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Yemen – reported US covert actions since 2001


March 29, 2012 - The CIA has only recently taken a more aggressive role, reportedly operating a drone fleet from a secret base 'somewhere in the Gulf.’ Actions against alleged militants are at times combined operations involving both the CIA and JSOC, for example with the killing of Anwar al Awlaki in September 2011. 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 notably with drone strikes..

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Yemen – reported US covert actions since 2001

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

March 29, 2012

A cruise missile launches from the USS Mississippi (DoD/ Flickr)


Key US counter terrorism actions in Yemen
The US Department of Defense is primarily responsible for counter-terrorism activities in Yemen, just as it is in Somalia. CENTCOM is the lead Pentagon command. Joint Special Operations Command – or JSOC – is the elite force often credited with attacks in Yemen aimed at Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and more recently, Ansar al-Sharia.

US activity has at various times consisted of cruise missile strikes, naval bombardments, air strikes and more recently, drone strikes. Attacks are at times in conjunction with, or in support of, the Yemen military.

The CIA has only recently taken a more aggressive role, reportedly operating a drone fleet from a secret base ‘somewhere in the Gulf.’ Actions against alleged militants are at times combined operations involving both the CIA and JSOC, for example with the killing of Anwar al Awlaki in September 2011.

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 notably with drone strikes.

The Data
The events detailed below are those actions which have been reported by US administration and intelligence officials, credible media, academics and other sources since 2001. The Bureau will continue to add to its knowledge base, and welcomes input and corrections from interested parties.


2001

November 25-27 2001
Yemen’s President Saleh signed a $400m deal with the Bush administration, as part of which the US created a 'counter-terrorism camp’ in Yemen run by the CIA, US Marines and Special Forces. The deal was made with CIA Director George Tenet, who ‘provided Saleh’s forces with helicopters, eavesdropping equipment and 100 Army Special Forces members to train an anti-terrorism unit. He also won Saleh’s approval to fly Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles over the country‘. According to journalist and military expert Jeremy Scahill the Yemen camp was backed up by Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, which housed Predator drones. Among the forces inserted alongside the trainers were members of a clandestine military intelligence unit within the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) known as The Activity. While officially in Yemen as trainers, they also reportedly began to find and track al Qaeda suspects.

Location: Yemen
References: The Nation, Washington Post, Yemen Government


December 2001
Reports claimed that plans were drawn up for British SAS troops to carry out a series of 'stiletto’, or pin pointed attacks on al Qaeda camps in Yemen, should the US decide that UK forces were required. A report in the Scottish Herald in March 2002 suggested that the US wished to use the UK troops for their 'unrivaled expertise’, and 'to defuse growing anti-American feeling’ among Yemeni warlords. The reports marked the first of many claims that British Special Forces were carrying out counter-terror operations in Yemen.

Location: Yemen
References: The Daily Telegraph, The Herald


2002

March 15 2002
During a visit by US Vice President Dick Cheney, Yemen confirmed the expanded US Special Forces presence of around 100 troops (see YEM001), and to allowing them to train its Republican Guard. ‘In Yemen, we are working with the government to prevent al Qaeda forces from regrouping there,’ Mr Cheney said in Egypt. An adviser to Yemen’s President Saleh told the New York Times:

People are understanding the importance of having trainers. They do not want the Americans to come in and do the fighting. They feel it is the Yemenis who should fight against terrorism.’

References: New York Times, Between Threats and War (Zenko), BBC

April 10 2002
Yemen was officially designated a ‘combat zone’ in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, allowing the US to begin deployment of US Special Forces. It was listed as part of the Afghanistan combat zone.

To qualify as part of the Afghanistan OEF sphere, servicemembers must be serving in Pakistan, Tajikistan, or Jordan (as of September 19, 2001); Incirlik Air Base in Turkey (as of September 21, 2001); Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan (as of October 1, 2001); the Philippines (as of January 9, 2002); Yemen (as of April 10, 2002); or Djibouti (as of July 1, 2002).

References: US Internal Revenue Service, Between Threats and War (Zenko), Congressional Research Service

September 19 2002
The US was reported to have moved some 800 troops, including up to 200 elite Special Forces troops to Djibouti along with an amphibious assault ship, the USS Belleau Wood, in readiness ‘for rapid deployment against al Qaeda in Yemen.’ The Yemeni Government denied that it would allow US troops to take part in any operations on its territory.

