An MQ-1 Predator sits in its hangar (U.S. Air Force/ Airman 1st Class Jonathan Steffen)
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.
YEM127 January 4 2013 ♦ 3 reported killed At least three people were killed in a reported drone strike on a vehicle in a ‘mountainous area’ near Radaa. Among those who died was a man named by AFP as Mukbel Abbad and by al Jazeera and Xinhua as Moqbel Ebad Al Zawbah, ‘brother-in-law of Tareq al-Dahab who led the Al-Qaeda fighters in a brief January 2012 raid on Rada’. Local media said Sahr Qaid Al Dhahab had been killed. This was the fifth strike to hit Yemen in 10 days; the London Times reported the strikes were believed to target Abdulraouf al-Dahab, who was ‘instrumental in al-Qaeda’s takeover of Radaa early last year’.
The following day Reuters reported that local tribesmen demonstrated in Radaa against US drone strikes. One told the news agency that ‘seven innocent civilians’ had been killed in recent strikes. The London Times also reported that Saudi Arabian jets have participated in recent airstrikes in Yemen commonly attributed to US or Yemeni forces. However a senior member of the Saudi royal family denied this.
YEM128January 19 2013♦ 0-5 reported killedThe first of a barrage of strikes to hit central Yemen left as many as five dead. There was some confusion over the exact details of the night’s events. While the majority of sources said the strike missed a vehicle carrying alleged militants, Mareb Press reported it was a hit and five people were killed. According to the Yemen Observer the first strike hit a populated area called al Daleel at 7pm. It missed its target and caused no casualties. The strike angered the local population and the provincial authorities said they expected a reaction. Xinhua also reported zero casualties in the first strike. However an official at the Criminal Investigation Unit in Marib told the agency the strike hit at 10.30pm. The Yemen defence ministry reportedly confirmed the strikes hit Mareb province but would not confirm if the Yemen Air Force or US forces carried out the attacks. The Yemen Air Force has been shown to lack the technical capacity to launch precision strikes, or fly at night.
YEM129January 19 2013♦ 2-4 reported killedSeveral sources, Reuters among them, reported a drone destroyed the vehicle it missed in the first strike. However AFP reported the four occupants had made off on foot after their narrow escape earlier in the evening. Xinhua reported the strike hit half an hour after the first and killed two alleged militants who were ‘inspecting previous strike’. But separate sources said the strike hit the vehicle 8km from the site of the first strike. Alleged Saudi militant Ismaeel Bin Saeed Bin Jameelwas reportedly killed in the strike, although the occupants of the car were reportedly burnt beyond recognition.
YEM130 January 19 2013 ♦ 2-6 reported killed ♦ 0-4 civilians reported killedAt least two were killed in the last strike of the night, although a military vehicle stolen from the Yemen army and carrying six was reportedly destroyed. AFP initially reported that the strike killed four people from the ‘al Haytak clan, part of the Abida tribe’ without specifying if they were also al Qaeda militants. However the agency subsequently reported five alleged al Qaeda militants perished in the strike, including Saudi Hamad Hassan Ghreib (aka Amhed Bin Hassan Ali Gahreib). The following morning angry tribesmenblocked the main road from Marib to Sanaa in protest.
YEM131 January 21 2013 ♦ 2-4 killed♦ 3 reported injured The fourth strike in three days killed at least two men driving on the Sanaa-Marib highway. Witnesses told Reuters a US drone targeted the vehicle northeast of the capital. Security officials said three people were injured in the strike, two seriously.Ahmed al Ziadi an alleged al Qaeda commander in Marib province, died of his wounds ‘hours later‘. Two casualties were named as Qasem Naser Tuaiman and Ali Saleh Tuaiman. Both men were reportedly imprisoned a year before their death for joining al Qaeda. However AFP’s sources alleged they rejoined the militant group on their release. The Yemeni defence ministry said four were killed in the strike but would not say who was responsible. The US was known to use both conventional strike fighters and drones over Yemen. And the Yemen Air Force lacks the technical capacity to carry out a precision strike on a moving vehicle.
Security officials said US-Yemeni counterterrorism operations would be stepped up ahead of the National Dialogue Conference – an opportunity for some time in February, for Yemenis to discuss constitutional reforms and pave the way for elections in 2014. The Yemen Army sent troops and tanks into Radaa province on the same day as the strike. ‘Hundreds of soldiers and 50 tanks‘ moved into the province amid reports that Radaa tribal leaders had persuaded the militants to leave heavily populated areas. The militants were asked to move to minimise civilian casualties from counter insurgency operations by Yemeni forces and US drone strikes. They reportedly gained the release of al Qaeda prisoners in return.
A Twitter user highlights the timing of suspected drone strike YEM131.
