 April 2017

  • 3-8 reported killed
  • 3-8 civilians reported killed

Reports surfaced of a possible US drone strike in Shabwah province on April 23. The strike reportedly targeted members of al Qaeda, with some reports of civilian casualties. 

AFP reported a security official saying a possible US drone fired a missile on a vehicle in Al Said area of the province, killing five alleged al Qaeda members. Three civilians who came to their aid were killed when a second missile was fired, according to the official. Earlier, a local official had told AFP that three suspects had been killed. 

Asharq al Awsat reported a similar version of events, with a strike killing five al Qaeda suspects and then killing three civilians who ran to the aid of the first victims, also citing security sources. The strike took place in Al Said town, it said. 

Residents told Al Masdar that four strikes hit a car belonging to AQAP, but also hit a car carrying civilians nearby. Five alleged fighters were killed, along with three civilians, they said. 

A local authority source told Yemen Shabab Net that three civilians were killed in the attack as they were driving near the target vehicle, which reportedly had five members of al Qaeda. 

The Intercept spoke to relatives of those killed, who alleged that the men were eating lunch at a security checkpoint. According to Ammar Salim Farid Alawlaqi, a drone strike killed his uncle Mansoor Allahwal Baras, a former Yemeni Army lieutenant in his late thirties, who was chief of the checkpoint. Mansoor's two cousins Nasir and Khalid, both 23, were also reportedly killed. Khalid was on vacation from studies in Malaysia.  

The men had been joined by a car of five others before the strike. Alawlaqi said while the five had past links to terrorist groups, they had quit this "movement" two years ago. 

Tribal and security officials told the Guardian that a suspected US strike hit a vehicle and killed three alleged al Qaeda operatives, but there was no mention of civilian casualties. 

AP said three al Qaeda suspects were killed in a strike in Shabwah while they were driving a car, but a date was not specifically given. No civilian casualties were reported in the AP copy.

US Central Command confirmed a strike took place on that date in Shabwah province. A spokesperson said they were aware of reports of civilian casualty allegations and were looking into them. Pentagon Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis also confirmed the strike, adding that it was carried out against eight AQAP targets.

Soon after the Pentagon said that one of the dead was Abu Ahmed Al Awlaqi, a "key leader" of the group, according to Fox News. Al Awlaqi reportedly led operations for AQAP in Shabwa province, planned external attacks and coordinated the movement of weapons and explosives for the group. 

The relative interviewed by The Intercept however said the man the Pentagon called an AQAP leader was known to him as Muhammad Awad Barasane. He had been a member of AQAP and Islamic State's Yemen branch, but had left both groups, he said. 

Following the Intercept piece, we followed up with US Central Command. They said that after a thorough review, they concluded the civilian casualty allegations from the strike were not credible.

YEM268 link

18 April 2017

  • 3-4 reported killed

US Central Command confirmed a US strike was conducted in Marib province on April 18. It had initially confirmed the strike took place the next day, but amended this in a later email. Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the strike targeted three AQAP members. 

There had been reports of two strikes, one of which reportedly hit Marib. Local officials told Reuters on April 19 that an overnight drone strike killed four suspected al Qaeda members as they travelled through Marib province. One official said the bodies were too badly burnt to identify them

"A drone hit a car carrying four suspected al Qaeda members near the town of Al Hami. The vehicle was completely burned and the persons inside were killed," a second Marib official reportedly told Reuters. 

AFP reported two possible US drone strikes overnight based on information from military sources, one of which reportedly hit Marib province. The strike hit a car in the province, killing three people, the sources said. AP also reported two possible US drone strikes, one of which they said hit Marib province and killed four suspected al Qaeda fighters.

The other reported strike was believed to have hit Shabwah province. Additional details can be found in entry YEM270. 

YEM267 link

2 April 2017

  • Unknown reported killed

The US carried out 70 strikes in Yemen between February 28 and April 2, according to Pentagon Spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis. Twenty of these were conducted over the past weekend (April 1-2), and seem to have solely hit Shabwah province.

Interestingly, the Pentagon said the weekend strikes were “largely unmanned”, which means they were conducted by drones. The US does not usually specify the use of drones. 

From the press release, it appears that 50 strikes were conducted in March and in the first two days of April, a further 20 were carried out. The twenty strikes carried out between April 1 and 2 have also been added and logged in our Yemen dataset.