References: Daily Telegraph, New York Times, BBC

YEM001
November 3 2002
♦ 6 reported killed
In the first known US targeted assassination using a drone, a CIA Predator struck a car killing six al Qaeda suspects. These included Al Qaeda leader Qa’id Salim Sinan al-Harithi, also known as Abu Mi (one of the alleged masterminds behind the USS Cole attack) and Abu Ahmad al-Hijazi, a naturalised US citizen also known as Kemal or Kamal Darwish. Darwish, a US-born Yemeni, was suspected of being the recruiter of a terror support cell that had been rounded up in Buffalo, New York state. The other four killed reportedly belonged to the Aden-Abyan Islamic Army, and were identified as Salih Hussain Ali al-Nunu or Zono (aka Abu Humam); Awsan Ahmad al-Tarihi (aka Abu al-Jarrah); Munir Ahmad Abdallah al-Sauda (Abu Ubaidah); and Adil Nasir al-Sauda’ (Abu Usamah, initially identified as al-Qia’gaa). All six names were released by the Yemen government three weeks after the attack.

Harithi was allegedly traced after using a mobile phone that US intelligence had linked to him. A JSOC signals intelligence team also participated. In a leaked diplomatic cable from 2004, the US Ambassador to Yemen told an Amnesty International delegation that:

The action was taken in full cooperation with the ROYG [Republic of Yemen Government], against known al-Qaida operatives after previous attempts to apprehend the terrorists left 18 Yemenis dead. Citing the progress on both rights and security, the Ambassador commented that Yemen is an example of how counter-terrorism efforts and human rights can be mutually reinforcing.

Paul Wolfowitz, assistant US Secretary of Defense, appeared to admit to CNN five days later that the strike was the work of the CIA, boasting: ‘It’s a very successful tactical operation, and one hopes each time you get a success like that, not only to have gotten rid of somebody dangerous but to have imposed changes in their tactics and operations and procedures.’

Type of action: Air assault, drone strike
Location: Marib Province
References: BBC, TIME, New York Times, The Nation, The Age, The Tech, Wikileaks cable, Amnesty International, UNHCHR, Christian Science Monitor, New Yorker, UN Human Rights Council, New Yorker, CBS News, Gulf News, BBC News, CNN (via US government archive), Nasser al-Aulaki v. Barack Obama et al, Middle East Online


2003

January 13 2003
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, Ms Asma Jahangir, issued her first report on US drone strikes outside the battlefield, in the wake of the November 2002 attack, which she described as ‘a truly disturbing development.’ The report notes:

In its letter the Government of Yemen acknowledges that the attack did take place, and gives the names of the six persons killed [see YEM001]. It further informs the Special Rapporteur that the six men had been involved in the attacks on the United States military vessel, the USS Cole, as well as a French tanker out of the port of Aden. It is further reported that the Government on several occasions had, unsuccessfully, sought to apprehend these six individuals. The Government stresses that had the persons come forward all their rights would have been protected, including a fair trial and a defence lawyer during trial. At the time of writing the United States Government had not sent a reply.

The Special Rapporteur is extremely concerned that should the information received be accurate, an alarming precedent might have been set for extrajudicial execution by consent of Government. The Special Rapporteur acknowledges that Governments have a responsibility to protect their citizens against the excesses of non-State actors or other authorities, but these actions must be taken in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. In the opinion of the Special Rapporteur, the attack in Yemen constitutes a clear case of extrajudicial killing.

Location: Geneva
References: UN Special Rapporteur

April 14 2003
The United States responded to the UN Human Rights Council. Stating that it had ‘no comment on the specific allegations and findings concerning a November 2002 incident in Yemen, or the accuracy thereof‘, the US also claimed that the UN had no jurisdiction: ‘The Government of the United States respectfully submits that inquiries relating to allegations stemming from any military operations conducted during the course of an armed conflict with al Qaida do not fall within the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.’

Locations: Washington/ Geneva
Reference: UN Special Rapporteur


2004

Spring 2004
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued the secret Al Qaeda Network Executive Order, better known as AQN ExOrd, authorising worldwide anti-Al Qaeda activities by US Special Forces, including in Yemen.

Location: Washington
References: New York Times, New York Times


2007

March 29 2007
Al Qaeda in Yemen assassinated Ali Mahmud Qasaylah, the chief criminal investigator in Marib governate. The group claimed that Qasaylah was murdered for his role in the November 2002 drone killing of Harithi (YEM001). Yemen’s Ministry of the Interior offered a $25,000 reward for information relating to three named suspects. The attack was the first indication of a resurgent al Qaeda presence in Yemen, as one report put it:

Qasaylah’s death and the subsequent claim of responsibility by al Qaeda in Yemen suggest that the group is reforming with the help of members trained in Iraq and is returning to settle old scores. This could prove to be a dangerous revival of the security threat in Yemen.

