A New Image for an Old al-Qaeda

Over three decades, al-Qaeda has undergone a number of changes. Faced by an alliance of powerful governments and ISIS, another is now required. What it will be, we do not know with any certainty, but a couple of possible strategies have emerged in recent months.

In a 55 minute video released at the beginning of September 2014, the leader of al-Qaeda announced that the movement was expanding into India. Emir Ayman al-Zawahiri assured Muslims in Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Indian states of Assam and Gujarat, and Kashmir, that “your brothers” in the militant organization “did not forget you and…they are doing what they can to rescue you.” The declaration came two months after ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in his black cloak of Caliph Ibrahim, declared his hegemony over Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the one hundred and seventy-five million Muslims of India. Al-Zawahiri did not mention ISIS, but repeated his allegiance to Mullah Omar, the Emir al-Mu’minin and erstwhile leader of the Afghan Taliban. He appears not to have known that Mullah Omar had died nearly a year and a half earlier.

After al-Zawahiri released the September 2014 video, he disappeared for the next eleven months. The rumor mill produced stories that he had died, been removed in a coup, or was planning some spectacular event. The failure of the Emir to praise the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda, AQAP, for the successful attack in January upon the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was unusual. In addition, failing to eulogize the death of Nasir al-Wuhayshi in June, the leader of AQAP and his chosen successor, left many members worried, especially as the movement was increasingly under attack by ISIS in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Syria. The return in August of the Emir in a ten minute audio message did not explain his absence. He simply pledged his allegiance to the new leader of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, and eulogized the late Mullah Omar. The surprise which might explain the disappearance was that al-Qaeda has followed the Taliban back to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province from where it had fled fourteen years ago.

However, in the same month, one other surprise was the introduction of Hamza bin Osama bin Laden in a ten minute video that was recorded in May. The twenty-four year old son of Osama bin Laden praised martyrs to the cause, urged more attacks upon the West, and pledged his allegiance to Mullah Omar. As his grooming for great things continues, his introduction comes at a time when al-Qaeda is undergoing a transformation.

Al-Zawahiri and “Political Guerrilla War”

A recording by al-Zawahiri released this September and believed to have been made towards the start of 2015 reflects the shift in al-Qaeda’s strategy. “Despite the big mistakes [of ISIS], if I were in Iraq or Syria I would co-operate with them in killing the crusaders and secularists and Shi’ites even though I don’t recognise the legitimacy of their state, because the matter is bigger than that.” Abdullah bin Mohammed, an al-Qaeda ideologue, has similarly proposed that the strategy of recent years has been a failure and that change is necessary. In what he terms “Political Guerrilla War,” he advocates the merging of the al-Qaeda movement within a coalition of jihadi organizations. For these men, the path forward for al-Qaeda relies upon limited cooperation with those once shunned.

One branch of al-Qaeda where bin Mohammed’s methods appear to have been put into operation is in Syria. Abu Mariah al-Qahtani, the second-in-command of al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch, the al-Nusra Front, has voiced his support for a strategy of Political Guerrilla War. Al-Qahtani has noted his opposition to confronting powerful states that can overwhelm the movement or creating caliphates which are easy targets for superior military forces. In recent months, the al-Nusra Front has joined with a number of other jihadist groups to form the Army of Conquest. Through this application of bin Mohammed’s strategy, the united force concluded a lengthy siege and captured Abu al-Duhur Airbase – the last remaining government military base in Idlib Province. This group has even received approval and economic and material support from the Turkish, Saudi, and Qatari sponsors.

However, there have been reservations regarding the inclusion of the al-Nusra Front in any alliance, with this strategic shift causing a schism within the organization between those wishing to focus on Syria and those wanting to pursue the traditional objective of targeting the far off enemy (the West). Responding to doubters, al-Zawahiri outlined the al-Nusra Front’s strategy earlier this year. The al-Qaeda leader instructed the leadership to adapt to the local cultural and political environment by coordinating more closely with other radical groups, while promoting a Sharia legal system and strengthening its position.

AQAP’s Consolidation of Power

AQAP has been the most active al-Qaeda branch in international operations. Among the long list of foreign attacks this branch has been implicit in, there has been the Charlie Hebdo attack, as well as attempts to send bombs to the United States. There is no evidence that the shift in policy to localize operations has been extended to AQAP in Yemen. If anything, the opposite is the case, with the first public statement of AQAP’s new leader, Qassim al-Raymi, being used to call for more attacks upon the United States.

The real change for AQAP’s seizure of territory has come as a result of the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen’s Civil War which began in March. So far, the Saudis have ignored AQAP and the al-Qaeda branch has avoided contact with the Saudis, with AQAP using this time wisely to consolidate its own position in the region. To this effect, the branch has taken control of the south-eastern province of Hadramawt – the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden – and is strictly enforcing Sharia law throughout the province.

A further interesting development is that Iran released five of AQAP’s leaders in a prisoner exchange with the organization at about the same time as the Saudi-led intervention began. The loss of so many of AQAP’s key personnel to drone strikes in recent years makes the return of these five a much-needed infusion of vital management, ensuring that AQAP is a more dangerous force. Of these five, Saif al-Adel is viewed to be the most dangerous. The former colonel in the Egyptian Army has a five million dollar bounty on his head and is believed to have been involved in the 1998 bombings of U.S. Embassies in East Africa. In addition, Abu Mohamed al-Misri was substantially involved in al-Qaeda’s operational planning pre-9/11, while Abul Qassam was a contemporary of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, one of the key figures in al-Qaeda in Iraq before his death in 2006.

So long as the Saudi-led coalition is occupied through fighting Houthi rebels, AQAP has a substantial opportunity to consolidate its position in Yemen. Thus, when the time is right and the coalition inevitably abandons the battlefield, AQAP will be in a fantastic position to use its consolidated base to both strike out at the far enemy and challenge for supremacy in Yemen.

Reconciling the Two Strategies

The two potential paths of al-Qaeda are not necessarily mutually exclusive. AQAP’s unpragmatic approach may be difficult to pair with the realpolitik of al-Zawahiri and bin Mohammed’s Political Guerrilla Warfare, but the opposite need not be the case. Indeed, al-Zawahiri has also advocated lone wolf-style attacks on Western targets in addition to militants outside of the West concentrating on local conflicts and working with other extremist groups.

However, why Hamza bin Laden has been placed center-stage at this time remains an open question. A simple answer is that the young man provides al-Qaeda with a very strong psychological link to the figure who founded the organization and whom many revered as the Lion of Jihad. But is the son the Lion’s cub or will he also follow the path of Political Guerrilla Warfare? Time will tell.

OPINIONOctober 13, 2015 at 11:59 pm
BY FELIX IMONTI

Find this story at 13 October 2015

© Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Suspicions grow of Yemen link to Paris gunmen

IRBIL, IRAQ — As French police and security forces scoured the country for the two brothers suspected of massacring 12 people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, intelligence officials in Europe and the United States were conducting a search of their own – for evidence that would link the two to international terrorism organizations.

French officials told the intelligence services of two neighboring countries that they believed the two suspects, Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said, had recently traveled to Syria, where they’d fought with jihadist groups. But the French alert, distributed throughout Europe’s no-visa-required travel zone, offered no specifics on when the brothers supposedly traveled to or from Syria, and American officials, for one, were said to doubt the accuracy of the information.

“We’re assuming that the French are basing this on intelligence, but they have yet to specifically share it, as one assumes they’re pretty busy hunting these guys down right now,” said one European intelligence official who does not have permission to speak to the news media.

“But it’s certainly logical based on their clear professionalism and comfort handling their weapons in executing the journalists and police, as well as making their escape,” he added.

U.S. officials are said to be more interested in connections between the Kouachis and Yemen, where al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula remains al Qaida’s most aggressive branch. Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, now a CBS News consultant, told the network’s morning show Thursday that one of the Kouachis is thought to have traveled to Yemen in 2011.

Other sources said he was referring to Said Kouachi, 34, an assertion that was backed by French news reports. The French news magazine Le Point, citing unnamed European officials, said Said Kouachi had spent several months of 2011 training in Yemen with al Qaida-linked groups.

“We’re looking at an al Qaida in Yemen-directed attack,” Morell said. If further investigation proves that true, he said, Wednesday’s newspaper assault would be the first AQAP attack outside of Yemen since the 2009 Christmas Day bombing attempt when a Nigerian AQAP recruit attempted to detonate a bomb aboard a commercial airliner as it landed in Detroit.

U.S. intelligence officials refused to comment on what their investigation has found and declined to endorse Morell’s statements. But they were echoed by John Miller, a former CBS correspondent who now is the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, who appeared with Morell.

Also still unanswered is whether the Charlie Hebdo attackers were acting under their own initiative or were carrying out orders from a terrorist superior elsewhere. While French authorities have told news outlets that 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad faces no charges in Wednesday’s attack, there were worries that other conspirators remained at large.

On Thursday morning, a gunman described by witnesses as of African descent and wearing body armor shot and killed a police officer in Paris before escaping, leaving authorities to scramble to determine if the incidents were related.

Cherif Kouachi, at 32 the younger of the two brothers, has a long history of al Qaida-related sympathies. According to official French statements, he was convicted in 2007 of attempting to join al Qaida in Iraq and was detained for nearly three years as part of a broader investigation into an international jihadist trafficking ring that delivered fighters to Iraq to battle U.S. troops there.

Also convicted in that investigation was Boubaker al Hakim, who now claims to be a member of the Islamic State, the successor group to al Qaida in Iraq, that now controls large chunks of Iraq and Syria. Last month, al Hakim claimed responsibility for the assassination in 2013 of two secular politicians in Tunisia, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, researcher Jean-Pierre Filiu, an expert on radical Islam at Paris’ Sciences Po University, told the Agence France Press news agency in an interview. Filiu suggested that that connection suggests an Islamic State tie to the Kouachi brothers.

But Morell and Miller dismissed the likelihood of an Islamic State link, despite worries in Europe that hundreds of Europeans have flocked to Syria and Iraq to fight on behalf of the Islamic State. The Islamic State’s “job,” Miller said, “is to take territory and hold it, plant a flag and say this is the Islamic State. They are in the nation-building business.”

AQAP, on the other hand, is the al Qaida wing tasked with external actions, and the travel to Yemen by one of the Kouachi brothers “would suggest,” Miller said, “that this was organized and directed by al Qaida’s external planning operation.”

Indeed, Wednesday’s operation appeared to closely follow a script commonly used by al Qaida and the slew of groups its ideology and training camps have inspired. At least one witness said that the gunmen identified themselves as al Qaida members during the massacre in the newspaper’s newsroom. Le Point also said that as the gunmen were abandoning their getaway car, they told a passer-by “tell the media it’s al Qaida in Yemen.”

The attackers also appeared to be experienced and prepared. They reacted calmly when they realized they initially had arrived at the wrong office and quickly adjusted their plan to find the correct location, a sign that they were operationally comfortable and able to overcome a mistake also made not uncommonly by police and military raiders around the world.

The timing of the attack, during the newspaper’s hour-long weekly editorial meeting, indicates the attackers knew the editorial schedule of the newspaper and knew it was the one hour of the work week where all the top editors and cartoonists would be present in one room. And the attackers were able to overcome significant security procedures for a newspaper that was known to be a target and had been firebombed in 2011, including at least one armed police officer assigned to protect the editor because of previous threats.

They also called out the names of specific cartoonists to kill but let others live, and were comfortable enough with their weapons that they were able to accurately control their fire.

Still, the complexity of the operation would fall well within the capabilities of a small group of men trained on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Syria or Yemen. According to a police official quoted by Bloomberg news service, automatic AK-47 variants like those used by the attackers are easily purchased in Paris for about $1,200, making financing such an operation easily within range of a small group.

Such small groups have planned previous spectacular attacks without much outside support, including the July 7, 2005, London transit bombings, the 2004 Madrid train bombings, and a disrupted plot in 2006 to attack Heathrow airport.

The possibility that a small group could have planned the Paris attack on its own chills European security officials.

“That’s what we all fear, that this is where it’s headed,” said the European intelligence official. “These guys come home with skills and motivation but aren’t part of the traditional network.”

Prothero is a McClatchy special correspondent. Twitter: @mitchprothero
BY MITCHELL PROTHERO
McClatchy Foreign Staff
January 8, 2015

Find this story at 8 January 2015

Copyright http://www.mcclatchydc.com/

Turning a Wedding Into a Funeral: U.S. Drone Strike in Yemen Killed as Many as 12 Civilians

Human Rights Watch has revealed as many as 12 civilians were killed in December when a U.S. drone targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going toward the groom’s village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. According to HRW, “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians” and not members of the armed group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as U.S. and Yemeni government officials initially claimed. The report concluded that the attack killed 12 men, between the ages of 20 and 65, and wounded 15 others. It cites accounts from survivors, relatives of the dead, local officials and news media reports. We speak to Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler, who wrote the report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen,” and Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of the TheIntercept.org, a new digital magazine published by First Look Media. He is the producer and writer of the documentary film, “Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield,” which is nominated for an Academy Award.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A new report has revealed that a U.S. drone strike that killed at least a dozen people in Yemen in December failed to comply with rules imposed by President Obama last year to protect civilians. The strike was carried out by the U.S. military’s Joint Special Operations Command and targeted vehicles that were part of a wedding procession going towards the groom’s village outside the central Yemeni city of Rad’a. According to the Human Rights Watch investigation, quote, “some, if not all those killed and wounded were civilians” and not members of the armed group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as U.S. and Yemeni government officials initially claimed. The report concluded that the attack killed 12 men between the ages of 20 and 65 and wounded 15 others. It cites accounts from survivors, relatives of the dead, local officials and news media reports.

One of the witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed in Yemen was Abdullah Muhammad al-Tisi of Yakla. He described the scene on the day the wedding procession was attacked on December 12, 2013. His son, Ali Abdullah Muhammad al-Tisi, was killed in that drone strike.

ABDULLAH MUHAMMAD AL-TISI: [translated] We were having a traditional marriage ceremony. According to our traditions, the whole tribe has to go to the bride’s tribe. We were in about 12 to 15 cars with 60 to 70 men on board. He had lunch at the bride’s village at Al Abu Saraimah. Then we left to head back to the groom’s village.

A drone was hovering overhead all morning. There were one or two of them. One of the missiles hit the car. The car was totally burned. Four other cars were also struck. When we stopped, we heard the drone fire. Blood was everywhere, and the people killed and injured were scattered everywhere. The area was full of blood, dead bodies and injured people. I was injured. I saw the missile hit the vehicle behind the car my son was driving.

INTERVIEWER: [translated] Was it your car?

ABDULLAH MUHAMMAD AL-TISI: [translated] It was my own car. I went there to check on my son. I found his body thrown from the car. I turned him over, and he was dead. He was already dead.

I didn’t see any al-Qaeda militants in the procession, and no one from the area is a member of al-Qaeda. The Yemeni government gave us 100 Kalashnikovs and 34 million Yemeni rials, nearly $159,000 U.S., according to tribal tradition. According to tribal tradition, this alone is an admission of guilt, and the money was an admission of guilt. The money was for the burial of the dead and the treatment of the injured. The U.S. government made a big mistake. They killed innocent people. This was a serious crime. They turned many kids into orphans, many wives into widows. Many were killed, and many others were injured, although everyone was innocent.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Abdullah Muhammad al-Tisi talking about the U.S. drone strike in December that killed his son. All of this comes as the White House is reportedly considering using a drone to kill a U.S. citizen living in Pakistan who’s allegedly affiliated with al-Qaeda.

For more, we’re joined right now by Letta Tayler, senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch. She wrote the new report titled “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen.”

We’re also joined by Democracy Now! video stream by Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of TheIntercept.org, as well as the producer of and the co-writer of the documentary that’s been nominated for an Oscar, Dirty Wars.

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Letta, you just recently came back from Yemen, came out with this report. Talk about its findings.

LETTA TAYLER: Well, it’s a pleasure to be here.

What we found is that this strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen killed 12 people, injured 15, including the bride, who received a superficial face wound. And we have serious concerns that the strike not only may have violated international law, but also flies in the face of President Obama’s policies on targeted killings. The president has said the U.S. does not strike unless it has near certainty that no civilians were killed, yet the evidence strongly suggests that at least some of those killed in this strike, and possibly all of them, were civilians.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, could you talk to us about what your research involved in producing the report? And also, you seem to have found contradictions between what national Yemeni officials were saying and what local provincial or officials closer to the ground were saying.

LETTA TAYLER: Yes, indeed, there are a mind-boggling array of on, off and on-the-record comments about this strike, which really underscores the urgent need for the United States to come clean on what exactly happened. I researched this strike in Yemen. This is my seventh or eighth trip to Yemen in recent years, many of those trips to look at this particular issue of targeted killings. I met with relatives and family members there, as well as government officials, academics, journalists and so forth. The most compelling testimony, of course, was from the family members—as you’ve seen in the video, men holding tattered ID cards of their loved ones, in some cases the only remaining item that they had of these people who died, and saying to me, “Explain to me, explain to me why did the U.S. kill my son, why did the U.S. kill my nephew.” Even the—even the son of the groom from a previous marriage was killed in this strike. And these Yemenis deserve answers from the United States as to what happened.

AMY GOODMAN: What has the U.S. said?

LETTA TAYLER: The U.S. has responded to my report in a fashion that I find disappointing and disconcerting. We are getting more of the same obfuscation. We’re getting more off-the-record comments to media that, yes, this strike did hit, that the targets of the strike were militants. But where is the evidence? Show us the proof. Show us the findings of your reports. If indeed militants were killed, let us judge the facts. Let us see if you’re complying with law and with your own policy.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, the government did claim that there was a particular militant that they were looking to kill, but then his name did not appear in the list of the dead, right?

LETTA TAYLER: Yes, Shawqi al-Badani. He was not among the 12 names that were given to me, the 12 bodies that were identified by relatives as well as other media in Yemen. And indeed, the relatives I spoke to said they never heard of this man.

AMY GOODMAN: Jeremy Scahill, in Dirty Wars, you go to Yemen. You investigate a number of drone strikes. Talk about how this one fits in, the December attack that is now—we’re talking about, of the Human Rights Watch report.

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, first of all, I mean, what I think is really key here that Letta and the team at Human Rights Watch have really zeroed in on is that when there are—when there’s these strikes and civilians are killed, the Obama administration has stated that they do a review, that they do an investigation. And indeed, these anonymous officials have been saying to major media outlets that they did an internal investigation and that the Department of Defense determined that the individuals that were killed were in fact legitimate combatants. And yet, those reports are never made public.

In the cases that I’ve investigated in Yemen, one of which was the al-Majalah bombing that you referenced, it was the first time that we know of that President Obama authorized a military-style attack inside of Yemen. And that wasn’t a drone attack; it was actually a cruise missile attack. And it killed three dozen—more than three dozen people, the overwhelming majority of whom were women and children. There supposedly was an internal investigation into that, and yet the White House won’t release it. The Pentagon will not release these investigations that they do. In the case of the drone bombings of Anwar Awlaki, an American citizen, and then his 16-year-old son two weeks later in a separate drone strike, again they said that there was an internal investigation into the killing of this boy. The findings of it are not released.

