February 22 2016
♦ 4-5 reported killed
♦ 1-4 reported injured
The second CIA drone strike of the year in Pakistan killed three or four people and injured another. The strike hit a collection of buildings and vehicles in lower Kurram tribal agency.
Current or former Haqqani Network fighters were said to be the targets of the attack however none of the dead were identified in the first reports to emerge on the afternoon of February 22.
The strike hit before dawn, hitting three buildings and two vehicles used by Haqqani fighters to carry out operations in Afghanistan, according to an unnamed Pakistani official. However a security source told Express Tribune the attack targeted Abdullah and Jamshed Markaz, “former Haqqani Network” fighters. The source did not say if the men had perished in the strike. The injured man was taken to Doaba hospital, according to the INP news agency.
March 22 2016
♦ 40-50 reported killed
♦ Up to 30 reported injured
The Pentagon announced it had killed “dozens” of AQAP fighters in an airstrike on a training camp being used by more than 70 al Qaeda members.
Local medics and an unnamed local official told Reuters the death toll at 50 with around 30 injured. The jets struck “as al Qaeda people stood in line to receive their dinner meal,” the unnamed local official added. However anonymous tribal source and provincial official told AFP 40 people were killed.
Early reports erroneously said the strike was conducted by jets from the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen since March 2015.
This was the sixth US attack in Yemen in 2016. It hit a training camp on Yemen’s south coast – near the city of Mukalla in the eastern province of Hadramout. It came 17 days after US Air Force warplanes killed at least 150 al Shabaab fighters in a strike on a training camp in central Somalia.
“The Somalia and Yemen strikes suggest that the White House has authorized a significant opening of the aperture to target gatherings of suspected terror groups, rather than named individuals who pose imminent threats,” Micah Zenko, a foreign policy expert on the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Guardian.
The mass-casualty attack in Yemen did not constitute a new policy direction, Pentagon spokesman Major Ben Sakrisson told the Guardian. “This strike was conducted consistent with the policy for counter-terrorism direct action announced by the president in May 2013,” he said.
CIA and US military drones and jets have been targeting Yemen since 2002 but always under a veil of secrecy. This was the first time the US Department of Defence has announced it carried out a strike in Yemen.
The US has declared its responsibility for strikes in Yemen in the past but they have always either come via off-the-record comments by unnamed officials to journalists or in US government documents released under freedom of information rules.
The Bureau has not recorded a higher death toll from a US attack in Yemen since at least 55 civilians were killed in December 2009 by US Navy cruise missiles. One or two missiles hit a nomadic camp in the small hours of December 17 – each missile was loaded with hundreds of cluster munitions; each bomblet packed with incendiary material.
Type of attack: US air strike
Location: Hajr (around 75km west of Mukalla), Hadramout
References: Reuters, BBC, Associated Press, AFP, The Guardian, New York Times, Washington Post, Pentagon Statement, AFP