Location: Marib
Reference: Asia Times, Jamestown Foundation

March 31 2007
According to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, a crashed US Scan Eagle reconnaissance drone was found washed ashore. President Saleh assured the US Navy that this would not become an incident. The secret cable noted:

President Saleh clearly believes the unmanned aircraft had been performing reconnaissance in Yemeni territory when it crashed. He could have taken the opportunity to score political points by appearing tough in public against the United States, but chose instead to blame Iran.

Location: Hadramaut
References: WikiLeaks


2008

March 18 2008
Al Qaeda in Yemen fired three mortar rounds at the US Embassy in Sanaa. The mortars missed the Embassy, hitting a nearby school. A school guard was killed, and several Yemeni students and Yemeni government security personnel posted outside the embassy were injured in the attack. The attack prompted the United States and other countries to send non-essential embassy staff home, the New York Times reported.

Type of action: Terrorist attack
Location: Sanaa
References: US Embassy, Reuters, New York Times, US Department of State

September 17 2008
Al Qaeda in Yemen launched a complex attack on the US Embassy, including a suicide bomber. Militants disguised as soldiers ‘drove up and began firing rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at a checkpoint outside the heavily fortified United States Embassy compound‘, then drove through the checkpoint and detonated two car bombs at around 9.15am, reported the New York Times. The attack killed up to 18 people, including 18-year old US citizen Susan Elbaneh, who waiting to enter the Embassy. According to Ambassador Edward J Hull: ‘The scale of this attack, which rivaled that of the attack on the [USS] Cole, was a wake-up call for all of Washington‘. Washington said the attack bore ‘all the hallmarks‘ of al Qaeda.

Type of action: Terrorist attack
Location: Sanaa
References: High-Value Target: Countering Al Qaeda in Yemen (p117), US Embassy, Reuters, New York Times, US Department of State

Late 2008
A November 2009 CBS news article revealed that the US had been intercepting the communications of American born imam and radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki since at least late 2008. Awlaki was allegedly communicating with Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the US Army psychiatrist accused of the Fort Hood massacre, which took place on November 5 2009, causing the deaths of 13 people. Hasan attended a Virginia mosque at the time Awlaki was imam. The Telegraph reported that ‘Communications, believed to be emails, were intercepted by US intelligence services. They were examined at the time but it was decided that they did not require following up.’

Location: Online
References: CBS, The Telegraph, New York Times, Empty Wheel

2009


Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) announces its foundation by video (photo courtesy Channel 4 News)

January 24 2009
Two Gulf al Qaeda ’franchises’ – from Yemen and Saudi Arabia – announced their merger into Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). According to the Long War Journal the group promised attacks on oil facilities, tourists, and security forces. The statement also said that the governorates of Abyan, Shabwa, Hadhramout, Marib, Al Jawf, and Sa’ada are on the verge of falling into al Qaeda control.’ The new group also declared that it would construct training camps in Yemen for would-be jihadists wanting to fight in Gaza.

Location: Yemen
References: Long War Journal, Channel 4 News

Early February 2009
Yemen’s President Saleh secretly offered the newly rebranded Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula a ceasefire if it stopped attacking Yemeni forces, the US later learned. According to a leaked US diplomatic cable AQAP rejected the offer because it was ‘thriving’:

It is highly likely Salih did indeed offer the truce, as recent information strongly suggests Salih’s most pressing concern remains preserving his own power rather than eradicating Yemen’s thriving extremist community. AQAP’s rejection of the cease-fire highlights the already permissive security environment; AQAP leadership is aware even should ROYG security forces continue their counterterror campaign, such actions are unlikely to significantly affect operational planning and/or execution.

Location: Yemen
References: Wall Street Journal, Long War Journal, Al Nedaa (Arabic), WikiLeaks, Empty Quarter

April 1 2009
According to journalist Jeremy Scahill, General David Petraeus, CENTCOM commander, approved a plan developed with the US Embassy in Sanaa, the CIA and others, ‘to expand US military action in Yemen. The plan not only involved special-ops training for Yemeni forces but unilateral US strikes against AQAP.’