And what we’re seeing right now, and we’ve talked about this a lot on the show, boils down to the Obama administration trying to wage what it perceives—what it believes is, you know, pre-emptive war or preventative strikes, where they’re killing people that they think may one day pose a threat, or they may have picked up chatter that they’ve been discussing some kind of a plot. And there’s no—not even a sort of vague idea that we should have any kind of a law enforcement approach to the crime of terrorism anymore. They’re just zapping people, you know, in acts of precrime. The idea of judicial process or legal process has been replaced by the National Security Agency tracking the metadata of individuals in various countries, building profiles of where—what telephones are in contact with other telephones, where particular SIM cards have been physically or geographically. And then you have a secret process in the White House on these so-called Terror Tuesday meetings where officials essentially condemn the users of these SIM cards or phones to death, and then President Obama signs off, and the drone serves as the executioner. That’s basically the judicial process that the U.S. now offers to people who are actually not even accused of the crime of terrorism, just perceived by the White House to be involved with it.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Jeremy, you’ve mentioned President Obama’s direct involvement in—of this. I want to turn to him speaking about drone strikes during the first major counterterrorism address of his second term. His comments came one day after Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed U.S. drone strikes had killed four American citizens in Yemen and Pakistan.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And before any strike is taken, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured—the highest standard we can set. Yes, the conflict with al-Qaeda, like all armed conflict, invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us, and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was President Obama. Letta?

LETTA TAYLER: I wanted to point out one thing in this speech. He said, “We’re targeting those who want to get us, not those they hide among.” There is one theory about this December 12th strike on the wedding convoy, that members of AQAP, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based group, may have infiltrated the convoy. If this is true—and I have no idea that it is; we have no evidence one way or the other that AQAP was actually in this convoy, but let’s assume for the moment that this might be correct—that shielding—it’s called human shielding—for AQAP to go into the convoy, would not excuse or exonerate the—excuse the—would not give the United States the right to attack that convoy. The United States as an attacking force always has to distinguish between civilians and combatants. And by combatants, I mean lawful targets. We have a lot of questions as to whether many of the people being killed who the U.S. considers militants are actually lawful targets. So, even if AQAP was hiding among these forces, it wouldn’t necessarily mean that that strike was lawful.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Letta Tayler, Human Rights Watch senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, who just came out with this report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen.” What are the implications of this report? And what has the U.S. said to you? Have other countries gotten in touch with you?

LETTA TAYLER: Well, the implications of this report are first that we’re still operating in a vast accountability vacuum. The United States is saying, “Trust us,” yet they’re not giving us any information that would allow us to trust them. And this sets a very—not only does this mean that the U.S. may well be violating international law and President Obama’s own policy, but it sets a very dangerous precedent for countries around the world. I don’t find it surprising that journalists from Russia and China call us, frequently, when we come out with a report like this, because there are many leaders in many countries who are very happy to see the U.S. pave the way for taking out people without any justification, anytime, anywhere, and simply calling them terrorists or threats to national security.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Jeremy, have we seen any movement at all on the part of the administration, given all of the—all of the publicity that has come out about these strikes now, or even in terms of Congress attempting to rein in the policies of the administration?

JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, I mean, Congress is almost entirely asleep at the wheel when it comes to oversight or raising serious questions about the drone program or the assassination policy in general. I mean, the most vocal critics of this program, who have raised some of the essential questions, are people like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who on many issues really sounds like a raving lunatic, but on this particular issue, when he filibustered the nomination of John Brennan, who really was the drone czar of the Obama administration’s first term, Rand Paul read into the congressional record human rights reports, media reports about civilians killed. It was the first time that there was discussion on the floor of the U.S. Senate of American citizens potentially being targeted for assassination in these drone strikes.

But, you know, polls indicate that a solid percentage of self-identified liberal Democrats support the White House on this, and that’s in part due to the fact that President Obama has projected—and it really boils down to propaganda—that this is somehow a cleaner way of waging war. I think also, politically, many Democrats would be opposing these policies or raising serious questions if their guy wasn’t in the White House. If McCain or Mitt Romney had won those elections, I think we would see a more robust discussion in Congress on this.

But President Obama said in his major address, and then his administration has released papers saying that among the standards is not just that mere certainty that civilians will not be killed, but also that the individuals that they’re targeting represent an imminent threat and that they—and that capture is not feasible. And I think that those two factors in this should also be investigated, because I don’t believe that the majority of the people that are killed in these drone strikes are engaged in an imminent plot that’s going to harm America’s national security or American interests, even as broadly as the Obama administration defines it.

I mean, we really—this should be brought up at an international level, because the U.S., as Letta says, is setting a standard. There are some 80 countries in the world that have weaponized drone technology. It’s just a matter of time before a Russia or a China says, “You know what? America does this. We have the right to do it, too,” and they start doing drone attacks to take out dissidents or people that they perceive to be terrorists.

Every nation around the world now claims that it’s in a war against terrorism. I was just in Egypt, where the U.S.-backed dictatorship of General Sisi is in power, and there are huge posters all over Egypt that talk about how the Egyptian government is in a war against terrorism. It’s really a cooptation of this Bush-Cheney idea, that Obama unfortunately has continued, that if you just label your enemies as terrorists, you can justify doing anything to them and justify denying them of any basic rights. You can’t surrender to a drone, and you can’t turn yourself in when you haven’t been charged with a crime. To what authority do you surrender?

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you both for being with us. Jeremy Scahill, co-founder of TheIntercept.org, a new digital magazine published by First Look Media, also the producer and writer of the documentary Dirty Wars , which has been nominated for an Oscar. Congratulations, Jeremy, and good luck on your road to the Oscars, which will be on March 2nd. And Letta Tayler, senior researcher on terrorism and counterterrorism at Human Rights Watch. Her report, “A Wedding That Became a Funeral: US Drone Attack on Marriage Procession in Yemen,” we’ll link to at democracynow.org.

This is the 18th birthday of Democracy Now!, and in our breaks, we are showing folks and encouraging people to go to our website at democracynow.org and submit pictures of yourself holding up signs that say, “I need Democracy Now! because…” and you fill in the rest or send us videos, as well. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Patti Smith, “People Have the Power,” and I thank all the people from all over the world who are sending in pictures and videos letting us know what you think. Again, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. And I’m also thinking today about Julie Drizin, who was the first producer of Democracy Now!, and also our colleague Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who is in Cairo, in Egypt, and our colleagues Anjali Kamat and Nicole Salazar and so many others who make—helped make this program great, as well as Kris Abrams out there in Colorado. Well, I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. We’ve been with you for 18 years, as we turn to another story.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Find this story at 21 February 2014

 

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

 

Yemen: reported US covert action 2012

The Data
The events detailed have been reported by US and Yemeni government, military and intelligence officials, and by credible media, academic and other sources. Strikes include ground operations, naval attacks and airstrikes – by drone, cruise missile and conventional aircraft.

Many of the US attacks have been confirmed by senior American or Yemeni officials. However some events are only speculatively attributed to the US, or are indicative of US involvement. For example precision night-time strikes on moving vehicles, whilst often attributed to the Yemen Air Force, are more likely to be the work of US forces. We therefore class all Yemen strikes as either confirmed or possible.

As Yemen came under severe pressure during the Arab Spring and militants seized control of cities and towns in the south, the US significantly stepped up its attacks, most notablysept with drone strikes. Since mid 2011 US counter terrorism operations in Yemen have been conducted by both the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. Attacks are aimed at al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and more recently, Ansar al-Sharia.

The Bureau will continue to add to its knowledge base, and welcomes input and corrections from interested parties.

Click here for our 2001-2011 Yemen data.

January

YEM040
January 31 2012
♦ 10-14 reported killed
At least ten militants were killed in a drone strike in southern Yemen. Local residents said a drone struck two vehicles east of Lawdar. An al Qaeda eulogy to militant Mouwhahhad al-Maaribi’s life described how he was killed in the strike, along with nine others. It stated that four missiles were fired at the cars, killing Maarabi, along with Ibrahim Al-Najdi, Abed Al Farraj Al-Shamri and Saleh Al-Akili. In addition, missiles were reportedly fired at a school in which militants were hiding. Abdul Munim al-Fathani, wanted by the US for alleged links to the attacks on the USS Cole in 2000, was reportedly among the dead. One report noted

Nasir al Wuhayshi, the emir or leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, ‘broke down in tears …on the road between ‘Azzan in Shabwa and Mudiyah in Abyan province, upon seeing the body of the leader Abdul Mun’im Salim Amqidah al Fatahani.

Wuhayshi’s brother was reportedly killed by a US drone strike a month earlier, on December 22. (YEM040) Talhah al Yemeni and Abdulmalik al-Dahyani, AQAP leaders, were also killed. The LA Times reported that the attacks were carried out by JSOC. Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee reported on his blog that other fatalities included: Abu Ali Al Shabwani, Ahmed Noyran, Muthana Mawala Al Maramy, and Abu Al Khatab Al Marabi. Tareq Al Dhahab, AQAP leader in Rada, survived according to a local resident. A source close to AQAP allegedly told Xinhua by phone that militants Khadri Em-Soudah and Ahmed Mu’eran Abu Ali, an al Qaeda leader in Shabwah governorate, also died.

Three men were later executed by Ansar al Sharia on February 12 in connection with this attack.

Type of action: Air assault, drone strike
Location: Lawdar/Modya, Abyan province
References: Reuters, CNN, Long War Journal, Xinhua, Nasser Arrabyee, Associated Press, BBC, LA Times, CBS, Critical Threats, MEMRI

YEM041
Late January 2012
General Mohammed al-Sumali, commander of Yemen’s 25th Mechanized Brigade, told journalist Jeremy Scahill that ‘the US carried out a series of airstrikes in late January and… at least two other strikes around Zinjibar that targeted al Qaeda leaders.’

Type of action: Air assault, air strikes
Locations: Abyan/ Zinjibar
Reference: The Nation

February

February 12 2012
♦ 3 killed
Three men were initially reported as being ‘beheaded at dawn’ by Yemeni militant group Ansar al Sharia for allegedly giving information to the US to allow it to conduct drone strikes in the area. Although residents of the towns of Jaar and Azzan told Reuters that two Saudis and one Yemeni were executed, a spokesman for Ansar al Sharia later said ‘none of those executed were Saudi citizens, but all three had been working for the intelligence services of the kingdom, a close ally of the United States‘.

In August 2012, video emerged indicating that one of the men – Saleh Ahmed Saleh Al-Jamely – was crucified by Ansar al Sharia. The group indicated that he had been killed in connection with the drone strike on January 31. MEMRI reported that

The other two men, Hassan Naji Hassan Al-Naqeeb – accused of recruiting, delivering chips, and paying spies; and Ramzi Muhammad Qaid Al-Ariqi – accused of spying for the Saudi intelligence by taking photographs of several buildings, were executed in public, but not crucified.

Locations: Jaar, Shebwa
References: The Nation, Reuters, Al Jazeera, The Examiner, MEMRI

February 26 2012
Following mass protests Ali Abduallah Saleh stepped down as President of Yemen. The US government stated that it would work together with Yemen’s new government to ’kill or capture about two dozen of al Qaeda’s most dangerous operatives, who are focused on attacking America and its interests‘. Saleh’s vice-president Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi was inaugurated as President on February 25. In his televised speech, Hadi swore to keep up Yemen’s fight against al Qaeda-linked militants. President Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan visited Yemen on February 18-19. He told a press briefing: ’Everything we do in the counter-terrorism realm, we do in full partnership with our Yemeni counterparts… Our assistance takes many forms: training, advice, different types of equipment.’ On Yemen’s new president, Brennan said that Hadi ‘is committed as well to destroying al Qaeda, and I consider him a good and strong counter-terrorism partner‘.

References: New York Times, Wall Street Journal, US Embassy Yemen, Wall Street Journal

March

March 2 2012
An armoured vehicle carrying a ‘US security team’ came under fire in southern Yemen. While the Pentagon reported that noone was injured in the attack, there were competing claims that either a CIA or FBI official had been killed. Yemeni militant group Ansar al Sharia sent journalists a text reading: ‘The mujihadeen killed a CIA officer on Thursday while he was in Aden province, after tracking him and determining he was cooperating with the Sanaa government.’ Two days later AQAP issued its own statement on an Islamist website, claiming that they had killed:

an American who worked as a high-ranking officer in American intelligence, and that was after monitoring his movements for a long period of time. And targeting him comes after an increase in the American movements in Yemen in the shadow of the new political conditions, and also for bringing in large numbers of American soldiers to Aden city.’

Type of action: Militant ground attack
Location: Aden
References: Reuters, Global Post, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Jihadology

March 6 2012
CNN reported that amid escalating violence by Islamic extremists following the Yemeni election; ‘US trainers are helping the Yemeni government in its effort to retake al-Kowd’. On March 4, a military base near al-Kowd, Abyan, was attacked by Ansar al Sharia militants, claiming the lives of around 90 Yemeni government soldiers.

Location: al-Kowd, Abyan
References: CNN, Jeremy Scahill

YEM042
March 9 2012
♦ 23 – 34 reported killed
♦ ‘Many’ civilians reported killed (2 named)
♦ Up to 55 reported injured
A late evening airstrike on Bayda by US drones struck a gathering of alleged militants. As many as 34 ‘AQAP militants died including ‘four senior leaders‘ – one named as Hadaar al-Homaiqani, a local AQAP leader. Bayda’s governor claimed that ‘two Pakistanis, two Saudi nationals, and one Syrian and one Iraqi‘ were among the dead. A source in the city told Reuters that ‘Flames and smoke could be seen rising from the area,’ while a military official reported that ‘the attack targeted a gathering of al Qaeda elements and a number of them were killed.’ An AQAP spokesman told Xinhua:

More than two US drones are still striking several posts of al-Qaida in three villages outside al-Bayda’s central city.

On April 1 a US official confirmed the attack,with the Los Angeles Times reporting: ‘American missiles soon rained down. The al-Qaida commander was killed, along with 22 other suspected militants, most of them believed to be young recruits receiving military training, U.S. officials said’.

In May 2012 the Washington Post reported that ‘many civilians’ had died in the attack, according to interviews with victims’ relatives and human rights activists. Two brothers of local businessman Salim al-Barakani – one a teacher, the other a cellphone repairman, were among the civilians killed. Al-Barakani told the paper that after the attack:

Villagers were too afraid to go to the area. Al-Qaeda militants took advantage and offered to bury the villagers’ relatives. “That made people even more grateful and appreciative of al-Qaeda,” said Barakani, the businessman. “Afterwards, al-Qaeda told the people, ‘We will take revenge on your behalf.’ ”

Type of action: Air strike, drones and possible aircraft
Location: Bayda
References: Reuters, Bikyamasr, Reuters, Xinhua, AGI, Reuters, Guardian, BBC, Associated Press, Long War Journal, CNN, Daily Times (Pakistan), Yemen Times, UPI, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post

Yemen protest Feb 2011 Washington DC (Colin David Anderson/ Flickr)

YEM043
March 10 2012
♦ 24 reported killed
Air strikes in Jaar and Zinjibar killed up to 24 alleged militants. Although initially reported as the work of the Yemen Air Force, a senior Yemen government official told CNN that the attacks were the work of the US, part of a three-day offensive.

Type of action: Air strike, possible US aircraft or drones
Location: Jaar and Zinjibar
References: Long War Journal, CNN, Yemen Times, UPI

YEM044
March 11 2012
♦ 3 reported killed
An air attack on a militant-occupied factory where arms were allegedly stored killed three near Jaar. Ansar al Sharia said that US drones carried out the early evening strike, with up to five drones reportedly taking part. A senior Yemeni official confirmed the US involvement to CNN: ‘The United States did not inform us on the attacks. We only knew about this after the US attacked.’ However local residents reported that ‘planes’ bombarded the town. AFP also reported that two missiles were fired ‘from the sea‘.

Type of action: Air strike, possible US drones, aircraft and/or missiles
Location: Jebel Khanfar near Jaar
References: Reuters, CNN, AFP, Radio Free Europe, Yemen Times, UPI, Long War Journal, Washington Post

Click here for our 2001-2011 Yemen data

YEM045
March 13 2012
♦ 4-5 reported killed
The ferocious air campaign against al Qaeda and its allies continued with a drone or air strike on a moving vehicle which killed up to five alleged militants. According to the Yemen Post ’a high-ranking security official confirmed that Nasser al-Thafry [aka Zafari], AQAP leader in Al-Byatha was found dead‘ though he may have been killed in linked clashes with Yemen’s security forces. CNN reported that the strike appeared to be the work of the US, which appears highly likely given its precision nature. Six air raids by the Yemen Air Force were also reported in nearby Jaar, as militant group Ansar al Sharia carried out a suicide bombing in revenge, it said, for recent US drone strikes.

Type of action: Air strike, possible US drone or aircraft
Location: Bayda province
References: Yemen Post, Africasia, BBC, Al Arabiya, AFP, Long War Journal, CNN

YEM046
March 18 2012
♦ 14-18 reported killed
Missiles ‘fired from the sea’ onto al Qaeda positions in north-eastern Zinjibar, Abyan province, killed at least 16 suspected militants, TV network al Arabiyah reported. Reiterating this news, the Yemen Times also reported that heavy shelling had targeted fields and badly damaged crops. ‘We are not sure whether Yemeni aircraft or US unmanned drones are responsible for the airstrikes,’ one farmer told the Yemen Times. Reuters called the strike a ‘naval bombardment‘, and the Long War Journal surmised that; ‘If missiles were indeed fired from the sea (and we have no confirmation of this, only the word of an anonymous Yemeni official), then they were most likely fired by US Navy warships. The Yemeni Navy does not possess the capacity to conduct such strikes; its missile boats and corvettes fire only anti-ship missiles. Xinhua reported a local Yemen official as confirming it was a joint US Naval – Yemen Air Force offensive, but placed the naval bombardment at nearby Jaar.

Type of action: Air and naval bombardment, possibly US warships
Location: Zinjibar, Abyan Province
Reference: Al-Arabiya, Reuters, Yemen Times, Voice of Russia, Long War Journal, Sky News, Xinhua, Xinhua

YEM047
March 18 2012
♦ 8 reported killed
♦ 1 civilian reported wounded
Also on Sunday March 18, what was reported as a government warplane bombed Islamist militants in the southern city of Jaar, ‘causing people to flee their homes‘. While al Arabiya stated that there were no immediate reports of casualties, the Associated Press later stated that eight militants were killed in the strike. Residents said a civilian was wounded when an airstrike hit a post office used as a hospital in Jaar. A witness told Xinhua that, along with militant hideouts, some residential buildings in the city were also damaged in the heavy shelling. ‘The strikes demolished more than four houses located in the center of Jaar city. Many people fled their houses for fear of repeated air raids,’ the witness said. This has been reported as an airstrike by the Yemeni government, and there is no suggestion that US planes were involved. However there are reports that a considerable number of Yemeni Air Force personnel were on strike until March 19. This casts doubt on the government’s capacity to launch an aerial bombardment.

Type of action: Air strike, possibly by Yemeni government
Location: Jaar
Reference: Al Arabiya, Reuters, Associated Press, Xinhua

YEM048
March 22 2012
♦ 29-30 reported killed
♦ 24+ reported wounded
According to local Yemen officials, three areas in Zinjibar were struck by US drone strikes, killing at least 30 al Qaeda fighters. The website Arab Monitor stated that ‘dozens’ were wounded in the attacks, which targeted alleged al Qaeda bases. Witnesses also said that a ‘warplane also fired a missile at three vehicles of the al-Qaida group in downtown Zinjibar carrying foreign fighters‘. Associated Press stated that 29 militants had been killed in a ‘rocket and artillery barrage, spread out over a 24-hour period‘ which ended on the night of Thursday March 22. Naval vessels also allegedly took part in the extended bombardment, which some sources claimed were the work of the US Navy. The Pentagon later said that; ‘No American warships from the service’s Fifth Fleet or elsewhere in the region were involved in those operations.’