Type of strike: US drone and air strike
Location: Shabwah province 
References: US Department of Defence news article

YEM266 link

31 March 2017

The US carried out 70 strikes in Yemen between February 28 and April 2, according to Pentagon Spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis. Twenty of these were conducted over the first weekend in April (April 1-2), and seem to have solely hit Shabwah province.

Interestingly, the Pentagon said the weekend strikes were “largely unmanned”, which means they were conducted by drones. The US does not usually specify the use of drones. 

From the press release, it appears that 50 strikes were conducted in March and in the first two days of April, a further 20 were carried out. The Bureau has added a further 10 strikes to our March strike data, as we had already recorded 40 strikes. The twenty strikes carried out between April 1 and 2 have also been added and logged in our Yemen dataset under YEM265. This is so the strike figures can be broken down by month.  

This confirms reports surfacing of possible strikes in Yemen. Below is a list of possible strikes we had recorded but had been unable to confirm: 

March 30: 

Three suspected members of al Qaeda were killed overnight in a possible drone strike in Abyan province, according to local officials and residents reported in Reuters.

The sources said the attack took place in Mozno in al Wadie district. They identified one of the dead as Waddah Muhammed Amsouda, a local leader of the group, who was reportedly meeting the others in a house.

Residents reported a separate attack on what was believed to be an al Qaeda vehicle in the same province, but casualty figures were unknown. This could be referring to the possible strike listed in the entry below, which residents said also hit a vehicle, according to an earlier Reuters report.

The New Arab reported that unnamed local sources had told them an undisclosed number of people had been killed in at least three air strikes in the village of al-Suda in Abyan province. While these reportedly took place in a different area, the sources said they hit the house of a "leader", and also a vehicle.

The New Arab reported that Abyan province had been hit by US drone strikes and naval bombardments killing a number of AQAP members on March 30.

References: Reuters, The New Arab

March 28:

A drone strike hit a vehicle killing four suspected al Qaeda members in Abyan province, according to residents and a security official.

Residents told Reuters that the attack took place in Amqoz in Moudiya district around midnight on March 28. A security official in AFP said two missiles hit the vehicle on the outskirts of Moudiya town.

Residents reported a possible second attack in Abyan. They said they heard missile strikes hit a suspected al Qaeda outpost in Wadi al-Naseel area, but were unsure on casualty figures.

References: AFP, Reuters

March 14:

A security official said that two suspected members of Yemen's branch of al Qaeda had been killed in what appeared to be a US air strike in Hadramawt province.

The official identified the men as Abu Jandal al Hadrami and Abu Hashim al Sharuri.

Hadramawt province was not one of the three provinces hit in the upsurge of strikes between March 2 and March 6. President Trump reportedly granted a Pentagon request to declares parts of these provinces as "areas of active hostilities", allowing the US to launch attacks with fewer constraints. To read more, see here.

References: AFP, New York Times, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

March 9: 

A suspected AQAP member was killed in a drone strike near the town of Wadia in Abyan province, a security source told AFP. The source named the deceased as Qassem Khalil. 

The sourcing is too vague to record this as a confirmed US strike as yet.

References: AFP

YEM265 link

6 March 2017

  • 7-11 reported killed
  • 0-2 children reported killed

A US air strike conducted overnight in Abyan province brought the total number of strikes carried out in the past five nights to 40, Pentagon Spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said in a press briefing on March 6. 

Davis said the overnight strike killed seven al Qaeda fighters, according to the New York Times. 

This confirmed reports of strikes hitting Yemen in the days following March 2 and 3, when an unprecedented number of strikes hit targets across three Yemeni provinces. 

Reuters had reported residents and tribal sources saying a drone strike destroyed a car travelling in Wadi Yashbum on the afternoon of March 6, charring the two men inside, believed to be members of al Qaeda, beyond recognition. Residents reported another strike hitting the home of a suspected al Qaeda member in the village of Noufan in Bayda province, while another reportedly struck a mountainous area in al Saeed, Shabwa province, which was supposedly a training camp for the group.  

Residents said two boys under 15, named as brothers Ahmed and Mohammed al Khobze, were killed by a drone strike while walking on a road reportedly used by al Qaeda fighters in Yakla, Bayda province, on March 6, according to Reuters. Yakla was the site of last month's botched US raid which killed nine children under the age of 13. 

