Yemen: Reported US covert actions 2018

The timeline below contains information on all US drone and air strikes and other covert actions in Yemen recorded by the Bureau in 2018. 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.

US operations, Yemen 2018
Confirmed US air and drone strikes Possible US air and drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total reported strikes 35 0 0
Total reported killed 20-25 0 0
Civilians reported killed 1-5 0 0
Children reported killed 0-1 0 0
Total reported injured 0-3 0 0

Strikes

YEM317 link

28 September 2018

US Central Command said two US strikes had been carried out in September (as of September 28), but no additional details were given.

We had recorded one in the entry below, which had been reported also in the local press.

However, for this strike we have yet to find out any additional information, such as date or location. We will record this strike here on the date Centcom told us about it, but this is unlikely to be the date it occurred on.

We have asked Centcom for more details and will update this post when or if more information comes to light.

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

YEM316 link

9 September 2018

  • 4 reported killed

US Central Command confirmed it carried out a strike targeting AQAP in Abyan on September 9.

Centcom provided no casualty estimates, but news sites said the strike killed four members of AQAP in a mountainous area of the province's Ahwar district.

A security official told The National that Ali Shanna, known as Sameh Al Marmi, had been killed in the attack. Marmi was described as top field commander, believed to have been the right-hand man of Jalal Baleedi, AQAP's leader in Yemen before he was killed in 2016 by a strike. We have reached out to Centcom on this.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Ahwar district, Abyan province
  • References: US Central Command via email, The National, First Post

YEM315C link

17 August 2018

A US drone strike carried out last year in Yemen may have killed Ibrahim al Asiri, described as al Qaeda's chief bomb maker, according to numerous sources.

Al Asiri is believed to have been behind the "underwear bomb" attempt to down an airliner over Detroit on Christmas day 2009, which failed, and other foiled aviation-related terror attacks.

The possibility that al Asiri had been killed was mentioned in a recent UN report, however there was no indication of how he died. A Yemeni security official, a tribal leader and an al Qaeda-linked source told AP he was killed in a US drone strike. This reportedly occurred in Marib province.

A US official has since confirmed to ABC that there is a high degree of confidence in nearly year-old intelligence that showed al Asiri was killed by a US drone while in Yemen.

The exact date of his alleged death was not given. The report from the UN's Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team stated that some member states believed the 'explosives expert' may have been killed in the second half of 2017. "Given al Asiri's past role in plots against aviation, this would represent a serious blow to operational capability," the report stated.

CNN reported that counter-terrorism analysts urged significant skepticism regarding al Asiri's death, as AQAP has not released any statement acknowledging it nor a eulogy celebrating his martyrdom, as would usually be expected.

We have reached out to Central Command on this and will update this post as soon as we get more information. We will record the strike in this entry, the date of the AP story, as a possible strike for now.

More information on al Asiri can be found in this UN profile.

YEM315 link

14 August 2018

The US carried out a strike on August 14, US Central Command said in a press release, but no additional details were given.

We have reached out to Centcom for more information

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

YEM314 link

24 July 2018

US Central Command said it conducted strikes on July 22 and 24, both in Hadramout governorate, in response to a Bureau query on the monthly strike total.

No further information was given. We asked for casualty estimates and are still awaiting a response. However, we believe that the Command will not provide this information as in February we were told they had been advised not to give out detailed information on strikes. More info on this can be found here.

This entry records the strike on July 24.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Hadramout
  • References: US Central Command press release via email

YEM313 link

22 July 2018

US Central Command said it conducted strikes on July 22 and 24, both in Hadramout governorate, in response to a Bureau query on the monthly strike total.

No further information was given. We asked for casualty estimates and are still awaiting a response. However, we believe that the Command will not provide this information as in February we were told they had been advised not to give out detailed information on strikes. More info on this can be found here.

This entry records the strike on July 22.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Hadramout
  • References: US Central Command press release via email

YEM312Ci link

22 July 2018

  • 4 reported killed

A drone strike targeted a house used by AQAP in Marib province killed four members of the group, AFP reported, citing officials in the local area.

The sourcing is however too vague to include this in our database of confirmed US strikes. We will reach out to US Central Command for more information.