Type of action: Air strike, US drones, with linked naval bombardment, possibly US
Location: Zinjibar, Abyan Province
References: Xinhua, Arab Monitor, Associated Press, DefCon Hill

YEM049
March 30 2012
♦ 5 killed
♦ 6-9 injured including 5 civilians
♦ 1 civilian killed
Four alleged Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants died (possibly local leaders) and three were ‘critically injured’ after a US drone struck their vehicles, according to Yemen military and security officials. The attack, in Azan, Shabwa province, came as the men left Friday prayers according to Associated Press. However, a civilian, Mohamed Saleh Al-Suna was also killed and six others injured in the strike, officials and eyewitnesses told Reuters. The six civilians were in a car travelling in the opposite direction. Five of the civilian injured were identified by the Yemen Times as Saleh Ali Ba Zyad, Saleh Abdulfatha Hamid, Abdullah Mohamed Hamid, Hamza Khaled Ba Zayad, and Ali Hassan. In a linked second drone attack nearby a house was also struck, injuring four people. A US official confirmed both this strike and a CIA attack in Pakistan on the same day.

Ansar al Sharia later attacked a gas pipeline in the area, texting journalists to say:

The mujahideen blew up the pipeline … in retaliation for the strike for which Crusader America and its obedient slave in Sanaa are responsible.’

The Yemen strikes came on the same day that AQAP was reported to have appointed new leaders in southern Yemen to replace those lost in recent US drone strikes.

Type of action: Air strike, US drone strikes
Location: Azan, Shabwa Province
References: Associated Press, Monsters & Critics, Reuters, Reuters, Daily Telegraph, Al Jazeera, Xinhua, PTI, CNN, The National, Yemen Times, Yemen Fox

Old Sanaa city at dusk in 2012 (Photo Juadluz83/ Flickr)

April

YEM050
April 1-3 2012
♦ Up to 38 killed
Multiple airstrikes killed as many as 38 ‘suspected al Qaeda militants’ in Lahj and Abyan over a 48-hour period, according to CNN. A number of officials confirmed US involvement, with one local official telling the agency that ‘The U.S. is involved in a number of the latest attacks, but that does not mean our air force is not in control of the raids occurring.’ He said that the United States ‘has taken part in three of the airstrikes, but said Yemen’s air force is leading the operation. He did not detail the type of support provided,’ according to CNN.

Type of action: Air strike, US drone strikes
Location: Lahjh and Abyan
References: CNN

Click here for our 2001-2011 Yemen data

YEM051
April 7 2012
♦ 0-8 killed
News agencies reported a night time US drone strike on a moving vehicle in Shabwa province. The Yemen Air Force lacks the technical ability to carry out such a strike. The Wall Street Journal reported that the target was AQAP number three, Qasim al-Raimi. It reported that ‘After nightfall Saturday, Mr Raimi and three followers started driving on a road out of Shebwa toward Marib, residents said. Around 10 pm, a missile struck the road near their car, but missed the vehicle, according to two local security officials.’ However according to an unnamed tribal chief, the strike ‘killed eight Al-Qaeda suspects’, who he identified as ‘five Yemenis and three Arab foreigners.’Al-Qaeda militants were aboard a vehicle on their way from Shabwa to (nearby) Marib province when a US drone fired a missile at their vehicle, killing them all. The chief also reported that drones were seen ‘flying over several areas in Shabwa, especially those which are Al-Qaeda strongholds — Rawdah, Huta, and Azzan’. The attack was the eighth confirmed drone strike of 2012. The Egyptian al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al Masri was reported dead by the Long War Journal, killed in an April drone strike on Shabwa province. Long War Journal cited a vague date reported by the Madad News Agency in surmising YEM051 or YEM055 as the possible strikes responsible.

Type of action: Air strike, US drone strike
Location: Shabwa Province
References: AFP, Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Xinhua, Yemen Post, Long War Journal

YEM052
April 9 2012
♦ 16 killed
The Yemen Defence Ministry reported that ‘Yemeni-U.S. joint air raids bombed al-Qaida hideouts in the southern province of Abyan, killing at least 16 militants’, according to Xinhua.Other agencies did not specify US involvement.

Type of action: Air strike with Yemen, possible US drone strike
Location: Abyan Province
References: Xinhua, Reuters, Associated Press, Long War Journal, Yemen Post

YEM053
April 11 2012
♦ 10-14 killed
♦ 10 injured
A targeted evening strike on an ‘al Qaeda convoy’ reportedly killed up to 14 alleged militants near Loder, Abyan Province. AP reported that the vehicle had been stolen from a government barracks days earlier. A local government official told Xinhua that the attack was the work of a US drone, and that ‘there are foreign nationals among the killed.’ The Yemen Defence Ministry later said that Saudi, Pakistani and Somali nationals had been killed, but did not specify any US involvement. As many as 72 alleged militants died in Yemen military operations around Loder that day, with a senior government official saying:

The battle of Loder is considered a decisive one for the army against the terrorist groups and a prelude to the cleansing of all towns seized by militants in the province of Abyan.

Two senior militants were reported killed in the fighting – Imad al-Manshaby and Ahmed Mohammed Taher – though it was not clear if they had died in the vehicle attack. As many as three other airstrikes may also have taken place around the town.

Type of action: Air strike, probable US drone
Location: Loder village, Abyan
Reference: Xinhua, Bickyamasr, Associated Press, Gulf Times (AFP), Reuters, AFP, Yemen Post, Bikyamasr

YEM054
April 14 2012
♦ 3 killed
An evening airstrike on a vehicle killed at least three Ansar al-Sharia members, among them reportedly Mohammed al-Sabri, a ‘leading militant’. Yemen’s airforce reportedly lacks the ability to launch precision strikes on moving vehicles. Associated Press cited two Yemen military officials as saying that US drones had carried out the attack in Bayda province, with a security official telling AFP the same. Eyewitness Abdel-Salam al-Ansi told the agency that he heard a strong explosion and had rushed outside: ‘The car had been turned into a ball of fire.’ A Yemen Defence Ministry statement referred only to an ‘airstrike’ and reported that three ‘local al-Qaeda leaders’ had died. Ansar al-Sharia also later said that three of its fighters had died in a US drone strike.

Type of action: Airstrike, US drone strike
Location: al Zahir district, Bayda province
References: Associated Press, Lebanon Daily Star, Reuters, Xinhua, AFP, Yemen Post, Al Arabiya

YEM055
April 16 2012
♦ 5-7 killed
Up to five drone strikes killed at least five militants in the southeastern Shabwa province. CNN reported militant hideouts, checkpoints, training facilities and weapons warehouses were targeted in the strikes. The Yemen defence ministry initially claimed the attacks were carried out by Yemeni warplanes. Two security officials and one defence ministry official later told CNN US drones targeted the militants. This was echoed by a security official cited by AFP who reported a local official claiming a US drone targeted five militants late on Monday. A local security official told Xinhua leading foreign fighters were killed in the strikes. An intelligence officer told Xinhua the foreigners were a Syrian and an Algerian. Two defence officials told CNN the US has conducted at least 11 attacks on Yemeni soil in the preceding week. Long War Journal reported Egyptian al Qaeda militant Abu Musab al Masri killed in an April drone strike on Shabwa. Citing a vague date reported by the Madad News Agency, Long War Journal surmised either YEM051 or YEM055 as the responsible strikes.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Azzan district, Shabwa province
References: CNN, AFP, Xinhua, Long War Journal

YEM056
April 18 2012
♦ 6-10 killed
An air strike near the southern village of Loder has killed at least six militants according to a Defence Ministry statement. Reuters could not independently confirm who launched the strike and AFP said the government did not say if the air force or US drones were responsible. Xinhua reported the attack destroyed a number of armoured vehicles captured by the militants. Local residents told Xinhua that two further air strikes targeting militant positions on Jabal Khanfer, a hill over looking the city of Jaar in Abyan province. At least four militants were killed in this second action according to the Yemen Post.

Type of action: Air strike, possible US drone
Location: Loder village and Jaar city, Abyan province
References: AFP, Reuters, Xinhua, Yemen Post

April 19 2012
The Washington Post triggered significant debate on the future direction of US drone strikes in Yemen, revealing extensive details of US targeting policy in Yemen. It reported that the CIA was seeking the right to launch so-called ‘signature strikes’ in Yemen – attacks on alleged militants the Agency did not know the identity of. According to a senior Administration official, present CIA tactics ‘still [have] a very firm emphasis on being surgical and targeting only those who have a direct interest in attacking the United States.’ In contrast, the Pentagon’s JSOC ‘has broader authority than the CIA to pursue militants in Yemen and is not seeking permission to use signature strikes, US officials said.’ Since most of the recent US strikes were against low-ranking or unknown militants, this indicated that most current attacks were by JSOC rather than the CIA. Officials also expressed concern that the US risked being perceived as ‘taking sides in a civil war’. [see also April 26]

Location: Washington DC
Reference: Washington Post, The Atlantic, CNN, Gregory Johnsen, New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek

YEM057
April 21 2012
♦ 12 – 17 killed
♦ 5 injured
As many as 17 alleged militants were killed in a series of of strikes in the south of the country. The Defence Ministry said 17 alleged militants had been killed in a raid near Loder. But an unnamed local government official told Xinhua two Yemeni Air Force jets killed 12 militants in the strike. Kuwaiti agency KUNA reported the strike targeted a house where a group of militants were meeting, citing a defence ministry announcement. The Yemen Post reported this strike killed at least 11 and destroyed captured military vehicles and that a separate strike killed two more militants in Abyan province. AFP said it was unclear whether the strike was carried out by the Yemen Air Force or US drones.

Type of action: Air strike, possible US drone
Location: Loder, Abyan province
References: Xinhua, Yemen Post, AFP, KUNA

YEM058
April 22 2012
♦ 4 killed
At least four militants were killed when a drone strike destroyed two of three cars driving through the desert area of Sanda in central Marib province. Two senior security officials told CNN that US drones conducted the strike. The Yemen Air Force lacks the technical ability to carry out such a precise strike and has suffered serious problems of morale and discipline this year. The Yemen Post reported the recently ousted President’s son Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, commander of the Republican Guard, had ordered a battalion of infantry to storm the Air Force base in the capital Sana’a on the same day as this attack. The Yemeni Embassy in Washington announced 34-year-old senior AQAP militant Mohammed Saeed Al-Umada (aka Ghareeb al-Taizi) was killed in the strike. This was confirmed by AQAP. Al-Umada died along with two of his aides the embassy said. In October AQAP released the names of two more militants who died in the attack, Hassah Hussein Dalel and Basher al Najidi. In 2005 al-Umada was convicted of supporting the 2002 bombing of French oil tanker Limburg which killed one crew member and injured a dozen more. In February 2006 he escaped from his Sanaa jail along with 22 other militants who would go on to become the core of AQAP. Among the escapees were Qasim al-Raimi (aka al-Raymi) and Nasser al-Wuhayshi. Al-Raimi was AQAP’s military commander and had survived strikes in 2009 (YEM003), 2010 (YEM006) and 2012 (YEM051). Al-Wuhayshi was regional leader of al-Qaeda who was thought to be meeting Anwar al-Awlaki when the first attempt was made to assassinate the American born radical cleric (YEM004). In 2008 a Yemeni court sentenced al-Umada in absentia to at least 10 years in prison for targeting the country’s energy infrastructure. The Washington embassy said al-Umada was fourth on Yemen’s most-wanted list. A senior Yemen Defence Ministry official told CNN:

This is a success for the war on terror. Al-Umda has been on the run for years and his absence will help in limiting the terror network’s operation in Yemen.

Al-Umada is alleged to have received training from Osama Bin Laden at the al-Farouq camp. The embassy said he commanded several AQAP military operations and provided the organisation with financial and logistical support.

Type of action: Airstrike, US drone strike
Location: Sanda, Marib province
References: AP, Xinhua, Bloomberg, AFP, KUNA, Reuters, CNN, Reuters, CNN, Xinhua, KUNA, Critical Threats, AP, WLSAM, CNN, Al Wefaq News (Arabic)

YEM059
April 23 2012
♦ 3 killed
♦ 2 injured
A possible drone strike hit vehicles in Shabwa province leaving three dead and two injured. Local Mohammed Bindighar told AP he had seen drones circling overhead almost daily for the last five months. The strike came as the Yemen Defence Ministry announced at least 23 alleged al-Qaeda militants have been killed as the Yemen Army battles with insurgents for control of the south and east of the country.

Type of action: Possible US drone
Location: Nasab, Shabwa province
References: AP, AFP, Reuters, Bikyamasr

YEM060
April 23 2012
♦ 0 – 4 killed
Fighting around the southern town of Loder killed up to 15 alleged militants with as many as four killed in an airstrike. The Yemen Army bombarded the town overnight as they continued their efforts to reclaim ground in Abyan. Local sources told AFP a Yemeni fighter plane hit a vehicle, killing four. But the Yemen Air Force lacks the technical ability to carry out precision strikes on moving vehicles. It has suffered considerable problems with morale and discipline in 2012. A tribal leader told Reuters he feared this assault on Loder may have jeopardised negotiations for the release of a Saudi Arabian diplomat kidnapped outside his Aden residence on March 28.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Loder, Abyan province
References: AP, AFP, Xinhua, Reuters, Bikyamasr

April 26 2012
A week after reports that the CIA was seeking authorisation to launch signature strikes, the White House gave the tactic the green light. Because the CIA would reportedly only target high-value terrorists, and not foot soldiers fighting an insurgency, the new targeting policy was called ‘signature lite’ by one US defence official. Others reported that the tactic had been renamed Terrorist Attack Disruption Strikes, or TADS. A previous request in 2011 for an expanded strike programme had been rebuffed.

Yemeni government sources told AP that President Hadi had given permission for the CIA ‘to increase the pace of their strikes’ but had drawn the line at signature strikes. Although fearful of civilian and non-militant tribesmen being killed inadvertently, the Yemeni government was said to be keen to increase counter-terrorism aid from the US. This included drone strikes as well as more military trainers and advisors. But US officials expressed concern that America may be dragged into another regional conflict. A senior US defence official told the WSJ:

We have to be careful about what they want help with. Do they [the Yemenis] want help taking out terrorist targets, or do they want help with their civil war?

There was some suggestion of a schism in Washington’s counter terrorism community. The WSJ reported that some military and intelligence officials privately complained that the White House policy in Yemen was too cautious.

References: Wall Street Journal, AP, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Newsweek, New York Times

YEM061
April 26 2012
♦ 3 killed
At least three alleged militants were killed in a possible drone strike in the southern city of Mudiyah. Reuters reported the strike targeted the alleged militants in a vehicle. Residents said they saw two drones after hearing an explosion. A second drone strike hit Mudiyah the same day according to local sources. There were no reported casualties. Critical Threats reported that Yemeni warplanes targeted sites in Shaqwa, on the Abyan coast.

Type of action: Possible US drone
Location: Mudiyah, Shaqwa, Abyan province
References: Reuters, Critical Threats

YEM062
April 29 2012
♦ 3 killed
Three alleged militants were killed driving through the northern province of al-Jawf. A tribal source told AFP the car was completely destroyed and all its occupants killed. The source said the three were al-Qaeda militants traveling to give condolences to families of militants killed in fighting in Abyan. AP reported Yemeni officials ‘had no details on the source of the attack or the identity of the three.’ But to hit a moving vehicle requires technical abilities that is reportedly beyond the Yemen Air Force. This strike comes on the same day 73 Yemeni soldiers were released from captivity in Jaar. The men were captured on March 4 when Ansar al-Sharia overran an army camp near Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province.

Type of action: Possible US drone
Location: al-Jawf
References: AP, AFP

YEM063
April 30 2012
♦ 4 killed
Four alleged militants were killed in an airstrike near the town of Loder. The strike hit a vehicle according to a local government official. The Yemen Air Force reportedly does not have the capabilities to carry out a precision strike on a vehicle. The strike came as government forces battled ‘dozens of militants’ who had attacked an army barracks on the outskirts of Loder. Up to 21 militants, soldiers and tribesmen died in the battle. But because access to the area was restricted Reuters said they could not independently verify the casualty figures. The same day Ansar al Sharia announced they had seized 20 tanks from the Yemen Army in Abyan.

Type of action: Air strike, possible US drone
Location: Loder, Abyan province
References: Reuters, Xinhua, AFP

YEM064
April 30 2012
♦ 3 killed
A strike hit a vehicle near Zinjibar killing three alleged al Qaeda militants. A Yemeni presidential aide told CNN the Yemen government had approved a series of US drone strikes on militant positions in the south of the country. Since mid-April there had been at least two US drone strikes a day, the aide continued.

On June 20 a jihadist website reported that Muhammad Fazi al Harasheh, aka Abu Hammam al Zarqawi, had died in a drone strike on a vehicle. Zarqawi was the nephew of former Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, killed by the US in 2006. Initial reports suggested he had been killed by a landmine. Although the precise date of his death is unknown, this April 30 strike appears to most closely match the description. The Long War Journal reported a militant statement as saying ‘They were unable to kill him in the battles, so they sent spies to guide them to him. “A drone came to bomb the car in which he and one of the brother were riding, and so his pure soul went to its maker.’

Type of action: Air strike, possible US drone
Location: Zinjibar, Abyan province
References: AP, CNN, Long War Journal

Click here for our 2001-2011 Yemen data

May

YEM065
May 2 2012
♦ 10 – 15 killed
Three Yemeni security officials told CNN a US drone attacked a militant training camp outside the southern town of Jaar, killing up to 15. The strike was one of a series targeting Jaar, Zinjibar and Loder planned for the proceeding weeks the officials said. An anonymous Yemeni presidential aide told CNN the US had been launching at least two strikes a day since mid April. The aide continued:

This is part of the strategy to uproot al Qaeda from areas they control…The Yemeni government is giving the green light for the attacks and targets chosen carefully.

The strike resembled previous US drone strikes according to AP but added the US would not comment on it. Local residents told Xinhua the Yemen Air Force launched two air strikes on the training camp.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: AP, Xinhua, CNN, CNN

YEM066
May 6 2012
♦ 2-4 killed
♦ 1 civilian reported killed
An Al Qaeda bomber wanted for his role in the deadly 2000 bombing of the USS Cole was killed in a CIA drone strike on a vehicle in the remote mountain valley of Wadi Rafad. Fahd al-Quso, who admitted to being part responsible for the death of 17 US sailors, died in the attack in Shabwa province. Also initially reported killed was al-Quso’s nephew Fahed Salem al-Akdam, described as a ‘senior AQAP leader.’ However the Washington Post later identified the man as 19-year old farm worker Nasser Salim, who was no relation to Quso. His uncle told the paper:

He was torn to pieces. He was not part of al-Qaeda. But by America’s standards, just because he knew Fahd al-Quso, he deserved to die with him.

Both Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Yemen government confirmed al-Quso’s death, with Ansar al-Sharia telling Reuters that ‘Al Qaeda affirms the martyrdom of the Fahd al-Qasaa in an American attack this afternoon in Rafad.’ The New York Times cautioned that US officials still wanted ‘a few days‘ to confirm Quso’s death, which had been reported before. The strike led to retaliatory attacks against Yemen soldiers killing at least 32, according to al Arabiya and the BBC. Confirming the US role in the attack, an official told agencies:

Fahd al-Quso was a senior terrorist operative of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was deeply involved in ongoing terrorist plotting against Yemeni and U.S. interests at the time of his death. He was also involved in numerous attacks over many years that murdered Americans as well as Yemeni men, women and children.