US Central Command said they were not aware of any credible civilian casualty allegations from the March 6 strike. They did say they had looked into the allegations in the Reuters reporting and determined they were not credible in accordance with their established procedures. Four AQAP fighters were targeted in the March 6 strike, killing two AQAP armed fighters, US Central Command said. 

On March 3, Captain Davis told reporters that approximately 25 strikes had been conducted on March 2 and "several" more had hit Yemen on March 3, putting the combined total of strikes at more than 30. A defence official in Washington reportedly told AFP that the US conducted "about 10" strikes on March 3.

The Bureau recorded between 30-35 strikes on March 2 and 3 as a result of the above information. The latest remarks from Captain Davis means there were at least five additional strikes in the days following, up until the press briefing on March 6. We had only recorded one confirmed strike and have now included the extra strikes in our database to bring the total since March 2 to 40. 

YEM264 link

4 March 2017

  • 2 reported killed

Local sources told Anadolu Agency that two suspected al Qaeda militants were killed when a drone struck their motorbike in eastern Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province. 

Al Jazeera also reported that a drone strike killed two suspected fighters on a motorbike, based on information from a security official, although the source said it hit Ahwar, located in the same province. AFP also reported a security official providing the same details. 

Reuters reported two strikes based on information provided by tribal sources and residents, one of which hit a "vehicle" travelling on the outskirts of Ahwar. 

Another strike hit a crowd of suspected al Qaeda fighters in Al Saeed in Shabwah province, according to tribal sources and residents reported in Al Jazeera and Reuters, but casualty figures were not given. The sourcing was too vague to record it as a confirmed strike. 

Over the previous two days, three provinces in Yemen, including Abyan and Shabwah, witnessed an extremely high number of strikes.

On March 6, Pentagon Spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis said that a total of 40 strikes had been carried out over the past five nights, which would include the confirmed strike above and may include the possible second strike. 

YEM263 link

3 March 2017

  • 1-8 reported killed
  • Possible reported civilian casualties

The US hit Yemen with a high number of strikes for a second consecutive day. 

Pentagon Spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis told reporters that US warplanes conducted approximately 25 strikes on March 2 and "several" more on March 3, putting the combined total of strikes at more than 30. Meanwhile, a defence official in Washington reportedly told AFP that the US conducted "about 10" strikes on March 3.

Captain Davis said the US was engaged in a sustained campaign in areas where AQAP is most active, but said that no US ground troops had been involved in the firefights since the January raid.

AFP reported tribal sources saying that US strikes hit three houses in the Yashbam Valley before dawn on March 3, one of which belonged to Saad Atef, al Qaeda's Shabwa province commander. Security officials reported that eight fighters were killed, and tribal sources said that women and children were wounded. 

Middle East Eye reported Wadi Yashbum village in Shabwah province being targeted, but reported residents saying they were hit with 10-15 strikes. Three hours later, according to MEE, residents of Jabal Mugan in Abyan province reported strikes. Residents also cited ground battles involving US troops and al-Qaeda fighters, although Captain Davis has said that ground troops were not been involved.

AP reported a Bayda tribal leader saying houses were bombed in Yakla, the site of the botched January raid, but it was not clear on what day this might have happened. 

On March 6, the Pentagon announced Harithah al Waqri had been killed in the March 3 strikes, describing him as an AQAP fighter and communications intermediary for Usayd al Adani, who they also announced the death of. More information on Adani can be found in the entry below. 

YEM262 link

2 March 2017

  • 2-12 reported killed

In an unprecedented intensification of America’s counter-terrorism operations in Yemen, the US confirmed it carried out 20 strikes across three provinces. 

This figure was upped on March 3, when Pentagon Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis told reporters that approximately 25 strikes had been conducted on March 2. 

The strikes, which were carried out in the early morning of March 2, targeted fighters from the regional arm of al Qaeda, known as AQAP, their equipment and infrastructure, in the Yemeni provinces of Abyan, al Bayda and Shabwah, according to a press release from the US Department of Defense published on the same day. 

Captain Davis said in the statement that the strikes were conducted in partnership with the Government of Yemen, and were coordinated with the President Hadi.