References: The Nation, Senate Armed Services Committee, Wikileaks Cable, The Guardian

July 26 2009
In an hour-long meeting at the Presidential Palace in Sanaa on July 26, President Saleh promised CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus full counter-terrorism cooperation ‘without restrictions or conditions‘, including pursuing al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Saleh called AQAP ‘a dangerous poison‘ and an ‘epidemic‘ and said the Yemeni government was committed to hunting down terrorists in Jawf, Sa’ada, Marib, Abyan and Hadramout governorates. He asked for increased information-sharing with the US government in order to better target AQAP’s leaders.

References: Wikileaks Cable, The Guardian, New York Times

September 6 2009
Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan met with President Saleh. A secret diplomatic cable reports that Saleh:

Pledged unfettered access to Yemen’s national territory for US counterterrorism operations, suggesting that in the process, the USG assumed responsibility for the success – or failure – of efforts to neutralize AQAP in Yemen. Saleh expressed dissatisfaction with the USG’s current level of aid for CT and security operations and insisted the ROYG began its war against the al-Houthi rebellion in northern Yemen on behalf of the US.

The cable noted that since 2001 the US had spent $115m equipping Yemen’s counter-terrorism forces.

Location: Sanaa
References: WikiLeaks, Wall Street Journal

September 30 2009
US CENTCOM commander David Petraeus issued an order creating a Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force to ‘plan and execute covert intelligence gathering in support of covert military operations throughout the CENTCOM area.’ It was reportedly an update of Donald Rumsfeld’s AQN ExOrd of spring 2004 and has been described as a ‘permission slip’ for Special Forces teams. As the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti noted:

Unlike covert actions undertaken by the CIA, such clandestine activity does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress.

Location: Washington
References: New York Times, The Nation

YEM002
December 17 2009
♦ 58 people reported killed
♦ 44 civilians reported killed including 12 women, 5 of them pregnant, and 22 children
♦ 9 injured by cluster bombs after the event
In the first known US attack in Yemen in seven years, at least one cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs hit the village of al-Majala, Abyan province. Allegedly targeting an al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) training camp, the missile killed 58 people, including 44 civilians. Amnesty later released forensically-verified photos of the remains of a US cruise missile designed to carry cluster bombs, and of cluster bomb fragments.

An extensive investigation by a Yemen parliamentary commission which visited the site found that ‘five missiles had been fired, killing 14 members of the al-Haidra family in one settlement and 27 members of the al-Anbour family in the other. The sole survivor from the al-Haidra family, a 13-year-old girl was reported to have been sent abroad to receive medical treatment for her injuries,’ according to the committee’s report. Three further civilians later reportedly died (Khaled Mohammed Ali, Nasser Saleh Al-Soueidi and Mithaq Al-Jild) and nine were injured after stepping on cluster bombs, which according to Yemen’s parliamentary commission were scattered up to 1.5 kilometres from the attack site. (see below for a full list of the dead). The report also concluded that 14 possible militants died, though raised some doubts about the status of those killed.

According to Jeremy Scahill at The Nation, ‘authorization for the strikes was rushed through Saleh’s office because of "actionable" intelligence that Al Qaeda suicide bombers were preparing for strikes in Sana‘. Other reports on the strike claimed that a leading al Qaeda figure was killed along with 13 other militants: Saleh Mohammed Ali Al-Anbouri, also known as al Kazemi, who was a Saudi citizen and reputedly an Al Qaeda deputy. However the parliamentary committee report noted that locals believed ‘he had moved back to Abyan to start a new life, had acquired sheep and goats, and pledged not to work with al Qaeda anymore.’ The Yemen government conspired to cover up the US role in the attack. At a meeting four days later Yemen’s deputy prime minister told the US ambassador that:

Any evidence of greater US involvement such as fragments of US munitions found at the sites could be explained away as equipment purchased from the US.

In March 2012 al-Jazeera examined the strike in detail. Tribal leader Sheikh Saleh bin Fareed said the Yemeni government had claimed the target was an AQAP camp with ‘huge stores for all kinds of weapons and ammunitions and rockets‘. But when bin Fareed visited the site, he saw ‘goats and sheep all over…the heads of those who were killed here and there. You see children. And you cannot tell if this meat belongs to animals or to human beings…there is no stores, there is no field for training, there is nobody. Except for a very poor tribe.’ An eyewitness told al Jazeera that ‘most of the dead were women, children and elderly…only three of them were young men. 46 people were killed, including five pregnant women.’ The eyewitness showed al Jazeera photographs of three dead children, and one elderly woman. Another eyewitness, a woman who was making bread when the missiles struck around 6am, lost her husband and at least one child in the attack.