Following the strike details emerged of al-Quso’s link to an AQAP attempt to blow up an airliner. Information gleaned from a Saudi Arabian spy in AQAP who foiled the group’s plot reportedly enabled the CIA to target al-Quso. British intelligence services MI5 and MI6 were allegedly involved and British authorities said to be ‘deeply distressed‘ that details of the apparently joint US-UK-Saudi Arabia operation had been leaked. Reuters reported President Obama’s counter terrorism adviser John Brennan inadvertently let slip the presence of the spy within AQAP, an admission that ended the operation prematurely.

Type of action: Airstrike, confirmed US drone
Location: Wadi Rafad, Shabwa province
References: BBC, Associated Press, Antiwar.com, IANS, Press Association, Reuters, New York Times, CNN, Al Arabiya, AFP, Al Jazeera, KUNA, MSNBC, Yemen Observer, ABC News, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, BBC, Reuters, Washington Post, FBI Wanted poster

May 8th 2010
The Pentagon announced that it was sending ‘military trainers’ to Yemen, previously withdrawn during the Arab Spring uprising. A Pentagon spokesman said that ‘We have begun to reintroduce small numbers of trainers into Yemen.’ A second US official told AP that ‘the arriving troops are special operations forces, who work under more secretive arrangements than conventional U.S. troops and whose expertise includes training indigenous forces.’ The agency also reported that the US now has ‘a substantial naval presence near Yemen’, with around 2,000 US Marines deployed nearby.

Location: Yemen
References: Associated Press, AntiWar.com

Yemen’s Counter Terrorism unit in 2010 – key target for US training (Flickr/Ammar Abd Rabbo)

YEM067
May 10 2012
♦ 5-12 killed
A series of strikes in the small hours killed up to 8 in Abyan province. There were confused reports of the death toll, targets and source of the attacks. CNN reported that a drone targeted a convoy of vehicles carrying senior leaders of Ansar al Sharia, killing eight, adding that the strike preceded three airstrikes on Jaar by the Yemen Air Force. But a source told AFP ‘three explosions rocked the town at midnight’ when a drone struck a residence in Jaar, killing eight alleged militants meeting inside. Residents told al Arabiya 12 militants were killed by a US drone as they met outside Jaar and the Yemen Observer reported 10 killed in a number of strikes by a US drone and the Yemen Air Force. AP reported the strike ‘completely leveled’ a house where alleged militants were meeting, but said only five died. One of the dead was later reported as a senior AQAP member responsible for armaments called Jallad or al-Galadi. According to AFP the strike was precise and destructive:

‘Eight militants were killed and their bodies were left in pieces,’ the source told AFP as witnesses said parts of the two story building were completely destroyed. No other houses were affected in what appeared to be surgical strikes based on precise information.

However Jaar residents told Reuters the strike hit outside the town and appeared to come from the sea while Xinhua reported a Yemen Navy bombardment hit AQAP positions in Jaar, killing nine. A government official told Xinhua the attack struck several compounds and two local al Qaeda leaders were believed to be among the dead. Local sources told the Yemen Observer one was known as Abu Huthaifa Al Sanani.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible naval bombardment, possible US drone
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: CNN, AFP, Reuters. Associated Press, Xinhua, Critical Threats, AFP, Associated Press, Al Arabiya, Yemen Observer, Al Jazeera

YEM068
May 10 2012
♦ 2-4 reported killed
AP reported two more alleged militants killed in a second strike on Shaqra, northeast of the provincial capital Zinjibar. The Yemen Observer reported AQAP claims that a drone killed four men in the strike. Al Qaeda confirmed the organisation’s second-in-command for Abyan province Kheldoon Al Sayed died in the strike. But AQAP denied senior member Qasim al Raimi also perished. Al Raimi survived two strikes in April 2012, YEM051 and YEM055. Al Jazeera reported that only two died in the strike, reporting an anonymous Yemeni official as saying that ‘one of those killed was al-Qaeda’s second-in-command for Lawder, a town further north that was controlled by the group last year until its residents drove the fighters out.’

In Washington the same day, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta discussed US military and intelligence operations in Yemen:

We will go after al-Qaida wherever they are and wherever they try to hide. And one of the places that they clearly are located is Yemen. We’ve obviously – the United States, both military and intelligence communities, have gone after al-Qaida, and we continue to go after al-Qaida… We have operations there. The Yemenis have actually been very cooperative in the operations that we have conducted there. And we will continue to work with them to go after the enemies that threaten the United States.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible naval bombardment, possible US drone
Location: Shaqra near Zinjibar, Abyan province
References: CNN, AFP, Reuters, Associated Press, Xinhua, Critical Threats, AFP, Associated Press, Al Arabiya, Yemen Observer, Al Jazeera, Bikya Masr, US Department of Defense

YEM069
May 12 2012
♦ 6-7 reported killed
A reported US drone strike took place in al-Hosoon, near the city of Marib. A tribal chief told Reuters that ‘a drone fired two rockets at two vehicles, killing five Al-Qaeda members.’ Reuters later revised its report to say that seven died in the attack. The Yemen Ministry of Information later said that six had died, named as Mohsen Abdul-Rahman Al-Youssefi, Saleh Mohammed Jaber Shabwani, Abu Mutib Al-Yamani, Abu Laith Al-Hadrami and two unidentified Saudis. In October AQAP released a list of militants killed in the strike, adding Abu Mohammed al Shihiri and Abu Abdullah al Sanaani to the four names released by the Ministry of Information. The attack – and two others that day – were likely linked to a Yemen military offensive attempting to recapture territory in the south. Reuters reported:

Yemeni air force planes dropped leaflets on Saturday urging civilians to leave areas held by militants targeted by the army offensive, prompting a mass exodus from parts of Abyan.

AFP also reported a Yemeni military official as saying that US forces were providing ‘logistical support’ for the offensive.

Type of action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al-Hosoon village, near Marib
References: Reuters, Associated Press, Reuters, Xinhua, BBC, CNN, ABC News, Al Arabiya, The National, Al Jazeera, Yemen Post, Yemen Ministry of Information (via Abyan Press, in Arabic), Al Wefaq Press (Arabic)

YEM070
May 12 2012
♦ 10 reported killed
Agencies reported a second strike of the day, also on a convoy of vehicles: ‘One drone fired rockets at a convoy of three pick-up trucks travelling on a desert road in Hareeb area of Shabwa province. Seven militants were killed and all the three vehicles were destroyed,’ the agency said, saying that ‘the Al Qaeda militants were reportedly planning to attend a meeting in the area.’ CNN reported that only one of the vehicles was destroyed, with the other two escaping. Security officials told the news organisation that ‘the dead included three al Qaeda leaders.’

Yemen’s Ministry of Information later named those killed as Ali Hassan Ali Gharib Al -Shabwani from the Shabwan family; Hassan Saud Hassan Bin Mouaily, from the Obayda clan; Hamid Nasir Al-Aqraa, from the Jadaan clan; Mohsen Saeed Kharassan, from the Jadaan clan; Ahmed Saleh Mohammed Al-Faqeer, from the Murad clan; Abdullah Ali Muhammad Miqan aka Al-Quti, from the Obeida clan; and Mohammed Saleh Bakeer Al-Faqeer, from the Murad clan (all from Marib province). Two men from Shabwa province were reported killed, Aref Issa Chabwi and Mubarak, Saleh Al-Nasser Al-Nassi, along with ‘terrorist’ Abu Obeida Al-Masri, an Egyptian.

Type of action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Between Marib and Shabwa
References: Xinhua, BBC, CNN, Al Arabiya, The National, Al Jazeera, Yemen Ministry of Information (via Abyan Press, in Arabic), Al Wefaq Press (Arabic)

YEM071
May 12 2012
♦ 6-10 killed
A possible third drone strike of the day killed between 6 and 10 alleged al Qaeda militants at a ‘hideout‘, according to a local Yemeni official.

Type of action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al-Aeen, near Aden, Shabwa Province
References: Reuters, Associated Press, Reuters, Xinhua, Reuters, ABC News, Al Arabiya

YEM072
May 14 2012
♦ 10 killed
As the Yemen government continued its offensive against insurgents and militants in the south of the country a series of airstrikes targeted alleged militants in Abyan. Government jets reportedly hit alleged al Qaeda positions in Shaqra, near the city of Zinjibar, killing ten. A militant leader called al-Muhajir was later named among the dead although it remains unclear if he perished in YEM072 or YEM073.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Shaqra, Abyan province
References: Associated Press, Associated Press, AFP, International Business Times, Critical Threats, Yemen Post

YEM073
May 14 2012
♦ 6 killed
In a separate strike, missiles were fired at a moving vehicle near the town of Loder. The vehicle was destroyed and six were killed in a strike reportedly carried by Yemeni aircraft. But the Yemeni armed forces have suffered considerable morale and disciplinary problems since a popular uprising unseated the president. Furthermore the Yemen Air Force reportedly lacks the ability to launch precision strikes on moving vehicles which casts doubt on whether the airstrikes were carried out by Yemen or US forces.

Type of action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Loder, Abyan province
References: Associated Press, Associated Press, AFP, International Business Times, Critical Threats, Yemen Post

YEM074
May 14 2012
♦ 2 injured, both children
In a third strike of the day two children were reported wounded in Jaar. AP reported a Yemeni warplane missed its target and accidentally fired on civilians.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Associated Press, Associated Press

YEM075
May 15 2012
♦ 14-16 killed
♦ 12-26 civilians reported killed
♦ 20-21 civilians reported injured
A double airstrike in Jaar reportedly killed at least a dozen civilians and injured as many as 21, as well as killing 2-3 alleged ‘Al Qaeda militants.’ The BBC reported that the civilians ‘were hit as they were trying to dig out the bodies of those killed in the initial attack.’ Initial reports claimed that the attack was the work of the Yemen Air Force, with Xinhua describing ‘a botched air strike carried out by Yemeni warplanes’ on a residential building near a militant compound. However, shortly afterwards CNN reported that the attack had been carried out by US drones, killing eight civilians and injuring a further seven, along with three ‘senior al Qaeda leaders.’

Middle East Online also reported that the strike was the work of US drones, stating that eight civilian bodies had been pulled from the wreckage of a house, and that a further four of 25 civilians injured had later died. Two alleged militants were also killed, it said. In a slightly different version of events, Reuters said that a strike had hit cars and a house, killing ten militants, with a follow-up attack killing six civilians. On May 18 USA Today reported an eyewitness to the attack, Samir al Mushari, as saying that 26 civilians died in the two possible drone strikes. A witness told NPR in June 2012 that the first strike killed one man in the house and the second strike killed at least 12 people instantly. ‘”They were cut…in pieces,” he says. A wall where the second strike hit is still covered in blood.’ The residents who spoke to NPR claimed the strike was carried out by a US strike fighter that was grey and ‘looked like an eagle,’ not a drone or Yemen Air Force jet. Abdullah was badly burnt in the second strike. He told NPR the man who died in the first strike was just an ordinary citizen.

Amnesty International said a pregnant woman died in the strike. Aged in her thirties, Mariam Abdo Said was a passer-by hit by flying shrapnel. In a December 2012 report, the NGO said a pair of strikes destroyed a house in Jaar, killing its civilian owner Nuweir al Arshani, and killed 13 more civilians including Abdo Said. A witness said ‘at around 8am or 8.30am, an aircraft flying low over Jaar roared towards al Hurur…and bombed Nuweir’s home.’ Passers-by gathered at the scene and the aircraft ‘returned and bombed and fired into the crowd.’

Amnesty also published the names of 12 men killed in the follow-up attack:

Majed Ahmed Abdullah Awad – aged 26
Salem Mohsen Haidar al Jalladi – aged around 35
Adeeb Ahmed Ghanem al Doba’i
Mohammed Abdullah Saleh Hussein
Munir bin al Haji bin al Assi,
Ahmed Abdullah Ahmed al Shahari
Salem Abdullah Ahmed Abkar
Hussien Mubarak Ahmed
Abd al Rahman Motahhar
Hafez Abdullah Mubarak
Mohsen Ali Salem
Amir al Azzani

Hassan Ahmed Abdullah spoke to al Akbar about his brother who died in the strike. He said:

About 15 minutes later [after the initial strike], another plane suddenly struck the same building killing 15 people, including my brother. He was wounded by shrapnel in his chest, liver, and neck. He also had burns on 50 percent of his body.’

The ICRC later reported that it was ‘extremely concerned‘ at possible airstrikes on civilian locations and urged all warring parties to protect civilian life. The civilian death toll was the highest attributed to US action in Yemen since an attack on a former police station in Mudiya killed up to 30 civilians on July 14 2011. In a possible worrying development, there were reports that drones had returned to the attack after crowds had gathered at the scene of the initial strike in Jaar. If confirmed, this would mark the first known case in which US drones had attacked rescuers in Yemen. In an investigation with the Sunday Times earlier this year the Bureau exposed a similar practice in Pakistan, identifying a dozen US strikes on rescuers that had killed more than 50 civilians.

Type of action: Air strikes, possible US drone strikes
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Xinhua, CNN, Middle East Online, AFP, Reuters, Al Arabiya, Associated Press, The National, Reuters, Yemen Post, New York Times, BBC, ICRC, USA Today, National Public Radio, Al Akbar, Amnesty International

May 15 2012
Associated Press reported that almost 60 US troops were just 65 kilometres from the front lines, at al-Annad airbase, from where they were were ‘coordinating assaults and airstrikes and providing information to Yemeni forces.’ A Yemen official said that ‘They brought their mobile houses and buildings for a long stay,’ with another saying that the US personnel were overseeing strikes by U.S. drone aircraft.

US and Yemeni officials told the LA Times that at least 20 US special forces soldiers based in Yemen were involved in the concerted Yemeni offensive trying to retake lost ground in the south. The paper said the troops were using ‘satellite imagery, drone video, eavesdropping systems and other technical means’ to target militants. The US contingent is expected to grow according to a senior military official. A source with knowledge of the intelligence operations told the paper teams of CIA officers and US contractors had been operating in Yemen for some time, hunting militants and generating intelligence networks for drone strikes. The White House insisted ‘the US military role in Yemen is limited’ and Natonal Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said:

We have not, and will not, get involved in a broader counterinsurgency effort. That would not serve our long-term interests and runs counter to the desires of the Yemeni government and its people.

Militants launched an attack on the al-Annad airbase on May 13, killing one Yemeni soldier. The reports appeared to contradict Pentagon claims on May 8 that US military advisers were being sent back to Yemen for ‘routine’ training purposes. In a separate development, a blogger identified the presence of eight US F15-E Strike Eagles at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Yemen’s own air force is not capable of precision strikes, with speculation that US or Saudi aircraft may instead have been carrying out attributed attacks.

Type of action: Assault co-ordination
Location: al-Annad airbase, Lahj Province
Reference: Associated Press, The National, Voice of America, The Aviationist, Wired, Los Angeles Times

YEM076
May 16 2012
♦ 16 killed
♦ 5-14 injured
At least 16 alleged militants were killed in a strike which wounded up to 14 more. AFP reported two strikes targeted a farm near Moudia, outside Loder. Officials said AQAP commander Samir al Fathani (aka Samir Salem al-Moqayda) was killed. Al Fathani’s brother Abdul Munim al Fathani was involved in the bombing of the USS Cole reported AP. He was killed in a drone strike in January 2012 (YEM040). A local military official told Xinhua a Yemen Air Force fighter jet targeted two AQAP squads in the strike. The attack came amid a concerted offensive by the Yemen armed forces in Abyan province. As many as 20,000 soldiers were reportedly involved in the push with assistance from US special forces. Witnesses told AFP the US Navy was also involved in the attacks although the naval bombardment was not confirmed by official sources.

Type of action: Air strikes, possible US drone, possible US Navy
Location: Moudia, Abyan province
References: Associated Press, Albawaba, AFP, Reuters, Xinhua, Xinhua, BBC, Middle East Online

YEM077
Mid-May 2012
♦ 6 killed
♦ 0-1 civilian killed
Two strikes hit Jaar in mid-May. One hit a house local people said was being rented by Ansar al Sharia militants. Neighbour Adnan Ahmed Saleh told NPR ‘I got back inside, closed the door, and then the first rocket hit’. The house next door to his was destroyed. The next day AQAP-linked militants ‘cleaned up the mess’ and ‘paid compensation for the house. The second strike targeted AQAP leader Nadir Shedadi. It his home but only killed Shedadi’s cousin Wael al Dhai, a civilian according to residents.

Type of action: Airstrikes, possible US
Location: Jaar, Abyan
References: National Public Radio, National Public Radio

YEM078
May 17 2012
♦ 2-3 killed
♦ 0-2 injured
Three alleged militants were killed in a possible US drone strike in the eastern province of Hadhramout. Reuters reported a car apparently carrying explosives was destroyed when the overnight strike targeted a convoy. The strike came at 00.45 and was audible from 15 km distance reported the Yemen Times. Local residents said the three were all members of a militant cell. AP reported two men in another car in the convoy were wounded in the strike. A local security official told Xinhua a US drone fired two missiles on a moving pick-up truck as it passed through the Shibam area, killing two alleged militants. The defence ministry said two of the dead were local AQAP leaders, calling them Zeid bin Taleb and Mutii Bilalafi. They were both on the Yemeni government’s most wanted list for terrorist attacks in the country the official told Xinhua. A security source told the Yemen Times the convoy consisted of two cars, the second of which was damaged in the attack. The source told the paper one of the dead was a ‘prominent leader of Al-Qaida’ called Mohammed al Raimi. Al Raimi (aka al-Raymi) survived two strikes in April 2012, YEM051 and YEM055, and was credited with being AQAP third in command. Eye witnesses told Yemen Times four survivors from the second car were driven from the scene of the strike 25 minutes after the event in a Toyota Hilux.

The strike appears to be the first to have been reported in real time on Twitter. A Yemeni lawyer and activist reported drone sightings on the social media network before the attack and said two vehicles were destroyed. The strike came as Yemeni officials announced they have ‘cleansed Loder [of al Qaeda],’ as part of a heavy military offensive in the south of the country. A local official told AFP the Yemen Air Force had launched several airstrikes that night on the southern cities of Shaqra and Arqoub but with no reported casualties.