Early on, AFP reported two suspected US drone strikes in Yemen. The New York Times reported strikes in the three provinces in Yemen, based on information from a senior American military official and a Yemeni military official. AFP later amended their original report to say that four separate drone strikes had hit the country. 

A provincial security official told AFP that one strike hit the home of an al Qaeda fighter in Yashbum Valley, Shabwah province, killing four alleged fighters as they stood outside. Local residents were reported in the New York Times saying the strike destroyed a house used by al Qaeda operatives in the Saeid region of the province. Local media in Yemen also reported that at least three suspected Qaeda members has been killed in Shabwah, according to NYT. 

A second strike, according to a security source reported in AFP, hit an Al-Qaeda position east of the Abyan province town of Shaqra, but there was no immediate casualty figures. A Yemeni military official said airstrikes hit the Abyan mountains around 3.30 am local time.

An updated AFP report said that two strikes hit al Bayda province. They reported a local official and a tribal chief saying that a strike on Al Qayfa in Bayda killed three suspected al Qaeda members. The local official said that another strike hit Sawmaa district of the province, but there were no immediate casualty figures. 

Yemeni officials reportedly said at least 12 suspected fighters were killed in the strikes. 

The Pentagon announced on March 6 that one of strikes had killed former Guantanamo detainee, Yasir al Silmi. In a statement, the Pentagon said he was repatriated from Guantanamo to Yemen in 2009, after having been held in the detention centre since 2002. He was killed alongside Usayd al Adani in Abyan, described by Davis as a longtime AQAP explosives expert and facilitator who served as the organisation’s emir. 

All 25 strikes have been added to the database and included in the strike tally. 

YEM261 link

30 January 2017

  • 2 reported killed

A US drone strike killed two al Qaeda operatives driving through the southern province of Shabwa early on January 30, according to military, security and tribal sources. A US military spokesperson however told the Bureau: “I can confirm that Centcom did not conduct a strike in that area.” The CIA has yet to respond to an email inviting them to confirm or deny responsibility for the attack.

The attack came shortly after a US special forces raid targeting an al Qaeda-linked house in Bayda province left scores dead, including a US serviceman and nine children under 13 years of age.

YEM260 link

29 January 2017

  • 39 reported killed
  • 25 civilians reported killed, of whom 10 were reported children
  • 7 reported injured

The US Navy special forces conducted a raid in the Yakla region of Bayda province with the intent to gather information on AQAP. A US Central Command press release said a US serviceman and approximately 14 terrorists had been killed in the operation. Yemeni officials reported multiple civilian casualties following the raid.

US soldiers were flown to the location from the USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship, off the Yemeni coast. They approached the compound with Emirati troops but were met with withering fire. The “site exploitation mission” target was described by CENTCOM in a February 3 press release as an AQAP “staging area, propaganda center, and logistics hub”. Three US soldiers were wounded and Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL, was killed, according to CENTCOM

According to the US, a military aircraft assisting the operation experienced a “hard landing at a nearby location,” resulting in three more American injuries. It was unable to fly afterwards and was intentionally destroyed. US sources said it was a MV-22 Osprey, a helicopter-fixed wing hybrid used by the US marines.

US Central Command issued a later press release which said that an investigating team “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed”, which “may” include children. It said that the civilian casualties appeared to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire called in to assist US forces in “contact against a determined enemy”, which included “armed women firing from prepared fighting positions”. The ongoing assessment is probing whether there are still un-detected civilian casualties.

The Bureau worked with a journalist who visited the targeted village of al Yakla five days after the raid and talked to nine of the survivors. We collected the names of 25 civilians killed as reported by those who live there, see here. Human Rights Watch said the names matched the ones it collected, referencing the Bureau's work. Nine of those killed were under 13, including a baby of three months. Eight women were killed, including one who was heavily pregnant. Seven more women and children were injured.

A Pentagon official told NBC News on February 28 that the Pentagon did not dispute these numbers. However, in March,General Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee that US forces killed between four and 12 civilians casualties in the raid. A later investigation by NBC included US intelligence sources saying 16 civilians in total died as a result of the operation, contradicting Votel's March comments. NBC determined from official documents verified by US intelligence that ten children under 13 had been killed, slightly higher than we found. 