Yemeni journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye, who helped expose the civilian casualties inflicted in the raid, was arrested the following year and remains in detention. President Obama has personally expressed ‘concern’ at the possible release of Shaye, due to his association with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Within days of the deadly US strike in Yemen, a 14-man parliamentary commission headed by Sheikh Hamir Ben Abdullah Ben Hussein Al-Ahmar was dispatched from Sanaa to discover what had taken place. That report was presented to Yemen’s parliament on February 7 2010. The government accepted it in full a month later, paying compensation at local rates to affected families, although a Yemen parliamentary spokesman said that ‘the American authorities did not get involved in this process in any way.’

The report named all civilians killed in the attack, which are here published for the first time in English by the Bureau.

The dead from the Haydara clan:

Family of Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala

Name

Age

Status

Mohammed Nasser Awad Jaljala

60

Father

Nousa Mohammed Saleh El-Souwa

30

Wife

Nasser Mohammed Nasser

6

Son

Arwa Mohammed Nasser

4

Daughter

Fatima Mohammed Nasser

2

Daughter

Family of Ali Mohammed Nasser Jaljala:

Name

Age

Status

Ali Mohammed Nasser

35

Father

Qubla Al-Kharibi Salem

25

Wife

Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser

9

Daughter

Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser

7

Daughter

Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser

5

Daughter

Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser

4

Daughter

Family of Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala:

Name

Age

Status

Ahmed Mohammed Nasser Jaljala

30

Father

Qubla Salem Nasser

21

Wife

Mouhsena Ahmed Adiyou

50

Mother


The dead from the Anbour clan:

Family of Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye

Name

Age

Status

Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye

37

Father

Saleha Ali Ahmed Mansour

30

Wife

Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye

13

Son

Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye

9

Daughter

Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye

4

Daughter

Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye

3

Daughter

Family of Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye

Name

Age

Status

Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye

36

Father

Hanaa Abdallah Monser

28

Wife

Moheile Mohammed Saeed Yaslem

30

Safaa Ali Mokbel Salem

25

Daughter

Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye

1

Daughter

Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye

6

Daughter

Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye

4

Son

Family of Mokbel Salem Louqye:

Name

Age

Status

Fatima Yaslem Al-Rawami

67

First Wife

Maryam Awad Nasser

43

Second Wife

Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye

15

Daughter

Family of Abdullah Awad Sheikh:

Name

Age

Status

Abdullah Awad Sheikh

65

Father

Family of Hussein Abdullah Awad Sheikh:

Name

Age

Status

Hanane Mohammed Jadib

25

Wife

Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad

2,9

Daughter

Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad

1,5

Daughter

Family of Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh:

Name

Age

Status

Maryam Mokbel Salem Louqye

38

Wife

Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh

3

Daughter

Family of Mohammed Saleh Mohammed Ali Al-Anbouri:

Name

Age

Status

Amina Abdullah Awad Sheikh

27

Wife

Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed

12

Son

Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed

9

Son

Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed

4

Son

Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed

2

Son

Type of action: Air assault, cruise missiles with cluster munitions
Location: al Majala, Abyan Province
References: Original Yemen government claims, New York Times, The Guardian, Amnesty (via CNN), Amnesty, Amnesty, The Nation, The Guardian, US Diplomatic Cable (Guardian), AFP, CNN, Al Jazeera, Long War Journal, ABC News, Al Jazeera, Human Rights Watch, Salon, The Nation (US), White House, US diplomatic cable


Jeremy Scahill’s film for al Jazeera examines the al-Majala strike

YEM003
December 17 2009
♦ Unknown killed
A second cruise missile strike of the day reportedly took place on a house in which Qasim al-Raimi (also called al-Raymi) was believed to be living. Al-Rimi, reportedly AQAP’s military commander, survived the attack. The Nation reported that the strike was ‘launched in Arhab, a suburb of Sana, followed by raids on suspected Al Qaeda houses conducted by Yemeni special-ops troops who had been trained by JSOC forces as part of a special Counter-Terrorism Unit‘. US officials told ABC News that an ‘imminent attack against a US asset was being planned‘ at this second location. ABC also reported that ‘President Obama placed a call after the strikes to “congratulate” the President of Yemen, Ali Abdallah Salih, on his efforts against al Qaeda, according to White House officials‘.

Type of action: Air assault, cruise missiles
Location: Arhab, Sanaa
References: The Nation, ABC News

December 21 2009
A detailed secret WikiLeaks cable from then-US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche rehearsed the lines Washington and Sanaa would take in covering up US involvement in air strikes and in ‘collateral damage‘. The cable noted Yemen’s support for the campaign, with President Saleh reportedly urging the US to continue ‘non-stop until we eradicate this disease.’