Type of action: Possible US drone strikes
Location: Shibam, Hadhramout province
References: Reuters, AFP, Xinhua, AFP, AP, AGI, BBC, Hadramout Today (Arabic), Mukalla Star (Arabic), Seyoun Press (Arabic), BBC, Yemen Times, The Bureau

YEM079
May 17 2012
♦ 5-8 killed
♦ 0-2 civilians reported killed
As many as eight people were killed in an afternoon strike in the town of Shaqra. Security officials told CNN eight militants traveling in a convoy were killed in a drone strike which was followed by a series of airstrikes by the Yemen Air Force. Reuters reported three militants and two civilians were killed in a Yemeni airstrike according to local residents and officials. But AP reported six militants were killed when a strike hit a vehicle in the town. AFP said six militants were killed in a strike on a checkpoint in Shaqra. An unknown number of people were killed when a strike hit alleged militants in a car fleeing Loder, Reuters added. This strike came as Yemen government forces celebrated driving insurgents out of the land around Loder, the scene of fierce battles between militants and forces loyal to the government.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Shaqra, Abyan province
References: Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Associated Press, CNN

Anti-drone protestors take to the streets in Chicago, May 2012 (World Can’t Wait/ Flickr)

YEM080
May 18 2012
♦ 3 killed
♦ 6 reported wounded
Associated Press reported a single Yemeni warplane struck a checkpoint in Shaqra in Abyan province. Three alleged militants were killed and six wounded the agency said.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Shaqra, Abyan province
References: Associated Press

YEM081
May 19 2012
♦ 3-5 killed
As fighting between government and insurgent forces continued in the south of Yemen a local official told Reuters three alleged militants were killed in an air strike in the vicinity of Jaar. Military officials told Associated Press that Yemeni warplanes had ‘pounded targets some 5 km (3 miles) outside Jaar’ without giving any casualty figures. Local residents told AFP Yemen Air Force jets launched four strikes on Jaar’s western entrance and the Yemen Post reported five militants were killed in ‘several airstrikes’ carried out by Yemen Air Force jets.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Reuters, Al Arabiya, Oman Tribune, Associated Press, AFP, Yemen Post

YEM082
May 19 2012
♦ 2 killed
A second air strike of the day destroyed a vehicle in the southern province of Bayda. The attack killed the two occupants provincial governor Mohammed al Ameri told the defense ministry website. The dead were alleged militants from Somalia and Yemen. Sources told AFP and Associated Press the strike was carried out by a US drone. The Yemen Air Force is not capable of carrying out such a precise strike, targeting a moving vehicle.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Bayda province
References: Reuters, Al Arabiya, Oman Tribune, Associated Press, AFP

YEM083
May 20 2012
♦ 0-9 killed
A factory to the north of Jaar was targeted in an airstrike as fighting in the city continued. Up to nine casualties were reported by Reuters, citing local residents who said a vehicle carrying the bodies of alleged insurgents was seen speeding from the factory. The strike came as an American trainer was seriously wounded. The US team of military instructors were attacked while training the Yemeni coastguard in Hudaida on the Red Sea coast. Ansar al Sharia claimed responsibility for the attack.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Reuters, CNN

May 21-22 2012
A suicide bomber later named as Haitham Hamid Hussein Mufarih caused carnage in Sanaa during a military parade rehearsal metres from the Presidential Palace. The attack killed over 100 soldiers and wounded at least 300 more. Ansar al Sharia claimed responsibility for the attack, telling Xinhua: ‘The sophisticated operation was designed to target Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Ahmed and the US advisers who operate the war against our families in Abyan province in southern Yemen. This is only the beginning of Jihad,’ the group vowed.’ The Defense Minister was unhurt in the blast. A security official told AFP that two men were arrested shortly afterwards wearing belts ‘each packed with 13 kilograms’ of explosives. The Yemen Observer later reported their names as Mohammed Nahshal and Jihad Saeed Al Austa. One Yemeni investigator told Reuters that preliminary findings suggested the bomber, who was dressed in army uniform, was a rogue soldier recruited by militants who had evaded security checks. Ahmed Sobhi, a soldier who witnessed the explosion, described the carnage to the Associated Press:

There are piles of torn body parts, limbs and heads. This is unbelievable. I am still shaking. The place turned into hell. I thought this only happens in movies.

The parade went ahead the following day. President Abdullah Mansur Hadi attended but was flanked by heavy security. ‘The war on terrorism will continue until it is uprooted and annihilated completely, regardless of the sacrifices,’ he said in an address. President Obama told a press conference at the NATO summit in Chicago: ‘We are going to continue to work with the Yemeni government to try to identify AQAP leadership and operations and try to thwart them.’ He added that ‘there’s no doubt that in a country that is still poor, that is still unstable, it is attracting a lot of folks that previously might have been in FATA [in Pakistan] before we started putting pressure on them there.’ Following the attack President Hadi fired a number of top security officials. General Ammar Saleh was sacked as director of the National Security Bureau, with head of central security Abdul Malik al Tayyeb also dismissed.

Type of action: Suicide bombing
Location: Sanaa
References: Sky (Australia), Reuters, Al Jazeera, Associated Press, Al Jazeera, CNN, BBC, New York Times (via Boston Globe), UPI, Zeenews, Channel 4 News, Xinhua, AFP, BNO News, AFP, Yemen Observer

YEM084
May 27 2012
♦ 7+ killed
In a series of strikes on the south of Yemen at least seven alleged militants were killed when a factory in Jaar was bombed reported Reuters. The factory targeted was to to the west of the city and was allegedly a base used by Ansar al Sharia.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Reuters

YEM085
May 27 2012
♦ 10 killed
In a second strike of the day a house allegedly used as a meeting place by AQAP militants was ‘pounded‘ by warplanes reported Xinhua. Ten alleged AQAP fighters were killed including two local leaders according to a tribal chief.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Xinhua

YEM086
May 27 2012
♦ 6 killed
The third strike of the day on Jaar destroyed a pick-up truck. The attack killed the six occupants, all AQAP militants reported Xinhua. The Yemen Air Force reportedly lacks the ability to launch precision strikes on moving vehicles which casts doubt on whether the airstrikes were carried out by Yemen or US forces.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Xinhua

YEM087
May 28 2012
♦ 3-5 killed
♦ 4 reported wounded
♦ 0-2 civilians killed
Up to five alleged militants were killed and four wounded in a possible drone strike in the centre of the country. Anwar al Awlaki‘s brothers-in-law Qaed and Nabil al Dahab were targeted but survived. A government official told Xinhua they were hit ‘while travelling from the area of Manasih to al Himmah near the town of Radda in al Bayda.’ According to the Associated Press the al Dahabs’ sister was al Awlaki’s wife. Qaed al Dahab is reportedly AQAP’s Bayda provincial leader. Xinhua reported Qaed and his brother Nabil inherited command of the AQAP branch in the province after Yemeni intelligence officers killed its leader, their brother, Sheikh Tariq al Dahab in February. A tribal source told AFP that ‘Dahab survived but five of his guards were killed.’ The Yemen Defence Ministry told Reuters ‘several militants’ were killed in the strike but the agency quoted an SMS message from militant group Ansar al Sharia saying the strike resulted in ‘the deaths of two bystanders and one [militant] brother.’ A local official told Reuters a militant commander and his brother were the targets of the strike, but both survived.

The Washington Post later quoted US intelligence officials as questioning whether the men represented an ‘imminent threat‘ to US interests:

“It’s still an open question,” a U.S. counterterrorism official said. The siblings were related by marriage to Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda operative killed in September, but they have not been connectedto a major plot. Their focus has been “more local,” the official said. But “look at their associations and what that portends.”

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Manaseh, Bayda province
References: Associated Press, AFP, Reuters, The Guardian, Yemen Post, Xinhua, Al Jazeera, Washington Post

YEM088
May 28 2012
♦ 5 killed
In the second strike of the day five alleged militants were killed in the eastern province of Hadhramout, including local commander Saleh Abdul Khaleq Ali Jaber. Local media later named others killed as Hussein Rabi, Malik Bakotain and Muhammad Al Saqqaf. A fifth badly burnt body was not identified. Media reported that the strike targeted a vehicle carrying the men to the provincial capital al Mukalla from Azan, a town in the Ansar al Sharia-controlled province of Shabwa. Local sources told the Yemen Post the attack was launched by a US drone. But others contradicted this, telling the newspaper the missiles were fired from a ship off the Yemeni coast. The Associated Press also reported conflicting accounts, with security officials saying the attack was an airstrike and military officials calling it a naval operation. AFP reported that the attack was carried out by the Yemen Air Force although the air force reportedly lacks the technical ability to carry out a precision strike on a moving vehicle.

Type of action: Possible airstrike, US drone strike or naval strike
Location: Al Mukalla, Hadhramout province
References: Yemen Post, Reuters, Associated Press, Sacramento Bee, AFP, Xinhua, AFP, Al Jazeera, Mukalla Star (Arabic)

One of two Coastguard vessels delivered to Yemen by US in March 2012 (US Coastguard/ Flickr)

June

YEM089
June 1 2012
♦ 11-12 killed
Local officials and residents told agencies that a US drone had killed 11 -12 men they suspected of being Islamic militants, who were meeting at a house (or ‘communications compound’) in al Mahfad. Residents told Xinhua: ‘For the first time, several foreigners were killed by the air strike that targeted an al-Qaida complex in Mahfad.‘ Three of the dead were Somali. it was claimed, with the drone allegedly firing three missiles onto the compound.

Type of action: Possible drone strike
Location: al-Mahfad, Abyan province
References: Reuters, Xinhua

June 3 2012
The Washington Post reported what had long been suspected: that US conventional aircraft were involved in airstrikes in Yemen alongside drones. National security correspondent Greg Miller reported:

The airstrikes in Yemen this year have been split fairly evenly between operations carried out by CIA Predators and those conducted by JSOC using Reapers and other drones as well as conventional aircraft, U.S. officials said.

The report also said that High Value Targets were no longer the US’s sole objective in Yemen. ‘Officials said the campaign is now also aimed at wiping out a layer of lower-ranking operatives through strikes that can be justified because of threats they pose to the mix of U.S. Embassy workers, military trainers, intelligence operatives and contractors scattered across Yemen.’

On the same day it was reported that a number of air strikes had ‘struck Al-Qaeda hideouts inside Jaar, destroying many buildings.’

Location: Yemen
Reference: Washington Post, Yemen Times

YEM090
June 7 2012
♦ 2 killed
♦ 7 reportedly wounded
Two al Qaeda comanders were killed ‘while they were inspecting a checkpoint‘ a local security official told Xinhua. Seven other alleged AQAP militants were reportedly wounded in the attack which the official attributed to the Yemen Air Force. Suspicions that US conventional aircraft were involved in airstrikes in Yemen were confirmed by US officials on June 3. Although the Yemeni armed forces operate strike fighters the force has been described as ‘barely functional’ and having insufficient equipment to defend its own airspace.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Mudiyah town, Abyan province
References: Xinhua, Washington Post

YEM091
June 7 2012
♦ 3 reported killed
An ‘al Qaeda vehicle’ was targeted in a strike near Jaar which residents said was carrying militants and heavy weapons. Xinhua reported witnesses saying some al Qaida militants were believed to have been killed or injured in the attack. Associated Press reported three alleged militants died in the strike. AP attributed the attack to ‘warplanes’ but the Yemen Air Force does not have the capacity to carry out precision strikes on a moving vehicle. US drones are operating in the country and a Washington Post of June 3 confirmed US conventional jets were also flying strike missions in Yemen.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Xinhua, Associated Press, Washington Post

YEM092
June 7 2012
♦ 5 killed
♦ 3 wounded
Five alleged al Qaeda fighters were killed in an airstrike on the eastern outskirts of Jaar. AFP reported three more were injured in the strike attributed to the Yemen Air Force by a local official. Reuters reported the strike hit a weapons cache as the ICRC said Abyan was on the verge of an ‘acute humanitarian crisis.’ This strike came amid a continuing Yemeni offensive in Abyan province against AQAP and Ansar al Sharia. Reuters reported the use of helicopters in the fighting, a departure from Yemeni tactics from the protracted conflict with Huthi secessionists. In battles with the Huthis in the north of the country the Yemen military was unwilling to use helicopters for anything other than transport for fear of losses to small arms fire.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: AFP, Reuters, AFP, Reuters, Rand Corporation

YEM093
June 11 2012
♦ 3 killed
Three alleged senior militants were killed in an airstrike on their vehicle. They were killed ‘while they were moving to oversee the fighting with army troops on the outskirts of Jaar.’ The strike was attributed to Yemeni ‘warplanes’ but the Yemen Air Force has been described as ‘barely functional‘. It lacks the technical capacity or equipment to carry out precision strikes on moving vehicles.

Type of action: Possible drone strike
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Xinhua

YEM094
June 11 2012
♦ 16 killed
As the Yemen military and allied militias continued their offensive on Jaar an airstrike killed 16 alleged militants. Attributed to the Yemen Air Force, it had been confirmed that US strike fighters had been carrying out raids on Yemen. And the Yemen Air Force had been declared incapable of defending its own airspace and ‘barely functional‘ casting doubt on the source of the strike.

Type of action: Airstrikes, possible US
Location: Jaar, Abyan province
References: Associated Press, Washington Post, Reuters

YEM095
June 13 2012
♦ 10-18 killed
♦ ‘Dozens’ reportedly wounded
US drones hit southeastern Yemen, killing as many as 27 alleged militants. In a statement the defense ministry said as many as 30 alleged militants were killed and ‘dozens’ wounded in up to three airstrikes. But a local official subsequently downgraded this estimate. It was not clear if the strikes were by US drones or the Yemen Air Force jets. An alleged militant position, a car, an insurgent weapons cache and a convoy were all said to have been targeted. Reporting was muddled because of intense battles that had taken place in the area. Ansar al Sharia said five strikes by US drones had targeted Azzan province that day. They said the attack had hit a civilians house and a mosque but with no casualties

The previous day Yemeni security forces and local militia had retaken the towns of Jaar and Zinjibar after a year of militant occupation. AQAP and Ansar al Sharia forces had retreated from the towns to Shabwa and ‘several hundred al Qaeda militants are believed to have fled to Azzan.’ US drones had reportedly been active in the region before the strike. Security officials told CNN at least 14 drone strikes had hit targets in Abyan and Shabwa provinces in the preceding two days. One of these strikes reportedly targeted Ansar al Sharia commander Jalal Beleidi’s convoy. The offensive to oust insurgents from Abyan was launched in mid-May with intelligence and operational support from US Special Forces. The campaign, ‘orchestrated by US military advisers and bankrolled by neighboring Saudi Arabia’, had ‘routed’ the insurgents. Yemeni forces had fought alongside local militia, groups of armed civilians who were funded by the Saudis.

Type of action: Airstrikes, possible US drone
Location: Azzan, Shabwa province
References: CNN, AFP, Associated Press, Xinhua, BBC, AFP, al Jazeera, Reuters, Yemen Post

YEM096
June 13 2012
♦ 9 killed
A US drone struck a house and car in Azzan, killing nine alleged militants in the early morning. Coming on a day when Azzan was targeted by multiple airstrikes, a local official said a drone targeted the house with the nine alleged AQAP members within. A medical official confirmed the toll Military officials said a car parked near the house was destroyed in the strike which al Qaeda claimed was carried out by a drone.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Azzan, Shabwa province
References: CNN, AFP, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, al Jazeera, Reuters, Yemen Post

YEM097
June 14 2012
♦ Unknown
The Yemen Times reported a US drone strike hit Azzan in Shabwa province, described as AQAP’s ‘last stronghold’ in the province. The reporter Ali Saeed subsequently told the Bureau via email that the strike came on Thursday evening. Casualty figures were unknown he added, because ‘the army has not yet entered the area’ his military source in Shabwa told him.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Azzan, Shabwa province
References: Yemen Times

YEM098
June 15 2012
♦ 5 killed
♦ 2 injured
Chinese news agency Xinhua reported an ‘airstrike’ in Shabwa province which killed five alleged militants, including ‘two senior al Qaeda commanders.’ The attack reportedly took place in a ‘mountainous region’ though few other details were given. A local security official told the news agency: ‘We have seen five corpses on a pick-up truck, all of them burned. The injured were taken to an al-Qaida-run hospital in Azzan town in Shabwa. Two groups of al-Qaida militants were hit from the air. Smokes could be seen rising after the air attack.’ The Yemen Times reported the Yemen Air Force carried out several raids on Azzan town on Friday although the paper made no mention of casualties.

Type of action: Airstrike
Location: Shabwa province
References: Xinhua, Yemen Times

YEM099
June 15 2012
♦ 7 civilians reported killed, six of them children
♦ 0-1 injured
A house in Shaqra was hit in a strike that killed six children and one woman. It was ‘not clear whether the Yemeni air force launched the strike, or whether it came from a US military or CIA drone.’ NPR told the Bureau the strike came after Friday prayers. Ali al Armoudi survived the strike and told NPR his four-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter ‘died in his arms on the way to the hospital.’

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Shaqra, Abyan province
References: National Public Radio, National Public Radio

June 15 2012
In what was viewed by some as a significant move towards greater transparency, the United States officially acknowledged for the first time its military combat operations in Yemen and Somalia. In Yemen strikes are carried out both by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, and by the CIA. The partial declassification only refers to JSOC’s attacks. A letter from President Obama to Congress – a six monthly obligation under the War Powers Resolution passed in 1973 – stated:

The U.S. military has also been working closely with the Yemeni government to operationally dismantle and ultimately eliminate the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the most active and dangerous affiliate of al-Qa’ida today. Our joint efforts have resulted in direct action against a limited number of AQAP operatives and senior leaders in that country who posed a terrorist threat to the United States and our interests.

There were similar references to operations in Yemen. Previously any such details were reported only in a confidential annex to the reports. The Wall Street Journal noted that much of the impetus for partial disclosure came from General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His spokesman told the paper: ‘When U.S. military forces are involved in combat anywhere in the world, and information about those operations does not compromise national or operational security, Gen. Dempsey believes the American public should be kept appropriately informed.’ But the paper also noted that ‘officials said details about specific strikes in Yemen and Somalia would continue to be kept secret.’

The unexpected move by Obama came three days after 26 members of the US Congress wrote to Obama urging him to be transparent on covert drone strikes.They wrote:

The implications of the use of drones for our national security are profound. They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths, and are frequently the only direct contact with Americans that the targeted communities have. They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.

The American Civil Liberties Union, while welcoming the partial declassification of military strikes in Yemen and Somalia, called for further disclosure: ‘The public is entitled to more information about the legal standards that apply, the process by which they add names to the kill list, and the facts they rely on in order to justify targeted killings.’ And Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists told the New York Times: ‘While any voluntary disclosure is welcome, this is not much of a breakthrough. The age of secret wars is over. They were never a secret to those on the receiving end.’

Location: Washington DC
References: The White House, The Pentagon, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, National Public Radio, AntiWar.com, Bloomberg, New York Times, Letter from US Congressmen, Al Jazeera, CNN

President Obama breaks official silence on Yemen strikes (Official White House/ Pete Souza)

June 18 2012
The ‘mastermind‘ of the Yemeni army’s counter-offensive against AQAP and Ansar al Sharia strongholds in the south of the country was killed by a suicide bomber in the southern city of Aden. Major General Salem Ali Qatan, head of Yemen’s southern command, was killed in his car as he traveled in convoy through the port. The bomber reportedly threw himself onto the General’s car. Up to three of Qatan’s bodyguards were killed in the blast that wounded five bystanders. The Major General’s death came as the Yemeni government announced a series of successes in the counter-offensive. The Yemeni army retook a succession of towns and cities held by AQAP and Ansar al Sharia for up to a year.

Location: Aden
References: Daily Telegraph, Yemen Post, Associated Press, Xinhua, Reuters, McClatchy, New York Times, AFP, Yemen Post

YEM100
June 19 2012
♦ 3 killed
Militant Salah al-Jawhari was killed with two others when his vehicle was destroyed in the south of al-Baida province. Although Yemen’s state news agency claimed that the attack was the work of the Yemen Air Force, Reuters reported local residents as ‘saying a drone had fired missiles at al-Jawhari’s vehicle – indicating it was a U.S. attack.’ Other reports suggested the attack was the work of Yemen’s security services. Al-Jawhari was reportedly a bomb-maker, linked to the May 21 suicide bombing which killed more than 100 soldiers.

On the same day US CENTCOM commander General James Mattis, visiting Sanaa, was reported by the US Embassy to have discussed ‘ways that the United States can cooperate with the Yemeni military to fight the mutual threat of al-Qaida.’