List of child victims under 13 years of age as given by villagers
Name Age
1. Asma Fahad Ali al Ameri 3 months
2. Aisha Mohammed Abdallah al Ameri 4 years
3. Halima Hussein al Aifa al Ameri 5 years
4. Hussein Mohammed Abdallah Mabkhout al Ameri 5 years
5. Mursil Abedraboh Masad al Ameri 6 years
6. Khadija Abdallah Mabkhout al Ameri 7 years
7. Nawar Anwar al Awlaqi 8 years
8. Ahmed Abdelilah Ahmed al Dahab 11 years
9. Nasser Abdallah Ahmed al Dahab 12 years

Abubakr Al-Shamahi on Twitter

Nawar Al-Awlaki, 8 years old, was killed in the US raid in Yemen yesterday. They haven't admitted it, but it happened. An 8 year old girl.

AQAP say 14 “of its men” were killed in the clash, including six villagers. The youngest was 17, the oldest 80.

Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis confirmed women were killed in the operation but said they were combatants. “The [female fighters] ran to pre-established positions as if they’d trained to be ready and trained to be combatants and engage with us. So, some of the enemy killed in combat are in fact female,” he said.

A CENTCOM press release on February 3 said officials believe Sultan al Dhahab and Abd-al-Ra’uf al-Dhahab, described as “longstanding AQAP operational planners and weapons experts”, had been killed in the operation. The al Dhahab family is an AQAP ally based in Bayda province. Its members have been attacked by the US in Yemen before.

Initial news reports differed on casualty figures. Reprieve found that 23 civilians were killed, including a newborn baby boy and ten children. According to them, local reports said a heavily pregnant mother was shot in the stomach during the raid and gave birth to an injured baby boy who died on January 31. Reprieve said that an 80-year-old man and a man who narrowly escaped death in a 2013 drone strike on his wedding were also killed. According to Washington Post, a Yemeni official said 35 to 40 people in the village had been killed, but it was unclear if they were all considered to be militants. According to the provincial official, 16 civilians were killed in the attack, including eight women and eight children. Medics at the scene told Reuters that around 30 people, including 10 women and children, were killed.

The operation had been planned for months but had been authorised by President Trump, according to the Washington Post. More details on the authorisation process were unveiled in a later NBC investigation. One day after Defence Secretary Mattis was sworn in, he was reportedly briefed on Yemen. It seems that the Obama administration had created a new campaign plan in late 2016 for Yemen but had deferred a decision on it, allowing the incoming administration to take over. A specific raid on Yakla was proposed.

The NBC investigation explained how the decision on this raid was made: 

Secretary Mattis supported the mission as presented to him, and the new Trump national security team met for the first time on the night of Jan. 25 to consider it. Present were the president, Vice President Pence, Mattis, then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, CIA Director nominee Mike Pompeo, chief strategist to the President Steve Bannon, and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. Absent was any representative of the State Department, a departure from common practice in past administrations of both parties. 
Over dinner, they discussed an upcoming raid to occur that very weekend.
"It's certainly unusual," said NBC News consultant Sean Naylor. "You don't often hear about major combat actions being approved over a meal..." 
Naylor is one of the country's leading experts on the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), the national mission force made up of SEAL Team 6 and the Army's Delta Force as well as other highly-prized counterterrorism elements. 
Under the Obama administration, sources say, a mission of this sort would have been discussed and approved at multiple levels subordinate to the principals before being briefed inside the secure White House Situation Room. 
Two White House sources tell NBC News that Mattis and Dunford walked the new president through the mission objectives in the dining room, offering unreserved endorsement. If AQAP leaders were present, there was a chance for a big win; if not, the presence of leadership in the past and the potential intelligence take on the ground promised at least a fruitful site exploitation that would lead off a series of follow-on raids.
According to the two sources, both Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner questioned acting on what they saw as a leftover Obama plan. 
President Trump was disposed to approve the mission, but the next morning, he asked Flynn what he thought before he signed the so-called execute order or EXORD.
According to two White House officials, Flynn told the President that a tip from the UAE indicated that one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, Qasim al-Rimi, the leader of AQAP, might be at the Yemen target. He had been sighted there previously.