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike
  • Location: Marib province
  • References: AFP

YEM312C link

6 July 2018

  • 7 reported killed

A suspected US drone strike killed seven people believed to belong to al Qaeda in Yemen's Shabwah province, a security official has said.

The group was hit as they drove along a side road in Shabwa’s Bihan district, official told AFP.

However, US Central Command said on July 11 that they had not carried out any strikes so far this month.

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike
  • Location: Bihan district, Shabwah province
  • References: AFP, US Central Command via email

YEM312 link

30 June 2018

  • Unknown reported killed

Two US strikes hit Yemen in June, US Central Command confirmed to New America.

One hit on June 23 and the other on June 30, but no additional details on locations or casualties figures were given.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Yemen
  • References: New America

YEM311 link

23 June 2018

  • Unknown reported killed

Two US strikes hit Yemen in June, US Central Command confirmed to New America.

One hit on June 23 and the other on June 30, but no additional details on locations or casualties figures were given.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Yemen
  • References: New America

YEM310C link

15 May 2018

  • 4 reported killed

A US drone strike killed four members of AQAP in Shabwah early on May 15, a security official told Xinhua. 

"Two vehicles of al Qaeda militants were struck with American missiles, leaving at least four terrorists killed at the scene," the official reportedly said. 

Local residents also said the two vehicles were completely destroyed with four charred bodies found in the area.

The US had confirmed a strike the day before, also in Shabwah. It could be that the reports are referring to the same strike. We have reached out to Central Command for further information. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike 
  • Location: Shabwah province
  • References: Xinhua

YEM310 link

14 May 2018

  • 3 reported killed

US Central Command confirmed reports of a US strike in Shabwah on May 14.

Yemeni tribal and security officials had told AP a US drone strike killed three al Qaeda members driving in a vehicle late that night.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Shabwah province
  • References: AP, US Central Command press release via email

YEM309 link

30 April 2018

US Central Command told the Bureau that there were four strikes in Yemen in April, but no additional details were given at the time. 

In a press release published in mid-May, additional details on two of the strikes was provided. These have been added into the database under the relevant dates. This entry records the remaining two.

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

YEM308 link

23 April 2018

A US strike on April 23 was detailed in a press release from Central Command in mid-May. 

The press release said a strike targeted an "AQAP checkpoint for asserting regional control and raising illegal revenue" in Bayda province. 

There were no further details.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Bayda province
  • References: US Central Command press release via email

YEM307C link

22 April 2018

  • 2 reported killed
  • 0-2 civilians reported killed

An unnamed security official was reported saying a US drone strike killed two men on a motorcycle in Shabwah province's Baihan district, however Central Command said there were no strikes in the province on the day it was reported to have taken place. 

The source said the identities of the dead were unclear as the bodies had been badly damaged in the strike. Al Masdar, which reported the strike, said the dead were suspected al Qaeda members. 

A tweet said a US strike had killed two sheep market labourers. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike 
  • Location: Baihan district, Shabwah province
  • References: Al Masdar, Central Command via email

YEM307 link

11 April 2018

A US strike on April 11 was detailed in a press release from Central Command in mid-May. The strike allegedly hit an AQAP training camp in Hadramout province. 

There were no further details.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Hadramout province
  • References: US Central Command press release via email

YEM306 link

29 March 2018

  • 3-4 reported killed
  • 0-2 reported injured
  • Possible civilian casualties

A US strike hit Yemen's Bayda province, the Pentagon confirmed to Reuters, but the identity of those it killed remains unclear with allegations of civilian casualties arising.

In a May press release, Central Command acknowledged the allegations and said it was conducting a credibility assessment of them. The US had said four members of AQAP were killed.The Pentagon had stated, according to Reuters, that no civilians were present and "therefore none were injured or killed as a result of the strike".

A Yemeni government official said at least three militants died in the strike. The Yemeni official speaking to Xinhua, said the US, acting on intelligence provided by Yemeni authorities, launched a drone strike on an "al Qaeda vehicle" in Bayda's Sawmaah. The three killed were "practicing terrorist activities", Xinhua reported.

However, a local official government source reported that three civilians were killed and two others injured. “The strike, which we suspect was carried out by the US, targeted a vehicle carrying civilians near the western entrance of Al Bayda’s Al Sawmaah directorate,” the source told Anadolu Agency. “The victims all hailed from Al Sawmaah; one of them, Salim al-Manzari, was the former head of Aden’s drivers union.”