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Al-Yafea district, al-Baida province
References: Reuters, Associated Press, US Embassy Sanaa, KUNA, AFP, Yemen Times, Yemen Fox

YEM101
June 20 2012
♦ 1 killed
♦ 1 civilian killed
An airstrike by an unknown party in northern Abyan killed Hussein Saleh, a worker with the International Committee of the Red Cross. According to an ICRC spokesman ‘it was an air strike. We have no additional details whatsoever.’ An ICRC spokeswoman told the Bureau by email that Saleh ‘was out side an ICRC vehicle when shrapnel hit him. He died from the shrapnel injuries. The strike did not hit the ICRC vehicle directly.’ Three other ICRC staff with Saleh were unhurt in the strike the spokeswoman added. Another ICRC member told the BBC that it was not clear whether the attack was the work of a US drone or the Yemen Air Force. However a local official told Reuters the strike was the work of Yemeni aircraft. The Yemen military reportedly carried out two other strikes that day. The 35-year old father, whose wife was expecting their fifth child, died while assessing humanitarian needs in the area alongside three colleagues, it was initially reported. Later it was claimed the team was attempting to secure the release of a kidnapped French colleague. He was ‘in charge of networking for all [Red Cross] teams in the south’, according to an ICRC film released six months after his death. Eric Marclay, head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, said of Mr Saleh:

We are devastated by the tragic loss of our friend and colleague Hussein. He was a very motivated and devoted staff member. He played a tremendously crucial role within his team, helping hundreds of thousands of people in the south, and lost his life while performing humanitarian work.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Mahfadh village, Abyan
References: Reuters, BBC, ICRC, Reuters. al Jazeera, CNN, Reuters, Associated Press, ICRC

I Know Where I’m Going from Intercross.

YEM102
June 20 2012
♦ 5-30 killed
♦ 6+ injured
As many as 30 alleged militants were reported killed in a series of airstrikes in southern Yemen. AP reported Yemen military officials as saying that ‘at least six air raids targeted moving vehicles and al-Qaida positions in Mahfad, the last stronghold of al-Qaida in Abyan province.’ While some agencies put the fatality numbers as low as 5, others stated that as many as 30 people died in the attacks. CNN reported a security official as saying the strikes were part of a mopping up operation after the recent offensive.

Hundreds of militants escaped unharmed when government forces retook Zinjibar and Jaar towns. The current operation is to hunt those terrorists down, and today a big number of them were killed.

The mayor of Mahfed Yaslam al-Anburi told reporters that the majority of militants died in two areas: ‘Here were 30 deaths in al-Qaeda ranks for sure. Yemeni aircraft carried out a series of raids against concentrations of al-Qaeda fighters, mainly in the Wadi Dhiman and Dayda valleys, killing 30 and wounding many others.’ In what appears to have been another strike, Al Jazeera reported that ‘a tribal chief said three suspected fighters were killed and four wounded in an air raid targeting a group of al-Qaeda fighters in a desert region between Abyan and Shabwa provinces.’

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone
Location: Mahfed, Abyan
References: BBC, Reuters, Associated Press, Al Jazeera, CNN, Associated Press

YEM103
June 25 2012
♦ 3 killed
♦ ‘Some’ reported injured
A US drone has killed three alleged AQAP members, including one senior commander. The identities of those killed were not reported but a security official said a drone fired two missiles on a convoy which destroyed their pick-up truck. Military officials said the vehicles had been pursued by US drones, causing fear among local residents. The vehicle was targeted on a desert road on the edge of the strategically important city of Aden. The convoy was hit as it traveled away from Abyan province. A US intelligence official confirmed American involvement but would not say if it a CIA or military drone carried out the strikes.

The Yemen military had driven AQAP and Ansar al Sharia from their positions in Abyan in the previous week. This was reportedly the first drone strike on a target in the outskirts of of the port. The strike came a day after ten unnamed alleged AQAP members escaped from ‘a heavily guarded’ prison in the Mansoura district of Aden.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Aden
References: Xinhua, Xinhua, Yemen Post, UPI, Yemen Fox, Long War Journal

July

YEM104
July 3 2012
♦ 2-5 killed
♦ 2 reported injured
Up to five alleged militants were killed in an evening drone attack. The Defence Ministry said two of the dead were senior AQAP figures named Hussein Rubay and Fahad al-Harithy. It was not clear if one or two drones took part in the strike, and if one or two cars were hit. Witnesses said while four bodies were pulled from the wreckage of the first vehicle. But said ‘the flames were so intense in the second vehicle that no one could approach to check for any casualties.’

The strike came as the Defence Ministry announced it had detained a group of 14 militants from three separate terrorist cells somewhere in the country. The group was made up of ‘four Egyptians, two Jordanians, a Somali, a Tunisian and a man from Dagestan in Russia’s North Caucasus.’

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Bayhan, Shabwah province
References: Associated Press, Reuters, AFP, Xinhua, Yemen Post, AFP, Yemen Post

YEM105
July 4 2012
♦ 3-13 killed
♦ 7 reported injured
Airstrikes have targeted the only town in Abyan province ‘where jihadists still have a strong presence.’ As many as four airstrikes hit ‘suspected places and hideouts to where [sic] Al-Qaeda members sought shelter.’ The death toll varied with a military official saying three militants died while a local official said 13 were killed. A Pakistani and two other foreign fighters were said to be among the dead. The Defence Ministry told reporters Yemeni strike fighters carried out the attacks. But the Yemen Air Force has been described as ‘barely functional‘ and incapable of even defending Yemen’s airspace. US officials have confirmed American strike jets are flying missions over Yemen from nearby Djibouti.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Mahfad, Abyan province
References: AFP, Associated Press, Xinhua, Yemen Post, Washington Post

YEM106
July 23 2012
♦ 5 killed
♦ Unknown injured
A night time precision airstrike killed at least five in a number of reported ‘air strikes’ in southern Abyan province’s al-Mahfad. The area is said to be the last geographic stronghold of AQAP and Ansar al-Sharia, and AP reported Yemeni media as saying that ‘the militants were consolidating their positions in al-Mahfad, quoting witnesses who said they saw military hardware headed to the area in in trucks.’ Although the attacks were attributed to the Yemen Air Force it is known not to have the technical capability to carry out such strikes. US aircraft and armed drones may therefore have been responsible.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Mahfad, Abyan province
References: Associated Press, Wired

YEM107
July 28 2012
♦ Unknown killed
The Yemen Air Force reportedly bombed two al Qaeda compounds in Abyan province. According to a local resident one of the compounds was a disused militant training site. A security official said:

It was not immediately clear if any of the al-Qaida militants or some of their local leaders were killed in the air strikes. The bombing was in response to Wednesday’s al-Qaida attack on pro-government checkpoints.

The attacks were attributed to the Yemeni jets but the Air Force lacks the technical capability of the to carry out precision strikes. US aircraft and armed drones may therefore have been responsible.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US
Location: Mahfad, Abyan province
References: Xinhua

August

YEM108
August 4 2012
♦ 3-5 killed
♦ 2 injured
Up to five were killed and two more injured while traveling through east Yemen. A possible US drone targeted the men in an evening strike. ‘A drone fired two missiles at an all-terrain vehicle…killing its five occupants,’ according to a local official. The bodies ‘were found completely burnt with the completely destroyed car’. According to local residents the men were ‘leading members’ of al Qaeda. Security forces sealed off the scene of the strike. In the week following the strike AQAP released the name of one of the dead, Abu al Bara’a al Saya’ari, described as a driver.

The drone strike came after an alleged AQAP suicide bomber killed and injured more than 90 people in Jaar. The bomber attacked a funeral service held at the house of Abdul Latif al-Sayed, leader of the local militia that fought alongside government troops. Al Sayed reportedly defected from al Qaeda before the militants were driven out of Jaar. He survived the blast but two of his brothers were killed.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Al Qotn, Hadhramaut province
References: AFP, BBC, AFP, International Business Times, Gulf News, The Hindu, Deutsche Welle, Bloomberg, Associated Press, Al Jazeera, Xinhua, Reuters, Al Arabiya, 9News, Yemen Observer, Saba, Long War Journal

YEM109
August 6 2012
♦ 7 killed
Suspected US drones targeted two vehicles, killing seven in an evening strike. Among the dead was alleged local AQAP leader and bomb-maker Abdullah Awad al Masri (aka Abu Osama al Marebi). While his nationality is not known, his surname, al Masri, was said to indicate he was Egyptian. The state news agency said the other six casualties were all militants. They were named as Abu Ja’afar al Iraqi, a Bahraini, Abu al-Bara’a al Sharori, a Saudi, Abu Musa’ab al Nasri and Abu Hafsah al Mesri, Egyptians, Abu Hafsah al Tounisi, a Tunisian, and Ebrahim al Sakhi, Yemeni.

Some reports said one of vehicles destroyed was a motorcycle ridden by al Masri with one other. An anonymous source said: ‘Four explosions rocked the area, which was overflown by two drones in the evening.’ Residents said they ‘recognised the sound of the drone, which they said had flown over the area for hours before firing the missile.’ On August 15 a jihadist website reported that a Tunisian named as Muhammad bin Muhammad (possibly Abu Hafsah al Tounisi) had died in the attack.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Rada’a city, al Bayda province
References: Xinhua, Reuters, AFP, Associated Press, AFP, Saba, Long War Journal, Nasser Arrabyee, Yemen Post, Xinhua, Yemen Times, Yemen Observer, Long War Journal

YEM110
August 7 2012
♦ 2-3 killed
♦ 2 injured
Up to three people were killed and two injured in an evening air strike. Yemeni officials said drones targeted the men which, if confirmed, would be the second US strike on the area in four days. The three men were traveling in ‘a small pick-up truck’ which ‘was completely destroyed at the scene’ according to a security official. The Defense Ministry reportedly described the attack as an ‘air raid’ that killed ‘two militants in a vehicle loaded with large quantities of explosive devices’.

Type of action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al Qotn, Hadhramaut province
References: Associated Press, Xinhua, Long War Journal, Reuters, Yemen Times

August 8 2012
US chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan discussed Yemen in an extended speech at the Council on Foreign Relations. In a short section dealing with counter-terrorism operations Brennan stated:

So long as AQAP seeks to implement its murderous agenda, we will be a close partner with Yemen in meeting this common threat. And just as our approach to Yemen is multidimensional, our counterterrorism approach involves many different tools — diplomatic, intelligence, military, homeland security, law enforcement and justice. With our Yemeni and international partners, we have put unprecedented pressure on AQAP. Recruits seeking to travel to Yemen have been disruptive — disrupted. Operatives deployed from Yemen have been detained. Plots have been thwarted. And key AQAP leaders who have targeted U.S. and Yemeni interest have met their demise, including Anwar al-Awlaki, AQAP’s chief of external operations.

Of course, the tension has often focused on one counterterrorism tool in particular, targeted strikes, sometimes using remotely-piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones. In June the Obama administration declassified the fact that in Yemen, our joint efforts have resulted in direct action against AQAP operatives and senior leaders. This spring, I addressed the subject of targeted strikes at length and why such strikes are legal, ethical, wise and highly effective.

Today I’d simply say that all our CT efforts in Yemen are conducted in concert with the Yemeni government. When direct action is taken, every effort is made to avoid any civilian casualty. And contrary to conventional wisdom, we see little evidence that these actions are generating widespread anti-American sentiment or recruits for AQAP. In fact, we see the opposite, our Yemeni partners are more eager to work with us. Yemenese citizens who have been freed from the hellish grip of AQAP are more eager, not less, to work with the Yemeni government. In short, targeted strikes against the most senior and most dangerous AQAP terrorists are not the problem, they are part of the solution.

Location: Washington DC
References: Council on Foreign Relations (transcript), C-Span, Voice of America, Los Angeles Times, Wired, AntiWar, Firedoglake (blog), Yemen Peace Project, Washington Post, AFP, Foreign Policy

YEM111
August 28 2012
♦ 2-3 killed
After twenty days without a reported strike, a suspected drone killed at least two people in vehicle driving from Hadramout to Mareb province. A second car reportedly escaped unscathed. A security source said one of the killed was a Saudi militant named Salim Mubarak Al-Saiary. A provincial security official said ‘a wanted Saudi national who joined al Qaida group in Yemen one year ago‘ was killed in the strike, adding: ‘The U.S. air raid was coordinated with the Yemeni intelligence agency.’ A source in the Supreme Security Committee told the state news agency that Yemeni security and military forces destroyed a car carrying weapons and explosives, killing two. While Yemeni security officials told Reuters it was a drone strike, the defence ministry called it an air strike. However the Yemen Air Force lacks the technical capability to carry out precision strikes.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Qahb al-Hisan, Hadramout province
References: Associated Press, Yemen Post, Xinhua, AFP, Reuters, Alsahwah.net, SABA, Al Akhbar, dpa/Trend.az, Reuters, AFP

YEM112
August 29 2012
♦ 6-7 killed
♦ 2 civilians reported killed
As many as seven people were initially reported killed as they travelled through the village of al Qatn. Witnesses said a US drone fired three missiles at car with at least one hitting the target. Local residents pulled ‘charred bodies‘ from the wreckage that were ‘badly mangled by the airstrike‘. There was ‘a huge explosion’ that rocked the area, one local resident said, adding that military aircraft remained hovering ‘over several al-Qaida-held sites in Hadramout’s suburbs.’ The defense ministry said three militants were killed in the strike.

Two civilians were also reported killed in the strike according to Haykal Bafana, the Yemeni lawyer and activist who reported YEM078 in real time on Twitter. The car was targeted between houses, he reported on the social media network. A policeman, Walid Abdullah bin Ali Jaber, and a ‘mosque caretaker/imam‘, Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber (pictured right), were killed in their house in Khashamir village. The imam was reported to have delivered anti- al Qaeda sermons in the past. Blogger Nasser Arrabyee later claimed that militants had been visiting the Salafist cleric to threaten him when the strike took place:

The cleric is called Salem Ahmed Ali Jaber, teacher and mosque speaker, in Al Kutn. Jaber is Salafi who studied in the main Salafi center of Saada. And he was always speaking against Al Qaeda. In his recent sermons he said Al Qaeda is against Islam. According to local sources Al Qaeda sent on Wednesday four operatives to the cleric Jaber to blame him and while the five people were in the meeting a US drone came and killed them all.

Residents claimed that up to eight drones were flying over locations across the province that night. Demonstrators took to the streets locally to protest the deaths of civilians, local papers reported. Two days later hundreds more protested. According to Xinhua ‘four prominent tribal leaders also joined the demonstration, shouting “No for killing innocent people” and “End alliance with the U.S government,” witnesses added.’

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Al Qatn district, Hadramout province
References: Reuters, The News Tribe, Xinhua, Associated Press, AFP, Twitter, Twitter, Yemen Post, Nasser Arrabyee (blog), Mukalla Star (Arabic), Bloomberg, Demmon (Arabic), Yemen Observer, PakObserver, Xinhua

YEM113
August 31 2012
♦ 8 killed
Eight people were killed as they drove through Hadramout province, reportedly local commanders of the Yemen-based al Qaeda offshoot. One report said the men were traveling in an armoured car between Qatan and Khashgha when they were struck at 7.30am. Six bodies were taken to Seiyun hospital while two extremely burnt corpses were left at the scene. The defense ministry said the men were all heavily armed, with a local official speculating that they were on their way to carry out an attack. Local and military officials reported that a US drone carried out the strike (defense ministry officials initially claimed the attack was a Yemen airstrike.)

The Yemen defense ministry subsequently announced that Khaled Musalem Batis (aka Bates or Batees) died in the strike. Batis had been captured previously by security forces but escaped prison during the 2011 uprising. He was described as a top al-Qaida militant wanted for allegedly masterminding a 2002 al Qaeda attack on a French oil tanker MV Limburg. A Bulgarian sailor died in that attack. The day before the drone strike Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi (37) was charged with plotting the Limburg bombing.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Hawra, Hadramout province
References: Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Xinhua, Bloomberg, Yemen Post, Gulf News, Associated Press, Nasser Arrabyee (blog), Reuters, PakObserver, Yemen Post, Daily Telegraph, KUNA, Associated Press, The News Tribe

September

YEM114
September 2 2012
♦ 12 killed
♦ 12 civilians reported killed, including 3 children
♦ 4-8 reported injured
US drones or jets killed 12 civilians in a botched attack on an alleged senior militant. The fourth airstrike in six days, the casualties including women and three children according to local sheikh Ahmed Ali. Other locals said a 10-year-old girl and her 40-year-old mother were killed. ‘The bodies were charred like coal. I could not recognize the faces,’ said Ahmed al Sabooli the dead girl’s 22-year-old brother. The airstrike was initially said to have targeted a car carrying alleged militant Abdulraouf al Dahab at 4pm local time. Abdulraouf’s half-brothers Qayid and Nabil al Dhahab survived a US drone strike in May this year (YEM088). They reportedly became local al Qaeda leaders in Radaa after Yemeni intelligence services killed their brother Sheikh Tariq al Dahab in February.

A provincial police official, tribal officials and local residents said that a minibus was hit by mistake, killing civilians. At first military officials said Yemen Air Force jets killed civilians returning to their village based on faulty intelligence. However the Yemen Air Force lacks the technical capability to carry out a precision strike on a moving target, and the Yemen Post reported that the attack was the work of US drones. Eyewitnesses also reported that a drone carried out the strike. In December 2012 US officials acknowledged responsibility for the attack. They told the Washington Post a ‘Defense Department aircraft, either a drone or a fixed-wing warplane’ carried out the strike. Witnesses told the paper they saw three aircraft over the strike, two of them Yemeni.

Witnesses also told Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler that drones and jets were over the area on the day of the strike. Their testimony and the shrapnel they recovered from the site pointed to US involvement but could not determine if the drones or strike fighters launched the attack. Recounting the aftermath of the strike, a local sheikh Nawaf Massoud Awadh told Tayler: ‘About four people were without heads. Many lost their hands and legs…These were our relatives and friends.’ The dead were named by Al Masdar as

Abdullah Muhammad Ali AlQadari (25 years)
Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari (13 years)
Nasser Salah (60 years)
Raselah Ali (55 years, Nasser Salah’s wife)
Daolah Nasser (10 years, Nasser Salah’s daughter)
Abdullah Ahmed AbedRabbo Robich (28 years)
Saddam Hussein Mohamed Massad (28 years)
Ismail Mabkhout Mohamed (30 years)
AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout (12 years)
Masoud Ali Ahmed Mouqbal (45 years)
Jamal Mohammed Abad (30 years)

The injured were listed as the driver Nasser Mabkhout, Mohammed Abdo Jarallah and Sultan Ahmed Mohammed Sarhan (27). The victims’ families, joined in protests by hundreds of others, ‘vowed to retaliate‘. As CNN reported:

Families of the victims closed main roads and vowed to retaliate. Hundreds of angry armed gunmen joined them and gave the government a 48-hour deadline to explain the killings, which took place on Sunday. Eyewitnesses said that families attempted to carry the victims’ corpses to the capital, Sanaa, to lay them in front of the residence of newly elected President Abdurabu Hadi, but were sent back by local security forces. “You want us to stay quiet while our wives and brothers are being killed for no reason. This attack is the real terrorism,” said Mansoor al-Maweri, who was near the scene of the strike.

Yemen’s government later established a commission of inquiry into the deaths, the worst civilian tally since May. However three months after the strike complained that ‘the government is trying to kill the case’ and that ‘the government wants to protect its relations with the US.’ Xinhua reported that a number of MPs ‘summoned Interior Minister Mohammed Qahtan to an emergency meeting to clarify over the civilian casualties of the U.S. drone strike’ and that Minister of Human Rights Houria Mash’hour ‘condemned the “U.S. meddling” in Yemeni internal affairs, saying that most casualties of the U.S. drones were civilians and calling for an immediate end to the U.S. interference and drone strikes.’ US chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan also spoke with President Hadi on September 4, though it is not known if the Radaa strike was discussed.

