02.10.14 Drone Warfare

September 2014 Update: US covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

US strike jets have bombed targets in Iraq and Syria this month (Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/US Air Force)

CIA drones end a 49-day pause in strikes in Pakistan

Alleged al Qaeda fighters killed in Yemen strikes

US military drones kill al Shabaab leader in Somalia

Pakistan

September 2014 actions

Total CIA strikes in September: 2
Total killed in strikes in September: 7-15


All actions 2004 – September 30 2014

Total Obama strikes: 341
Total US strikes since 2004: 392
Total reported killed: 2,354-3,809
Civilians reported killed: 416-957
Children reported killed: 168-202
Total reported injured: 1,104-1,663
For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.

Two US drone strikes killed at least seven people in Pakistan, ending a 49-day pause between attacks.

Between five and 11 people died on September 24. None of the dead were identified but at least two and as many as 10 of them were reported to be Uzbeks.

This was the first strike since August 6, ending the third longest pause in attacks in Pakistan recorded by the Bureau since the start of 2007.

CIA drones struck again, four days later. At least two people were killed in the strike in South Waziristan – the first in that area since September 22 2013. Again, none of the dead were identified. But the strike reportedly hit a house belonging to an alleged militant, Ainullah, described as a commander in a local armed group loyal to the deceased veteran fighter Maulvi Nazir. Ainullah was reportedly the target but it is unknown if he was killed.

Nazir was killed in a drone strike on January 2 2013. He had been an ally of the Pakistani government, but was reportedly responsible for attacks on US and allied troops in Afghanistan. At the time, his death was described as “perhaps the most prized feather in [the] cap” of the US drone campaign.

The Pakistani military offensive has continued in North Waziristan this month, with the Pakistan Army claiming to have successfully cleared 80% of the area from militants. Pressure from the military offensive may have been responsible for factions apparently splitting from the Pakistan Taliban.

This fracturing does not appear to have stopped armed violence, however. A September 28 terrorist bomb attack on a refugee camp reportedly killed eight people, including three children.

Yemen

September 2014 actions

Confirmed US drone strikes: 1
Further reported/possible US strike events: 2
Total reported killed: 10-13
Civilians reported killed: 0


All actions 2002 – September 30 2014*

Confirmed US drone strikes: 66-78
Total reported killed: 343-499
Civilians reported killed: 64-83
Children reported killed: 7
Reported injured: 78-196

Possible extra US drone strikes: 99-118
Total reported killed: 330-523
Civilians reported killed: 24-48
Children reported killed: 6-9
Reported injured: 90-123

All other US covert operations: 14-79
Total reported killed: 150-386
Civilians reported killed: 60-89
Children reported killed: 25-27
Reported injured: 22-115
Click here for the full Yemen data.

* All but one of these actions have taken place during Obama’s presidency. Reports of incidents in Yemen often conflate individual strikes. The range we have recorded in US drone strikes and covert operations reflects this.

A US drone strike killed between four and five people on September 11. The dead were all allegedly affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The attack targeted a vehicle in the Bejan district of Shabwa province in southern Yemen.

The names of five men reportedly killed in the strike were published in media reports: Abdullah Ahmed Salem Mubarak (aka Abu Habbah), Abu Khaled al Awlaki, Abu Kaab, Saif al Shehri – a Saudi citizen, and Saud al Daghari. It is not confirmed that these are the identities of those killed in this strike, official sources have misidentified drone strike casualties in the past.

Abu Habbah was “an important AQAP leader in southern Yemen” according to the Long War Journal. He was reportedly AQAP’s military leader in Mahfad.

Two possible drone attacks also were reported this month, killing 6-8 and injuring three children. Both strikes were reported as drone strikes but the Bureau has so far not been able to corroborate these reports and confirm US responsibility for the attacks.

The first reportedly hit a vehicle on September 25. Four or five people died in the strike. Four names were reported by various sources. Two alleged AQAP commanders Adel Hardaba and Muhader Ahmad Muhader were killed, according to the Long War Journal. Two more alleged AQAP members were named in Emirati publication Gulf News: Esmail Mohammad Ahmed al Qaisi, 30, and Othman Mohsin al Daghari.

Three children were reported injured in another strike the following day. The attack killed 2-3 people, one of them identified as Abd al Aziz al Omari, a Saudi and AQAP social media propagandist. But it also reportedly injured a boy, 12, and two girls aged eight and five. Their father was quoted as saying: “I swear to God that I have no connection with al Qaeda. Why did not the drone target the car when it was in the desert?”

AQAP reportedly fired a rocket at the US embassy in retaliation for this strike. The US had pulled staff from the embassy earlier in the month in response to a dramatically deteriorating security situation, which has seen Houthi separatists take control of parts of the capital.

Somalia

September 2014 actions

Total reported US operations: 1
Total reported killed: 6


All actions 2007 – September 30 2014

US drone strikes: 6-9
Total reported killed: 16-30
Civilians reported killed: 0-1
Children reported killed: 0
Reported injured: 2-3

All other US covert operations: 8-11
Total reported killed: 40-141
Civilians reported killed: 7-47
Children reported killed: 0-2
Reported injured: 11-21
Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia.

A drone attack carried out by US special forces killed the leader of al Shabaab, Abdi Ahmed Godane. The strike, on September 1, was the first for seven months. It killed five people besides Godane. The attack was carried out by drones supported by manned aircraft, operating under US Joint Special Operations Command.

The US was unusually transparent about the strike: Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed the US has carried it out, and continued to comment on the record after the event. However it took five days for the US to confirm the death of Godane.

Godane, 37, was killed while travelling in convoy through the Lower Shabelle region of southern Somalia. He had initially trained as an accountant and worked for an airline before becoming embroiled in armed violence. He took control of al Shabaab in 2008 when his predecessor Aden Hashi Ayro was killed in a cruise missile strike.

The US government had put a $7m reward out for information on his whereabouts. His successor, Ahmed Umar, was reportedly elected unanimously. Within a month, the Somali government had put a $3m reward out for Umar.

Reports emerged in the French media after the attack alleging that French spies had provided the US with intelligence needed to locate Godane. The Pentagon would not comment on these reports when approached by the Bureau.

Al Shabaab, despite losing its leader, remains a potent threat inside Somalia and beyond its borders. Uganda declared it had seized explosives and arrested an al Shabaab cell in mid September, halting what was described as an “imminent attack”. The International Crisis Group thinktank meanwhile declared al Shabaab a “more entrenched and a graver threat to Kenya” now than a year ago, when gunmen affiliated with the group stormed Nairobi’s Westgate mall.

Other news from the drone war

The US began targeting the Islamic State group in Syria this month and continued to launch drone strikes against targets associated with the group in Iraq. Several allied countries have joined the US’s campaign against Islamic State, including Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and France.

Citizen journalism pioneer Eliot Higgins told the Bureau US drones had been sighted over both Syria and Iraq. Higgins, who blogs as Brown Moses, said that Islamic State appeared to have inadvertently helped US drones operate over Raqqa by knocking out part of the Syrian air defence system. Drones are slow moving and easily detected by radar, and therefore cannot operate effectively outside permissive airspaces like Yemen’s or Afghanistan’s.

Reports of Russian and Chinese armed drones emerged this month. The Russian Chirok will start test flights next year, while the Chinese CH-4 drone recently took part in multilateral military exercises in Inner Mongolia.

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