In April, the US did respond to the Bureau regarding four allegations of civilian casualties, including this one. A spokesperson said: "After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of each civilian casualty report you provided, all four were assessed to be non-credible." However, the spokesperson noted that a finding of non-credible in many cases indicates a lack of evidence and is not intended to deny the possibility that a civilian casualty incident occurred. "At this time there is insufficient information to assess that, more likely than not, the strikes resulted in civilian casualties," he stated.

YEM305 link

29 March 2018

  • Unknown reported killed

A US spokesperson told the Intercept that six US strikes hit Yemen this month, all of which hit Hadramout province and targeted AQAP. The article was published on March 26 so the number provided does not cover the entirety of March. US Central Command later confirmed a further strike in March, which took place on March 29 and is in the entry above.

The Intercept examined three of these strikes and found they led to non-AQAP casualties. These three are recorded in more detail in the entries below. The March 29 strike also led to allegations of civilian casualties.

In June, Centcom gave FDD's Long War Journal additional details on March's strikes. This entry recorded three strikes that we knew happened but had no additional details on. We now know that two of these occurred on March 5 and another occurred on March 13, all in Hadramout.


YEM304 link

22 March 2018

  • 5-7 reported killed

A US drone strike killed AQAP suspects in a house in Marib province, tribal leaders and a provincial security official has said. However the US has said they carried out no strikes in Yemen on the day the strike reportedly took place.

The security official told Xinhua an overnight strike hit a house on a farm in Wadi Abida valley and killed five people. Yemeni tribal leaders told Associated Press seven AQAP members were killed when a house believed to be used by the militants was hit.

As we have two sources reporting the strikes we have included this strike in our database, but as a possible strike to reflect the US response. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike 
  • Location: Marib province 
  • References: AP, Xinhua, US Central Command press release via email

YEM303 link

9 March 2018

  • 6 reported killed, including possible civilian casualties

Three US strikes intending to hit AQAP killed Yemeni civilians and people believed to be fighting for groups allied to the US supported Saudi-led coalition, the Intercept has found. They all took place in Hadramout province.

Members of the al Mahashima tribe, to which all the dead belonged, provided accounts to The Intercept. Their accounts have been confirmed by independent sources and rights group Reprieve. Those killed were, they said, were poverty stricken people displaced by fighting in al Jawf province.

Tribe members drove to the town of al Hudhi to urge residents to relocate following two drone strikes in the area in a couple of days. Six members of the tribe, all belonging to one family, were reportedly driving back to Marib when their vehicle was targeted. They were in the area of al Abr when the strike hit at around 1700 local time, accounts say.

All six were reportedly killed. The dead have been identified as local tribal leader Abdullah al Qibli al Wuhair's three adult children and three adult grandchildren.

Local sources have stressed to the Intercept that none of the people killed were members of AQAP or Islamic State. A Yemeni intelligence official has said al Mahashima members reportedly belonged to AQAP were killed some time ago.

The uncle of Amer, the child reportedly killed in the March 5 strike, said he knew the victims of the March 9 strike and stated that they were not members of militant groups like AQAP. Four of them had, he said, been fighting alongside military units aligned with the Saudi-led coalition, which the US has provided support to by, for example, sharing intelligence.

The four people said to fight for military units, regardless of the unit's affiliation, would not be recorded as civilians. We have recorded a range of 0-6 civilians killed in this strike. This allows for the possibility that all six were civilians or that all six were affiliated with some kind of armed group. We will update this if more information comes to light.

When asked by the Bureau whether US forces carried out a strike on this day, a US spokesperson said they had on March 8, the day before.

The strike was included in our database as a possible strike. It's inclusion takes into account the information provided by The Intercept's sources, but including it as a "possible" strike reflects the military's response.

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike
  • Location: Al Abr, Hadramout province
  • References: The Intercept, US Central Command via email

YEM302 link

8 March 2018

When asked by the Bureau whether US forces carried out a strike on March 9, a US spokesperson said they had on March 8. This took place in Hadramout. 