Flynn said that capturing or killing al-Rimi would distinguish the president from Obama right out of the box, the sources said. Trump would be a risk taker where Obama was a hesitant and endless deliberator, Flynn said. And the president would be honor the Gulf allies who were operating in Yemen. Multiple sources say that Flynn labeled the first week raid a "game changer."

The raid went ahead. But, an unnamed US official painted a grim picture of the assault, telling NBC News: “Almost everything went wrong.” US military officials told Reuters that Trump approved the operation without sufficient intelligence, ground support or adequate backup operations. As a result, the SEAL team found “itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists”, three officials told Reuters. According to NBC, the approaching SEALs lost the hoped for element of surprise - with overhead surveillance reportedly revealing individuals were moving into fighting positions. According to their findings, the Special Operations Task Force headquarters in Djibouti and the command element still on board the Makin Island ships knew this but a decision was made by the commanders to proceed. When the group entered the village, they met fierce resistance and within the first five minutes of the firefight, Owens had been mortally wounded. Within 50 minutes, it was reportedly all over. 

In a statement after the raid, Trump called it “successful” and credited it with capturing intelligence that would assist the US in “preventing terrorism against its citizens and people around the world”. CENTCOM shared clips from a series of lessons on bomb-making obtained from a computer seized in the raid, however it transpired that the videos appeared to be ten years old and had already been available on the internet. 

In response, CENTCOM spokesman Colonel John Thomas said: “CENTCOM asks for operations we believe have a good chance for success and when we ask for authorization we certainly believe there is a chance of successful operations based on our planning.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer detailed the process of approving the mission in a press briefing, stressing the steps taken prior to Trump taking office, although some members of Obama’s national security team disputed this version.

YEM259 link

22 January 2017

  • 1-3 people reported killed

Local officials told Reuters that three suspected al Qaeda members were killed in two separate US drone strikes hitting two vehicles, both occurring on January 22. The sourcing was too vague to confirm the strike, but US Central Command confirmed a single strike hit the province on the same day, which they said killed one "AQAP operative". 

The US confirmed strike has been added to our strike tally. Where sources differ over how many strikes took place or how many people were killed we provide a minimum and maximum count in our datasets. We have included the extra strike and the two additional people reported killed in Reuters in the maximum count. 

Although these appear to be the first US strikes outside areas of active hostilities since the new administration moved in, the Washington Post reported Pentagon spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis saying that they did not require approval by recently appointed Defense Secretary James Mattis or President Donald Trump.

YEM258 link

21 January 2017

  • 3-6 reported killed

Reports surfaced regarding possible US drone strikes in Bayda province. 

A security source told AFP that a drone strike on 21 January hit a vehicle in Sawmaa of Bayda province killing three “armed members” of al Qaeda. A strike on the same day killed three suspected “jihadists” riding a motorcycle, the source said. 

AP reported security and tribal officials saying that three alleged al Qaeda operatives were killed in two suspected drone strikes on January 21, including Abu Anis al Abi, an “area field commander”. 

The US Central Command confirmed a strike in Bayda province on January 21 killed three AQAP operatives. 

Due to the vague sourcing and contradictory information in the above reporting, we have used a range in our datasets. The minimum strike and casualty figures will be taken from the information from US Central Command, while the upper end of the range will include the reporting in AP and AFP. 

Although these strikes seem to be the first US strikes outside areas of active hostilities since the new administration moved in, the Washington Post reported Pentagon spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis saying that they did not require approval by recently appointed Defense Secretary James Mattis or President Donald Trump.

YEM257 link

20 January 2017

  • 1 reported killed

A local security source told AFP that a drone strike on January 20 killed a "local military instructor" in Bayda province. A US spokesperson later confirmed that a strike hit the province on the same day and said it killed one AQAP operative. 

Although the strike occurred on the same day as the inauguration of the US president, the Washington Post reported Pentagon spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis saying that they (three strikes confirmed by the US) did not require approval by recently appointed Defense Secretary James Mattis or President Donald Trump.

YEM256 link

8 January 2017

  • 1 reported killed

A US military press release announced a strike in Bayda province had killed one AQAP operative. The press release was published four days after the strike occurred.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement on January 13 that the strike had killed Abd al Ghani al Rasas, described as an AQAP “terrorist leader”. Cook said: “This strike removes an AQAP senior leader and facilitator in the area and will disrupt AQAP’s terrorism operations in Yemen and the region.”