YEM132 January 22 2013 ♦ 3-5 killed ♦ ‘Several’ reported injuredAn evening strike reportedly targeted vehicles at an alleged militant training ground, killing at least three and injuring ‘several‘. Most reports attributed the strike to US drones. However al Oulyae subsequently reported that Saudi jets carried out the strike. The strike apparently hit a few miles from the Saudi border in al Jawf. A desert area of Yemen and a hub for militants crossing between the two countries, according to the Long War Journal. An anonymous official told Xinhua:
A Saudi agent facilitates the fresh US airstrike on two vehicles carrying important commanders of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.’
And earlier in January The London Times reported Royal Saudi Air Force had launched a number of strikes against militant targets in Yemen. Witnesses reported there were three burnt bodies left after the strike and told AFP that unidentified vehicles sped away from the scene. A local officialsaid:
The strike targeted a gathering of al Qaeda members who had made the area a center for training. One of the cars was hit and everyone inside was killed…the others fled.’
The bodies had not been identified, the official added.
YEM133January 23 2013♦ 5-7 killed ♦ 0-1 civilian reported killedA possible US drone strike left as many as seven dead. The attack targeted a vehicle – a double cab Toyota Hilux according to local media. The vehicle was reportedly ‘totally destroyed‘ and the bodies burnt beyond recognition. However Yemeni medianamed five of the dead. Salem Mohsen Jamel, Ali Mohammed Jamel, Mohsem Mohsen Jamel and Al Nashiri perished. Rabae Laheb (aka Rabiee Lahib) also died, despite being reported dead in November 2012. He was said to be from the area and the target of the strike. Two of the alleged militants were reportedly unidentified. However three days after the strike a report claimed that five perished in the attack and one was a civilian. ‘Khawalan locals‘ said four unnamed alleged militants payed a Khawalan man to drive them to Sanaa. The alleged AQAP operatives came from Marib and payed Saleem Muhammed Al Qawili 50,000 Yemeni Rials (£150). But the vehicle was destroyed before reaching the capital. Angered at the death of a tribesman, the Khawlan tribe protested by blocking the main road linking Marib and Sanaa.
A tribal source told AFP that four missiles were fired at the vehicle which was said to be laden with explosives. The force of the explosion reportedly blew body parts far from the centre of the blast and left the wreckage burning for an hour. The strike hit at 8pm, approximately 20 miles southeast of the capital. And reportedly 10 minutes drive from Yemen’s largest arms market. Two Saudis were said to be among the dead – the fourth Saudis the Bureau recorded killed in Yemen in 2013. It appears the Saudi military is embroiled in the covert war in Yemen. A report alleges Saudi jets rather than US drones carried out the attack the previous day (YEM132). This news came after it emerged that Saudi jets had attacked militant targets in Yemen before.
Laheb was thought to have been killed in the last strike on Sana province, on November 7 2012 (YEM122). His brother Qalil Laheb owned the land where the first strike hit. Adnan al Qathi, a Yemen Army Colonel, was the target of that strike. A contemporaneous report cast doubt on al Qathi’s militant credentials. It questioned why he was not arrested, pointing out that, far from being a distant and lawless province, ousted President Ali Abdallah Saleh was born there and where much of the country’s military elite had country retreats.
YEM134 January 23 2013 ♦ 2-4 killed ♦ 0-2 children reported killed ♦ 0-3 reported wounded A second possible drone strike of the day killed two or four people according to conflicting media reports. The Los Angeles Times reported the strike hit two motorcycles – its intended target – and killing the alleged militants. However anonymous sourcesgave a contradictory account to Xinhua. They said the strike missed the bikes, hitting a house belonging to Abdu Mohammed al-Jarrah. Two of his children were reportedly killed and three more family members injured. And Yemeni media outlets al Oulyae and Barakishmuddied the water still further. They reported one or two people were killed in the house and two on a motorcycle near the house. According to al Oulyae, a US drone fired two missiles. The first killed two motorcyclists and the second hit al Jarrah’s house, killing one son of Jebran Abdu al Jarrah and seriously injuring a second. Ahmed Ali al Mansi was also seriously injured in the strike which hit at 8.30pm – half an hour after the Khawlan strike (YEM134). Earlier in the day the province’s police chief narrowly escaped assassination when a bomb attached to his car exploded, killing his bodyguard.
Reports of civilian casualties emerged on the day the UN launched an investigation into civilian casualties form and the identity of alleged militants killed in drone strikes. UN Special Rapporteur for war crimes Ben Emmerson QC will investigate CIA and Pentagon strikes in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia as well as operations in Afghanistan. The team will also look at drone strikes by US and UK forces in Afghanistan, and by Israel in the Occupied Territories. One area the inquiry is expected to examine is the deliberate targeting of rescuers and funeral-goers by the CIA in Pakistan, as revealed in an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times.