As a result, we have recorded the March 9 as a possible strike (see entry above) and added the March 8 strike as an additional strike. We are trying to ascertain whether there is a possibility they are the same strike and there has been some confusion with the dates.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike 
  • Location: Hadramout province
  • References: US Central Command via email

YEM301 link

7 March 2018

  • 1 civilian reported killed

Three US strikes intending to hit AQAP killed Yemeni civilians and people believed to be fighting for groups allied to the US supported Saudi-led coalition, the Intercept has found. They all took place in Hadramout province.

Members of the al Mahashima tribe, to which all the dead belonged, provided accounts to The Intercept. Their accounts have been confirmed by independent sources and rights group Reprieve. Those killed were, they said, were poverty stricken people displaced by fighting in al Jawf province.

The first strike is detailed in the entry below. The second strike reportedly killed a man searching for cell phone coverage on the top of a hill in al Hudhi, a small town in Hadramout. He has been identified as Saleh al Wuhair.

It occurred at around 1700 local time, according to a member of his family and independent observers.

Local sources have stressed to the Intercept that none of the people killed in the three attacks were members of AQAP or Islamic State. A Yemeni intelligence official said the al Mahashima members that reportedly belonged to AQAP were killed some time ago. For example, the uncle of al Wuhair was an AQAP leader but he was killed in a drone strike about five years ago, according to one of al Wuhair’s relatives. Unlike some of the other people killed in the strikes, there was no mention that al Wuhair fought for any armed group. Therefor we have recorded him here as a civilian.

In an email to the Bureau, a US Central Command spokesperson confirmed US forces carried out a strike on this day in Hadramout.

In a later email in April, the US responded to the Bureau regarding four allegations of civilian casualties, including this one. A spokesperson said: "After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of each civilian casualty report you provided, all four were assessed to be non-credible." However, the spokesperson noted that a finding of non-credible in many cases indicates a lack of evidence and is not intended to deny the possibility that a civilian casualty incident occurred.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Al Hudhi, Hadramout province
  • References: The Intercept, US Central Command via email

YEM300 link

5 March 2018

  • 1-4 reported killed
  • 0-1 children reported killed
  • 0-1 reported injured

Three US strikes intending to hit AQAP killed Yemeni civilians and people believed to be fighting for groups allied to the US supported Saudi-led coalition, the Intercept has found. They all took place in Hadramout province.

Members of the al Mahashima tribe, to which all the dead belonged, provided accounts to The Intercept. Their accounts have been confirmed by independent sources and rights group Reprieve. Those killed were, they said, were poverty stricken people displaced by fighting in al Jawf province.

The first strike reportedly killed 13-year-old Amer Ali al Saqra Huraidan and injured his 19-year-old cousin.

The Intercept reported that they were returning from visiting relatives in al Hudhi, a small town in Hadramout, when a drone struck their car on a desert highway at around 1600 local time.

“He was too young to join [any militant groups],” Hasan, Amer's cousin who was injured in the attack said. His uncle told The Intercept: “There’s no link with Al Qaeda whatsoever.”

Local sources stressed to The Intercept that none of the people killed in the three attacks were members of AQAP or Islamic State. Hasan had reportedly just returned from fighting the Houthi rebels. A local activist said Amer's father was a leader in Islah, a Islamist party that has taken a lead role in fighting the same group. A Saudi-led coalition began a bombing campaign against the Houthis in 2015. While the US has not formally backed the Saudi coalition, it has provided support.

A US spokesperson had earlier confirmed a US strike in Hadramout on March 5, although no further details were provided at the time. Intercept were told six strikes had been carried out in Yemen this month, all of which hit Hadramout province.

In April, the US did respond to the Bureau regarding four allegations of civilian casualties, including this one. A spokesperson said: "After a thorough review of the facts and circumstances of each civilian casualty report you provided, all four were assessed to be non-credible." However, the spokesperson noted that a finding of non-credible in many cases indicates a lack of evidence and is not intended to deny the possibility that a civilian casualty incident occurred.

Soon after the strike, a caseworker at Reprieve tweeted that a US drone strike in Marib province had killed a child, but the US said no strikes were carried out there. The Intercept explained the confusion in the article, saying that early reports put the strike in Marib but it became clear that it infact took place in Hadramout - Amer and his cousin had been returning to Marib.

Prior to the Intercept report, a local security official told Xinhua: "A pilotless plane of the US Air Forces conducted a strike on a moving vehicle in Albar desert of Hadramout province, killing four members of al-Qaida network and destroying their vehicle."