Type of action: US Airstrike, possible US drone or aircraft
Location: Radaa, al Bayda province
References: Reuters, KUNA, AFP, al Jazeera, Xinhua, Associated Press, Yemen Post, Bloomberg, Voice of Russia/RIA, CNN, Mareb Press (Arabic), AFP , Yemen Post, Saba, Saba, Xinhua, al-Sahwa, Al Masdar (Arabic), CNN, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, McClatchy

YEM115
September 5 2012
♦ 5-6 killed
♦ 3 injured
♦ 0-1 civilians reported killed
Up to six people were killed and three injured when a US drone reportedly fired eight missiles a house in Hadrhamout. As many as four of the dead were reportedly civilians, three foreigners and one Yemeni. The strike came at dawn the day after Yemen’s government announced a commission of inquiry into the civilian deaths from a US drone strike (YEM114). An anonymous US intelligence official confirmed a US drone carried out the strike. A Yemeni security official said ‘none of those killed were on the government’s list of most-wanted terrorists.’ The anonymous official told CNN:

Those killed were mostly new al Qaeda members who were seeking to recruit more fighters from within the province. Only one of those killed had been with the network for more than three years.

Initial reports said that two middle-ranking or senior members of the local branch of al-Qaida were also among the dead, and a Yemeni military official said a ‘senior al-Qaida member‘ named as Murad Ben Salem was killed in the strike. However, an anonymous source told the Bureau that Murad, while he may have had militant links, was a worker in a nearby sesame oil press. The source also reported that two foreign al Qaeda members were killed, an Iraqi and a Syrian. Other reports said a second Saudi and an Iraqi were among the dead. Witnesses said eight men escaped the building. ‘Weapons found in the house after the attack are enough to conduct more than a dozen terrorist operations,’ according to a senior security official. Reuters was the sole agency later to report that AQAP number two Said al Shehri died in the attack. All others reported that the strike took place on September 10.

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Al Ain village, Hadramout province
References: Reuters, AFP, Associated Press, Reuters, Xinhua, DPA, Mareb Press (Arabic), Bloomberg, CNN, Al-Akhbar, AntiWar.com, Nasser Arrabyee (blog), Long War Journal

Protests took place in three Yemen cities to demand an end to US drone strikes on September 7

YEM115a
September 8 2012
♦ 4 killed
The Yemen Observer was the sole source to report that US drones killed four people including the brother of an al-Qaeda leader the US had attempted to kill days earlier. Abdulraoof Ahmad Nasser al-Thahab was supposedly driving his car in the Qaifa area of Radaa when a drone attacked him.

“Information right now indicates that Abdulraoof along with three other al-Qaeda members were killed while they were outside Radaa’,” said the officer on anonymity condition. The officer said the attack that took place in Almanasih area of Qaifah, al-Qaeda main stronghold.

Type of attack: Possible airstrike/ drone strike
Location: Qaifa near Radaa
References: Yemen Observer

YEM116
September 10 2012
♦ 6-15 killed
♦ 3 injured
Seven people including AQAP’s second-in-command Said al Shehri (aka al Shihri) were reportedly killed in a strike on a car and house in Hadrhamout, eastern Yemen, according to US and Yemeni officials. Al Shehri had previously survived a drone strike in September 2011 (YEM030). He ‘was prisoner number 327 at Guantanamo Bay, captured as he tried to cross the border into Pakistan from Afghanistan late in 2001.’ In 2007 he was released, returning to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, where he was put through a rehabilitation program. However within months he reportedly absconded, becoming a founding members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. He was suspected of involvement in a 2008 car bomb attack on the US embassy in Sanaa. Sixteen died, including the six attackers. A diplomat told the FT al Shehri was ‘the senior leadership figure in AQAP who was involved in external attack planning.’ Katherine Zimmerman said al Shehri’s death would have a medium-term impact on AQAP but it ‘still has room to maneuver in Yemen’ and ‘its operational network is largely intact.’

The Press Association initially reported Yemeni military officials as saying that ‘a local forensics team had identified al-Shehri’s body with the help of US forensics experts on the ground.’ The agency added:

Yemeni military officials said they had believed the United States was behind the operation because its own army does not the capacity to carry out precise aerial attacks and because Yemeni intelligence-gathering capabilities on al-Shehri’s movements were limited.

However an anonymous Yemeni official subsequently told Asharq al Awsat: ‘Saeed Ali al Shehri was not killed in the raid that targeted a number of Al-Qaeda’s fighters in Dadramawt a few weeks ago.’ The source told the London-based paper DNA tests had shown a corpse was not that of al Shehri. He said authorities ‘were confused because of a wound on the leg of the deceased that matched a wound that al Shehri has that requires him to use a walking stick.’ The paper reported that DNA samples were taken from ’15 bodies of al Qaeda members who were killed in the air raid and who are still yet to be identified.’ But it was subsequently claimed that DNA tests had not yet been carried out. An ‘American-German’ team was said to have been coming to Yemen to carry out the tests. Sources in Abyan also told the Yemen Observer al Shehri was still alive, 10 days after the strike. One said al Shehri was not at the scene of the strike. A second said ‘I am one hundred percent sure he [al Shehri] is alive. So close sources from al Shehri have also affirmed he is still alive.’ The following month, a recording purporting to be al Shehri emerged, in which he claimed the false rumours of his death were ‘to cover up the killing of innocent Muslim civilians’.

Type of action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Al Ain village, Hadramout province
References: Reuters, Associated Press, BBC, NBC News, Nasser Arrabyee (blog), Associated Press, CNN, Voice of America, IBT, Daily Telegraph, Press Association, Fox News, Xinhua, AFP, New York Times, New York Times, Reuters, Financial Times, American Enterprise Institute, AP (video), Asharq Al-Awsat, Yemen Post, Yemen Observer, Yemen Post, Associated Press

September 11 2012
A car bomb tore through the Yemeni defense minister’s convoy, killing 12. Seven bodyguards and five bystanders died but the minister Major General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed survived. The blast wounded 15 people on a main road between the cabinet office and state radio station. Reporting from the scene of the blast, journalist Iona Craig tweeted: ‘Body parts blasted into trees. Really grim scenes.’ But 11 hours later she posted on the social network: ‘Amazed to see Yemen’s Defence Minister out and about tonight in Sana’a after his close call earlier today.’ This was reportedly the fourth attempt on the defense minister’s life since the new government formed in December 2011. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. The New York Times reported journalists on social media were speculating the attack was AQAP’s revenge for the death of their leader, Said al Shehri, the previous day (YEM116). State television reported Ali al Ansi, the head of the National Security Agency, was fired after the attack.

Location: Sanaa
References: New York Times, Reuters, New York Times, Twitter, Twitter

YEM117
September 20 2012
♦ 2-4 killed
♦ 3 injured
An airstrike killed at least two people in Abyan province. A local official told Xinhua: ‘Fighter jets of the Yemeni air forces pounded a gathering of the al-Qaida militants on the eastern outskirts of Mahfad town in Abyan.’ The men killed in the strike were said to have been ‘al-Qaida insurgents believed to be behind a series of deadly attacks in Abyan.‘ The Air Force lacks the technical capability of the to carry out precision strikes. US aircraft and armed drones may therefore have been responsible. A Yemeni news website reported the strike was carried out by a US drone. If true this would be the first drone strike since the US embassy in Sanaa was attacked during protests at a YouTube video widely condemed as offensive to Muslims. The strike came two days after the Yemen government announced a new counter terror strategy in al Mahfad to target militants who fled Zinjibar and Jaar after the US-backed Yemeni offensive earlier in the year.

Type of action: Airstrike, possible US drone strike
Location: Al Mahfad, Abyan province
References: Xinhua, Aden al Ghad (Arabic), Al Sahwah, Guardian

September 20 2012
Victims of the botched Rada’a strike of September 2 (YEM115) were buried in Dhamar, 100km south of Sanaa. Eleven civilians were killed, including three children, when missiles from a suspected US drone hit their minibus. It was reported that the intended target had been Abdulraouf al Dahab, a local militant leader.

Location: Dhamar, Dhamar province
References:Reuters, Xinhua

October

YEM118
October 4 2012
♦ 3-6 killed
♦ 2-4 injured
A suspected drone strike targeted suspected al Qaeda or Ansar al Sharia militants in the mountainous desert region of al-Saeed in Shabwa province in the late morning, killing at least three and injuring several others. Local media reported five missiles being fired in a multiple strike. Abu Addarda’a, an Egyptian militant, was among at least three who died in the attack, local sources reported. Akhbar al-Youm (Arabic) named the others killed as Sa’ad Atef al Awaliqi (aka Saad bin Atek), leader of al Qaida Azzan Emirate in Shabwa; Mosa’ad al Habishi (aka Hajir al Barasi), a field commander; a ‘Saudi militant’ and two unidentified alleged militants from Hadramout province. Al Awlaki and al Habishi were members of the Awlaqi tribe, tribal leader Abdulmajid al Awlaqi told AFP. Abu al Zubair (aka Adel al Abab), described as fourth-in-command of AQAP, was also killed, according to a report in Quds al Arabi a fortnight after the strike. A local tribal chief told AFP that al Abab had jumped out of his car and run away when he saw a drone ‘but he was hit in the head by a shrapnel.’ He added:

We buried Abab and an Egyptian comrade in a cemetery in Saeed, while other dead (militants) were taken to their villages

AP and AFP reported that the strike targeted two vehicles of alleged militants, killing all passengers in one of the vehicles. But a local official speaking to ANI/Xinhua added that missiles hit ’al-Qaida-held [sic] sites successfully’ in addition to vehicles, and quoted locals saying the strike targeted a gathering of al Qaeda in the region. The militants had weapons and explosives in the vehicle, an anonymous security official said, adding that two militants had been injured and one had escaped. A separate security official told the agency: ‘U. S. drones were behind Thursday’s air bombing’, while witnesses reported seeing two warplanes over the area and military helicopters pursuing vehicles, as well as hearing rocket fire. Local media showed photographs of a car alleged to have been destroyed in the attack.

On the same day the US State Department re-classified Ansar al-Sharia as an alias of al Qaeda. According to a statement,

AAS – which is based in Yemen and is a separate entity from Ansar al-Shari’a in Libya – was established to attract potential followers to shari’a rule in areas under the control of AQAP. However, AAS is simply AQAP’s effort to rebrand itself, with the aim of manipulating people to join AQAP’s terrorist cause. AAS has publicly stated that the particular brand of shari’a they hope to implement is the same as that espoused by the Afghan Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant umbrella group and designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that includes al-Qa’ida in Iraq.

Type of action: Air strike, possible drone strike
Location: Al-Saeed, Shabwa
References: AP, AFP, ANI/Xinhua, Aden Tomorrow (Arabic), Barakish (Arabic), 9 News, Reuters, Alahale (Arabic), Wall Street Journal, US State Department statement, CNN, Yemen Post, Akhbar al-Youm (Arabic), Yemen Ministry of Defence, Al Quds (Arabic), AFP, Xinhua, Long War Journal, Long War Journal, AFP

YEM119
October 18 2012
♦ 7-9 killed
♦ Several injured
In a dawn attack, a series of missiles were fired at a targets on the outskirts of Jaar, apparently targeting al Qaeda militants on the verge of launching a suicide attack on military targets. Two of those killed were wearing explosive belts, security sources told Reuters; anonymous officials confirmed to AP that the strikes ‘followed tips from locals of an imminent al-Qaida attack on the town’. Reuters reported three separate strikes targeted a farmhouse, although ANI/Xinhua claimed the strikes hit two separate gatherings of alleged al Qaeda militants and AP quoted locals saying they had seen two cars ablaze. An unnamed official and residents claimed the missiles were fired by a US drone, although eyewitnesses told ANI/Xinhua they had seen military planes flying overhead at the time of the attack. The Yemeni Ministry of Defence claimed the attack was carried out by the Yemeni 119th Infantry Brigade, although it is common for the Yemeni government to claim responsibility for attacks carried out by the US on its turf.

Residents told Reuters they had found ‘six charred bodies and the scattered remains of three others’, while AP and others reported ’at least seven’ killed. Several sources named Nader al-Shaddadi, who was said to be a senior al Qaeda militant, as being killed; Barakish and Aden al Ghad both named Morsel Mohsen Hassan and Kamal Ali Abker as being killed. Barakish also named Adan Ahmed Ali al Sha’ar and Awadh Hamman, adding that four further bodies had not been identified. Aden al Ghad named Abdullah Hussein Yousif Somali, Arfan al Shaher and Mohammed al Shaher. Reuters later said that five of the alleged militants killed were local teenagers. After the attack, there were reports that ’hundreds of Jaar’s residents, both men and women, gathered in front of the headquarters of the resistance committees in Jaar and fired in the air to celebrate Shadadi’s death. One resident told AFP that Shadadi, a Jaar resident himself, “had brought great harm to our city and he is responsible for all the devastation and the war” in the area.’

Type of action: Air strike, possible drone strike
Location: Jaar
References: Associated Press, AFP, AFP, ANI/Xinhua, Reuters, Barakish (Arabic), Aden al Ghad (Arabic), 26 September (Arabic) Al Jazeera, BNO News, Yemen Post, New York Times, Long War Journal, Saba, Reuters

YEM120
October 21 2012
♦ 4 killed
An evening strike on a car killed ‘at least four’ alleged al Qaeda members in Maarib province, several miles outside Maarib city, sources reported. Local al Qaeda commander Sanad Ouraidan al Aqili (aka Sanad Abdulla al Aqili) was reported to be among the dead. ‘Aqili’s three companions, whose bodies were blown to pieces, have not been identified yet,’ a local policeman told AFP. ‘A warplane targeted a car in the Wadi Abida area that was suspicious [suspected] of carrying Al-Qaeda militants,’ a local source said, although other tribal sources and Yemeni officials claimed the missiles were fired by a US drone. The Yemen Air Force does not have the technical capacity to carry out precision strikes, or operate at night. Al Aqili’s brother was killed three months before fighting in Abyan province, according to a local sheikh. He told the Yemen Observer that villagers had said al Qaeda used a car to remove the bodies.

Type of action: Air strike, possible drone strike
Location: Maarib
References: Associated Press, AFP, Reuters, Yemen Post, Long War Journal, Xinhua, AFP, Voice of America, Yemen Observer

October 26 2012
The US military confirmed for the first time that armed drones fly out of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, ‘the busiest Predator drone base outside of Afghan war zone’. In a detailed investigation the Washington Post also revealed about 300 JSOC personnel coordinate counterterrorism operations in Yemen from the 500-acre base. This mission is codenamed Copper Dune. The paper also confirmed that a squadrone of F-15E Strike Eagles ‘fly combat sorties over Yemen’ from Lemonnier. Sixteen drones and four fighter jets take-off or land from the base every day. The aircraft can be over Yemen ‘in minutes’. The investigation also confirmed US Air Force drones from Djibouti were used with CIA drones flown from a secret base in the Arabian Peninsula in the strike that killed Anwar al Awlaki (YEM029).

Location: Djibouti
Reference: Washington Post

YEM121
October 28 2012
♦ 3-4 killed
♦ At least 1 wounded
At least three people were killed in a suspected drone strike in northern Yemen. Local al Qaeda commander Omar Saleh al-Tais (aka Attais) was initially reported killed. But Saada governor Sheikh Faris Manna and an interior ministry official said he was wounded in the strike. Two of the dead were said to be Saudis who officials said they were helping finance al Qaeda activities. The third man was Yemeni according to the Yemeni Ministry of Defence. A Yemeni security official said the drones struck at 10am and a local official said two houses were hit in the attack although other reports said just one was targeted. The strike hit a week after the last recorded attack, on the final day of the Muslim festival of Eid al Adha. A tribal source told AFP it ‘was the first by a US drone in the northern Saada province.’ It was the first airstrike in Saada recorded by the Bureau since January 2010 (YEM006). The state news agency reported militants had been trying to turn Wadi al Abu Jabara into ‘a passageway between Mareb and Jawf in the north and Shabwa and Abyan in the south.’ Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi strongly denounced the strike, calling US operations a ‘vicious campaign against the Yemeni people’.

Type of action: Possible drone strike
Location: Wadi al Abu Jabara, Saada
References: AFP, Reuters, Associated Press, Xinhua, 26 September (Arabic), Xinhua, Long War Journal, SABA, BNO, Yemen Post

November 6 2012
US aid to Yemen grew for the third year in a row, reports Foreign Policy. Also for the third time in as many years, 2012 saw AQAP ‘set a new high in the number of fighters in its ranks. Current estimates range from 1,000 to a few thousand.’ After a decade of ‘on-again, off-again aid to Yemen’ AQAP is stronger than in September 2001.

Location: Washington
Reference: Foreign Policy

November

YEM122
November 7 2012
♦ 2-3 killed
♦ 2-3 reported injured, including 1 child
As many as three people were killed in a suspected US drone strike. Their vehicle was destroyed less than 24 hours after President Obama was reelected for a second term. The men were driving through Beit al Ahan, nine miles outside Sanaa and the birthplace of ousted former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The strike hit the car within site of Saleh’s large compound, reported freelance journalist Adam Baron. Alleged al Qaeda militant Adnan al Qathi (aka al Qadi) and his bodyguards Rabiee Lahib and Radwan al Hashidi were killed. A boy reportedly related to al Qathi was among the wounded. Al Qathi reportedly got out of his vehicle to make a phone call shortly before the strike hit.

Al Qathi was reportedly arrested and sentenced to four years for his involvement in a September 2008 attack on the US embassy in Sanaa. Tribesmen and army officials reportedly obtained his release. However Yemen analyst Gregory Johnsen said of his alleged involvement in the attack:

That is an interesting allegation since the entire cell in that attack came from a single mosque in the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah.

The Los Angeles Times described al Qathi as ‘a mercurial man of many guises, including radical militant, peace mediator, preacher of violence and army general.’ Local media reported al Qathi was a colonel in the powerful 1st Armored Division and related to its commander General Ali Mohsen al Ahmar. In December 2012 President Hadi reshuffled the military chain of command and General al Ahmar, who switched allegiance from President Saleh to the opposition during the 2011 popular uprising, was stripped of command of the 1st Armoured Division.

Al Qathi was a well known figure in Beit al Ahan and his sympathy for AQAP’s cause was no secret – his home ‘sticks out because of a mural on one side that shows al Qaida’s signature black flag’ – but his family disputed reports that he was a militant. They claimed that had they known Qathi was a drone target they would have made him cooperate with the authorities. His brother Himyar al Qathi said: ‘We could have made sure he turned himself in…If Adnan was guilty of any crime, then arrest him, put him on trial.’ Residents said al Qathi could have been captured easily and analyst Abdulghani al Iryani said: ‘It is nearly inconceivable to imagine that he could not have been taken into custody alive.’ A former US intelligence official said al Qathi’s 2008 arrest and release would not have been enough to put his name on an assassination list. And significant questions were raised over the threat al Qathi posed. Yemeni officials said President Hadi had approved the strike on al Qathi after deciding attempting to arrest him in Beit al Ahan would have led to more deaths. The officials told the LA Times they were ‘unaware of any intelligence linking Qadhi to an active plot.’

Sanaa-based analyst Abdulrazzak al Jamal told Xinhua a relative of al Qathi had confirmed to him the three men were killed. He said the strike was carried out by US drones and that drones were seen over the area for three days. A Yemeni security official called the strike a ‘Yemeni-U.S. joint airstrike operation’. But an official at al Daylami air base in Sanaa confirmed the strike took place but said ‘the raid was not carried out by any Yemeni warplane.’ Local tribal leaders told Associated Press the strike was carried out by the Yemen Air Force. But the Yemen Air Force does not have the capacity to launch precision strikes at night. Although the US would not confirm a drone targeted al Qathi, Yemeni officials and local villages said a US airstrike killed him. US drones and F-15E Strike Eagles are known to be flying armed sorties over Yemen from a base in Djibouti. A White House spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on this strike.