We have recorded a range for our casualty figures. As the local security official noted four members of al Qaeda died in the strike, we have included a range that reflects this in the upper estimate but also includes The Intercept reporting. As the official did not report a child being killed we have recorded 0-1 children killed.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Hadramout province
  • References: US Central Command press release via email, Xinhua, The Intercept

YEM299 link

28 February 2018

  • Unknown reported killed

A US spokesperson told the Bureau five US strikes were carried out in Yemen in February, but no additional details were provided.

However, Long War Journal was given additional information on these strikes in June. Centcom told them six strikes had taken place in February, not five, all of which took place in Bayda province. These are as follows:

- Strike on February 7
- Strike on February 11
- Strike on February 12
- Strike on February 16
- Two strikes on February 24

We had already recorded the strikes on February 11 and February 16. The additional four strikes have been entered under this single entry.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Bayda
  • References: US Central Command press release via email, FDD's Long War Journal

YEM298 link

16 February 2018

  • 2-3 reported killed

Reports surfaced of a strike in Yemen's Bayda province. 

AFP said a motorbike was targeted at around midnight on February 16. A security official told them, "The strike targeted two al Qaeda militants, local commander Abu Hussein al Theriya and another, Dawoud al Sanaani, as they rode through the province."

However, Xinhua said a military official told them drone strike on February 17 hit a small pick-up truck killing three AQAP members. They also reported the death of a local commander. Residents near the scene confirmed to Xinhua that the bodies of the commander and two companions were in the vehicle. 

We reached out to Central Command who confirmed they carried out a strike on February 16 in Bayda province. No further details were provided. We have added this strike into the database. 

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Bayda province
  • References: US Central Command press release via email, AFP, Xinhua

YEM297 link

11 February 2018

  • 6 reported killed

The US confirmed it conducted a strike against AQAP in Bayda province on February 11. 

While no additional details were provided, AFP reported six members of the group were killed, citing a security official.

“An unmanned drone -- likely American -- bombed the group’s vehicle in the area of Qayfa, where Al-Qaeda is active,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Bayda province
  • References: US Central Command press release via email, AFP

YEM296 link

29 January 2018

US forces have carried out ten strikes in Yemen since the start of the year, a US Central Command spokesperson told the Bureau on January 29.

The Bureau hadn't recorded any strikes in our database for 2018 and we have not come across news reports on these attacks. We have now updated our database to include the ten strikes.

While we received no information at the time on where and when they occurred, or casualty estimates, the FDD's Long War Journal received more information in June.

Centcom said the US conducted eight strikes against AQAP in Bayda province in January. These took place on January 1, 3, 9, 12, 13, 20, 25, and 29. A strike against the Islamic State occurred on January 12, also in Bayda. One strike took place in Shabwah on January 26, targeting AQAP.

  • Type of strike: US air or drone strike
  • Location: Bayda and Shabwah provinces
  • References: US Centra Command press release via email,FDD's Long War Journal

YEM295Cii link

28 January 2018

  • 7 civilians reported killed

Protests reportedly erupted in Shabwah in response to an alleged drone strike killing civilians on January 28, but US Central Command has said they did not carry out a strike on this day. 

Residents say that a car was hit carrying at least six male members of the same family and another individual. They were reportedly looking for a missing child.

Saleh al-Aishi al-Ateeqi, a relative of one of the victims and the organiser of the protest, told local media that "the victims were all innocent civilians who had nothing to do with any political or religious organisation."

We had seen reports of a strike hitting a car in the same province and killing seven people, but this was reportedly the day before. The US also denied carrying out a strike in Yemen on that day. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike 
  • Location: Said district, Shabwah province 
  • References: Al Jazeera, US Central Command via email 

YEM295Ci link

27 January 2018

  • 7 reported killed

AFP reported a drone strike killing seven suspected AQAP fighters in Shabwah province in the early hours of January 27, citing a security source. A car was allegedly targeted in the strike. 

While US Central Command denied US forces carried out a strike on this day, they did say ten strikes had been carried out so far in 2018. We hadn't recorded any strikes since the start of the year. These ten are recorded in the entry above. 

  • Type of strike: Possible US strike 
  • Location: Shabwah province 
  • References: AFP, US Central Command press release via email