Type of Action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Beit al Ahan village, Sanaa province
Reference: Xinhua, AFP, Associated Press, Twitter, Huffington Post, Big Think blog, Marib (Arabic), News Yemen (Arabic), BBC, Washington Post, Yemen Post, Twitter, McClatchy Newspapers, Big Think blog, Los Angeles Times, Critical Threats,Los Angeles Times

November 28 2012
A Saudi Arabian diplomat was assassinated on the streets of Sanaa. Assistant military attache Khaled al Emizi was gunned down with his Yemeni bodyguard Jalal Mubarak Shaiban. An armed group dressed in Yemen security forces uniforms carried out the killing. No group claimed responsibility and although AQAP were suspected they denied carrying out the killing.

Location: Sanaa
References: Global Times, AFP, IBT, BBC, Washington Post, Associated Press, Yemen Times, Reuters, CNN, Al Ahram

December

YEM123
December 24 2012
♦ 2-3 killed
♦ 3 reported wounded
At least two men were killed when a suspected US drone destroyed their vehicle in the southern Bayda province; local press reported the strike took place at around 5pm. It was the first strike in Yemen for 47 days. There was confused reporting of the identity of the casualties. One casualties was described as either a Jordanian or Syrian militant. More was known of a second casualty, a Yemeni. While AFP named him as Abdullah Hussein al Waeli from Marib province, a wanted man ‘after he escaped from prison two years ago’. Associated Press and Reuters named him as Abdel-Raouf Naseeb, a ‘mid-level al Qaeda Yemeni operative’. A Naseeb family member confirmed his death, according to both agencies. Reuters said Naseeb had fled to Bayda from neighbouring Lawdar province earlier in 2012, during a military offensive. And Associated Press and Reuters said he had previously survived the first US drone strike outside Afghanistan. On November 3 2002 (YEM001) a CIA Predator drone killed six men, among them Qa’id Salim Sinan al Harithi – alleged mastermind of the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole – and US citizen Abu Ahmad al Hijazi.

Type of Action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Manaseh, Bayda province
Reference: AFP, Associated Press, Reuters, Reuters, Gulf News, Long War Journal, Yemen Post, Xinhua, Xinhua

YEM124
December 24 2012
♦ 3-5 killed
Up to five more alleged militants were killed in the second suspected US drone strike of the day. The unmanned aircraft reportedly fired three missiles on the men riding motorcycles and armed with pistols according to one source. The strike hit east of the provincial capital Mukalla, described by an anonymous local official as: ’An area that is widely believed to be the main operating base of al-Qaida members in Hadramout’. It was the first strike on the eastern Hadramout province recorded by the Bureau for 15 weeks (YEM113). Gulf News quoted an unnamed senior security official saying: ‘Four of the people died at the scene and the fifth suffered heavy injuries and died later on in hospital. We do not know whether they are members of Al Qaida or not. Shiher residents suspect that there are outsiders.’ Two of those killed were later named on the Ansar al-Mujahideen site as Abdullah Bawazir and Nabil al Kaldi.

Type of Action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Shehr, Hadramout
Reference: AFP, Reuters, Gulf News, Long War Journal, Xinhua, Long War Journal, Yemen Post

by The Bureau | Published in Bureau Stories, Covert Drone War, Covert War on Terror – the Data, Drones data carousel

Find this story at 25 December 2012

Latest US strikes: Pakistan December 21 & Yemen December 24

Pakistan

Ob303 – December 21 2012
♦ 3-4 reported killed
♦ ‘Several’ injured
At least three alleged militants were reported killed in an attack on a house in the Mir Ali area, after a pause of 12 days. One source noted that unidentified ‘foreigners’ may have been among the dead. On the same day, a US drone reportedly crashed in South Waziristan.

Location: Hassokhel near Mir Ali, North Waziristan
Reference: Express Tribune, Dawn, The Nation (Pakistan), News Pakistan, Geo TV

Related article: Obama terror drones: CIA tactics in Pakistan include targeting rescuers and funerals

Yemen

YEM123
December 24 2012
♦ 2-3 killed
♦ 3 reported wounded
At least two men were killed when a suspected US drone destroyed their vehicle in the southern Bayda province; local press reported the strike took place at around 5pm. It was the first strike in Yemen for 47 days. Little was known of one casualty – he was simply described as a Jordanian. There was confusion over the identity of another. AFP named him as Abdullah Hussein al Waeli from Marib province, a wanted man ‘after he escaped from prison two years ago’. Associated Press and Reuters named him as Abdel-Raouf Naseeb, a ‘mid-level al Qaeda Yemeni operative’. A Naseeb family member confirmed his death, according to both agencies. Reuters said Naseeb had fled to Bayda from neighbouring Lawdar province earlier in 2012, during a military offensive. And Associated Press and Reuters said he had previously survived the first US drone strike outside Afghanistan. On November 3 2002 (YEM001) a CIA Predator drone killed six men, among them Qa’id Salim Sinan al Harithi – alleged mastermind of the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole – and US citizen Abu Ahmad al Hijazi.

Type of Action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Manaseh, Bayda province
Reference: AFP, Associated Press, Reuters, Reuters, Gulf News, Long War Journal, Yemen Post

YEM124
December 24 2012
♦ 3-5 killed
Up to five more alleged militants were killed in the second suspected US drone strike of the day. The unmanned aircraft reportedly fired three missiles on the men riding motorcycles and armed with pistols according to one source. The strike hit east of the provincial capital Mukalla. It was the first strike on the eastern Hadramout province recorded by the Bureau for 15 weeks (YEM113). Gulf News quoted an unnamed senior security official saying: ‘Four of the people died at the scene and the fifth suffered heavy injuries and died later on in hospital. We do not know whether they are members of Al Qaida or not. Shiher residents suspect that there are outsiders.’

Type of Action: Possible US drone strike
Location: Shehr, Hadramout
Reference: AFP, Reuters, Gulf News, Long War Journal

By The Bureau | Published in Bureau Stories, Drones carousel

Find this story at 25 December 2012

When U.S. drones kill civilians, Yemen’s government tries to conceal it

Dhamar, Yemen — A rickety Toyota truck packed with 14 people rumbled down a desert road from the town of Radda, which al-Qaeda militants once controlled. Suddenly a missile hurtled from the sky and flipped the vehicle over.

Chaos. Flames. Corpses. Then, a second missile struck.

Within seconds, 11 of the passengers were dead, including a woman and her 7-year-old daughter. A 12-year-old boy also perished that day, and another man later died from his wounds.

The Yemeni government initially said that those killed were al-Qaeda militants and that its Soviet-era jets had carried out the Sept. 2 attack. But tribal leaders and Yemeni officials would later say that it was an American assault and that all the victims were civilians who lived in a village near Radda, in central Yemen. U.S. officials last week acknowledged for the first time that it was an American strike.

“Their bodies were burning,” recalled Sultan Ahmed Mohammed, 27, who was riding on the hood of the truck and flew headfirst into a sandy expanse. “How could this happen? None of us were al-Qaeda.”

More than three months later, the incident offers a window into the Yemeni government’s efforts to conceal Washington’s mistakes and the unintended consequences of civilian deaths in American air assaults. In this case, the deaths have bolstered the popularity of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist network’s Yemen affiliate, which has tried to stage attacks on U.S. soil several times.

Furious tribesmen tried to take the bodies to the gates of the presidential residence, forcing the government into the rare position of withdrawing its assertion that militants had been killed. The apparent target, Yemeni officials and tribal leaders said, was a senior regional al-Qaeda leader, Abdelrauf al-
Dahab, who was thought to be in a car traveling on the same road.

U.S. airstrikes have killed numerous civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parts of the world, and those governments have spoken against the attacks. But in Yemen, the weak government has often tried to hide civilian casualties from the public, fearing repercussions in a nation where hostility toward U.S. policies is widespread. It continues to insist in local media reports that its own aging jets attacked the truck.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has kept silent publicly, neither confirming nor denying any involvement, a standard practice with most U.S. airstrikes in its clandestine counterterrorism fight in this strategic Middle Eastern country.

In response to questions, U.S. officials in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said it was a Defense Department aircraft, either a drone or a fixed-wing warplane, that fired on the truck. The Pentagon declined to comment on the incident, as did senior U.S. officials in Yemen and senior counterterrorism officials in Washington.

Since the attack, militants in the tribal areas surrounding Radda have gained more recruits and supporters in their war against the Yemeni government and its key backer, the United States. The two survivors and relatives of six victims, interviewed separately and speaking to a Western journalist about the incident for the first time, expressed willingness to support or even fight alongside AQAP, as the al-Qaeda group is known.

“Our entire village is angry at the government and the Americans,” Mohammed said. “If the Americans are responsible, I would have no choice but to sympathize with al-Qaeda because al-Qaeda is fighting America.”

Public outrage is also growing as calls for accountability, transparency and compensation go unanswered amid allegations by human rights activists and lawmakers that the government is trying to cover up the attack to protect its relationship with Washington. Even senior Yemeni officials said they fear that the backlash could undermine their authority.

“If we are ignored and neglected, I would try to take my revenge. I would even hijack an army pickup, drive it back to my village and hold the soldiers in it hostages,” said Nasser Mabkhoot Mohammed al-Sabooly, the truck’s driver, 45, who suffered burns and bruises. “I would fight along al-Qaeda’s side against whoever was behind this attack.”

One airstrike among dozens

After Osama bin Laden’s death last year, Yemen emerged as a key battlefield in the Obama administration’s war on Islamist militancy. AQAP members are among those on a clandestine “kill list” created by the administration to hunt down terrorism suspects. It is a lethal campaign, mostly fueled by unmanned drones, but it also includes fixed-wing aircraft and cruise missiles fired from the sea.

This year, there have been at least 38 U.S. airstrikes in Yemen, according to the Long War Journal, a nonprofit Web site that tracks American drone attacks. That is significantly more than in any year since 2009, when President Obama is thought to have ordered the first drone strike.

The Radda attack was one of the deadliest since a U.S. cruise missile strike in December 2009 killed dozens of civilians, including women and children, in the mountainous region of al-
Majala in southern Yemen. After that attack, many tribesmen in that area became radicalized and joined AQAP.

“The people are against the indiscriminate use of the drones,” said Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubaker al-Qirbi. “They want better management of drones. And, more important, they want to have some transparency as far as what’s going on — from everybody.”

The concern over civilian casualties has grown louder since the spring, when the White House broadened its definition of militants who can be targeted in Yemen to include those who may not be well-known.

“We don’t attack in populated areas,” said an Obama administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussing the U.S. airstrikes here. “We don’t go after people in dwellings where we don’t know who everyone is. We work very hard to minimize the collateral damage.

“Having said all that, like any programs managed and operated by human beings, mistakes happen. We are not perfect.”

The rise in U.S. attacks came as AQAP and other extremists seized large swaths of southern Yemen last year, taking advantage of the political chaos of the country’s populist Arab Spring revolution. Before that, AQAP orchestrated failed attempts to send parcel bombs on cargo planes to Chicago in 2010 and to bomb a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner the previous year.

In January, AQAP-linked militants briefly seized Radda, placing them only 100 miles south of the capital, Sanaa. But they left after the government, agreeing to their demands, released several extremists from prison. By the summer, the radicals had also been pushed from towns in southern Yemen after a U.S.-backed military offensive initiated by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who took office early this year after the country’s autocratic leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, stepped down after 33 years in power.

But today, extremists linked to al-Qaeda are still in and around Radda, as well as in other parts of Yemen, staging attacks on government and military officials.

In recent months, villagers in Sabool, about 10 miles from Radda, said they have heard U.S. drones fly over the area as many as three or four times a day. Some described them as “little white planes.”

“It burns my blood every time I see or hear the airplanes,” said Ali Ali Ahmed Mukhbil, 40, a farmer. “All they have accomplished is destruction and fear among the people.”

On that September morning, his brother Masood stepped into the Toyota truck in Sabool. It was filled with villagers heading to Radda to sell khat, a leafy narcotic chewed by most Yemeni males. After they sold their produce, they headed back in the afternoon.

Nasser Ahmed Abdurabu Rubaih, a 26-year-old khat farmer, was working in the valley when he heard the explosions. He ran to the site and, like others, threw sand into the burning vehicle to douse the flames. As he sifted through the charred bodies on the road, he recognized his brother, Abdullah, from his clothes.

“I lost my mind,” Rubaih recalled.

Mukhbil’s brother Masood also was dead.

‘Trying to kill the case’

Some witnesses said that they saw three planes in the sky, two black and one white, and that the black ones were Yemeni jets. But both missiles struck the moving vehicle directly, and the terrain surrounding the truck was not scorched — hallmarks of a precision strike from a sophisticated American aircraft.

“If you say it wasn’t a U.S. drone, nobody will believe you,” said Abdel-Karim al-Iryani, a former Yemeni prime minister who is a senior adviser to Hadi. “A Yemeni pilot to be able to hit a specific vehicle that’s moving? Impossible.”

The Yemeni government publicly apologized for the attack and sent 101 guns to tribal leaders in the area as a symbolic gesture, which in Yemeni culture is an admission of guilt. But a government inquiry into the strike appears to be stalled, human rights activists and lawmakers said.

For the past three months, lawmakers have unsuccessfully demanded that senior government officials reveal who was responsible for the attack. Yemen’s defense and interior ministries, Hadi’s office, and the attorney general’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Washington played a crucial role in ousting Saleh and installing Hadi, a former defense minister. The United States also provides hundreds of millions of dollars to the military and security forces in counterterrorism assistance. U.S. officials regard Hadi as an even stauncher counterterrorism ally than Saleh.

“The government is trying to kill the case,” said Abdul Rahman Berman, the executive director of the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, or HOOD, a local human rights group. “The government wants to protect its relations with the U.S.”

After the 2009 strike in al-
Majala, the Yemeni government took responsibility for the assault. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh told Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was then the head of U.S. Central Command, according to a U.S. Embassy e-mail leaked by the anti-secrecy Web site WikiLeaks.

Three weeks after the Radda attack, Hadi visited Washington and praised the accuracy of U.S. drone strikes in an interview with Washington Post editors and reporters, as well as publicly. “They pinpoint the target and have zero margin of error, if you know what target you’re aiming at,” he told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

‘That’s why we are fighting’

The day after the attack, tribesmen affiliated with al-
Qaeda blocked the roads around Radda and stormed government buildings. They set up a large tent and held a gathering to denounce the government and the United States. Fliers handed out around town read: “See what the government has done? That’s why we are fighting. . . . They are the agents of America and the enemy of Islam. . . . They fight whoever says ‘Allah is my God,’ according to America’s instructions.”

At the funeral, some mourners chanted “America is a killer,” said Mohammed al-Ahmadi, a human rights activist who attended.

A few days later, at a gathering, relatives of the victims urged Yemeni officials to be careful about the intelligence they provided to the Americans. “Do not rush to kill innocent people,” declared Mohammed Mukhbil al-Sabooly, a village elder, in testimony that was videotaped. “If such attacks continue, they will make us completely lose our trust in the existence of a state.”

By Sudarsan Raghavan, Published: December 25

Greg Miller in Washington and Ali Almujahed in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed to this report.

Find this story at 25 December 2012
© The Washington Post Company

Who is held to account for deaths by drone in Yemen?

There is a history of Yemeni officials lying to protect the US, and the Pentagon and CIA greeting queries with obfuscation

An unmanned US Predator drone takes off on a night sortie. Photograph: AP/Kirsty Wigglesworth

When news flashed of an air strike on a vehicle in the Yemeni city of Radaa on Sunday afternoon, early claims that al-Qaida militants had died soon gave way to a more grisly reality.

At least 10 civilians had been killed, among them women and children. It was the worst loss of civilian life in Yemen’s brutal internal war since May 2012. Somebody had messed up badly. But was the United States or Yemen responsible?

Local officials and eyewitnesses were clear enough. The Radaa attack was the work of a US drone – a common enough event. Since May 2011, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has recorded up to 116 US drone strikes in Yemen, part of a broader covert war aimed at crushing Islamist militants. But of those attacks, only 39 have been confirmed by officials as the work of the US.

The attribution of dozens of further possible drone attacks – and others reportedly involving US ships and conventional aircraft – remains unclear. Both the CIA and Pentagon are fighting dirty wars in Yemen, each with a separate arsenal and kill list. Little wonder that hundreds of deaths remain in a limbo of accountability.

With anger rising at the death of civilians in Radaa, Yemen’s government stepped forward to take the blame. It claimed that its own air force had carried out the strike on moving vehicles after receiving “faulty intelligence”. Yet the Yemeni air force is barely fit for purpose.

And why believe the Yemeni defence ministry anyway? Just 48 hours earlier it had made similar claims. But when it emerged that alleged al-Qaida bomber Khaled Musalem Batis had died in a strike, anonymous officials soon admitted that a US drone had carried out that killing.

There is a long history of senior Yemeni officials lying to protect Barack Obama’s secret war on terror. When US cruise missiles decimated a tented village in December 2009, at least 41 civilians were butchered alongside a dozen alleged militants, as a parliamentary report later concluded.

As we now know, thanks to WikiLeaks, the US and Yemen sought to cover up the US role in that attack. We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” President Saleh informed US Central Command (Centcom)’s General Petraeus.

Pakistan’s own former strongman, General Pervez Musharraf, had performed a similar deed for the CIA, with the army claiming early US drones strikes as its own work. A senior Musharraf aide told the Sunday Times, “We thought it would be less damaging if we said we did it rather than the US.” Only when civilian deaths became too unbearable in 2006 did Islamabad end that charade.

Still, dictators may have been better able to rein in US covert attacks than their democratic successors. When US special forces accidentally killed Jaber al-Shabwani, the deputy governor of Yemen’s Marib province in May 2010, Saleh was able to secure a year-long pause in the US bombing campaign.

With new president Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi owing his position to the US he is unlikely to enjoy similar leverage, if Pakistan’s present impotence against CIA strikes is any guide.

The odds of finding out who was really responsible for Sunday’s deaths are not good. At the height of this year’s US-backed offensive against al-Qaida in May, at least a dozen civilians died in a double air strike in Jaar. As onlookers and rescuers came forward after an initial attack, they were killed in a follow-up strike.

The event was reminiscent of CIA tactics in Pakistan, and there is circumstantial evidence that US drones carried out the attack. Times reporter Iona Craig recalls the testimony of one survivor she met in Jaar:

“He didn’t know who carried out the strike but said they didn’t hear any planes or fighter jets before either strike and they dived to the ground when they saw a ‘missile’ with a jet stream of ‘white smoke behind it’, flying through the sky towards them before the second strike happened’.”

Four months on, neither Yemen nor the US has taken responsibility for that attack. According to Haykal Bafana, a lawyer based in Sanaa, “the greatest worry for people here is not only a lack of accountability but a lack of transparency. Civilians at risk in the areas being targeted are being given no information at all about how best to protect themselves.”

There is also the issue of compensation. Yemen’s government has now ordered an inquiry into the Radaa bombing. Yet following the 2009 killing of 41 civilians relatives were compensated with just a few hundred dollars, after details of Centcom’s role were deliberately hidden from that inquiry. In contrast, US forces in Afghanistan not only admitted responsibility in a recent incident, but paid out $46,000 (£29,000) for each person killed and $10,000 for those injured.

There is a growing gulf between what Yemen’s people are experiencing and what their government claims. Bafana says Yemen’s official news agency Saba has only used the word “drone” once since February 2011. A confirmed US strike on August 29 killed not only three alleged militants but a policeman and a local anti-al-Qaida imam, according to local reports. Those civilian deaths remain absent from Saba’s coverage.

Chris Woods
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 6 September 2012 12.28 BST

Find this story at 6 September 2012
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