The Ambassador cautioned [deputy prime minister] Alimi that the ROYG may need to nuance its position regarding US involvement in the event more evidence surfaces, complicating its ability to adhere to the official line that ROYG forces conducted the operations independently. Alimi appeared confident that any evidence of greater US involvement – such as US munitions found at the sites – could be explained away as equipment purchased from the US.

The cable also carried an explicit admission of civilian casualties in the December 17 strike:

Given that local and international media will continue to look for evidence of a US role in the December 17 strikes against AQAP, the ROYG must think seriously about its public posture and whether its strict adherence to assertions that the strikes were unilateral will undermine public support for legitimate and urgently needed CT [counter terrorism] operations, should evidence to the contrary surface. Thus far, the ROYG has deployed influential local leaders to the affected area in Abyan to explain the need for the strikes in an effort to quell potential unrest; however, it has not attempted to provide any context for the civilian casualties, which might help to counter overblown claims of ROYG disregard for the local population – in this particular case, southerners. END COMMENT. SECHE

Location: Sanaa, Washington DC
References: US secret cable, Harper’s

YEM004
December 24 2009
♦ 30-34 reported killed total
The first known US attempt to assassinate American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Yemeni security and government sources said that the strike, on an Awlaki family home in Shabwa province, killed at least 30 suspected militants. The Yemeni Embassy in Washington said Awlaki was ‘presumed‘ to be at a meeting with other al Qaeda members, including Nasser al-Wuhayshi, al Qaeda’s regional leader, and his deputy, Said Ali al-Shihri, when he was targeted. Yemeni officials said that the men were ‘planning an attack on Yemeni and foreign oil targets.Terrorism expert Evan F. Kohlmann noted that al-Awlaki may have suspected an airstrike due to the presence of ‘yellow-and-green military-style spotter balloons floating above the area in the three days before‘. US Presidential authorisation to kill Awlaki was not given until May 2010. Interviewed after the attack, Awlaki’s father Nasser al-Awlaki told the Washington Post:

If the American government helped in attacking one of [its own] citizens, this is illegal. If Obama wants to kill my son, this is wrong.

Type of action: Air assault
Location: Rafd, Shabwa province
References: Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Globe, Time, AP, The Nation, Amnesty International, US Diplomatic Cable, AFP, Long War Journal, Saba News, ABC News, US diplomatic cable

December 25 2009
Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a US plane - Northwest Airlines Flight 253 - en route from Amsterdam to Detroit. Concealing the bomb in his underwear, Abdulmutallab tried to detonate the device as the plane, carrying 289 people, approached Detroit. However, the bomb failed, and he was pinned to the floor by passengers. It was reported during his trial that in August 2009, Abdulmutallab had gone to seek out his ‘mentor’ Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen. Staying at his house for three days, he was then taken to meet bomb maker Ibrahim Al Asiri. Awlaki reportedly approved the mission. On February 17 2012, following his trial, Abdulmutallab was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Prosecutors dubbed him an:

unrepentant would-be mass murderer who views his crimes as divinely inspired and blessed, and who views himself as under a continuing obligation to carry out such crimes.

A US administration official told the Washington Post that information provided by Abdulmutallab during questioning was ‘a piece of the puzzle‘ enabling the US to track down and kill al-Awlaki on September 30 2011.

References: AP via Daily Mail, US Justice Department, Washington Post, FBI


2010


President Obama on the so-called ‘underwear bomber’

January 3 2010
A single report claimed that a team of about 30 SAS personnel had flown to Yemen in a new drive against terrorists in the mountainous regions of the country. An intelligence source reportedly told the paper: ‘A team from 22 SAS Regiment will be arriving soon in the Yemen. Some are already there. They will help hunt down and capture terrorists and train the Yemeni special forces to pinpoint al Qaeda cells, spy on them and destroy their camps.’

Reference: The Mirror

January 2-4 2010
CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus met with Yemen’s President Saleh. According to a US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, despite concerns by Saleh Petraeus claimed that only three civilians had been killed in the December 17 and 24 raids.

AQAP STRIKES: CONCERN FOR CIVILIAN CASUALTIES (S/NF) Saleh praised the December 17 and 24 strikes against AQAP but said that “mistakes were made” in the killing of civilians in Abyan. The General responded that the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site, prompting Saleh to plunge into a lengthy and confusing aside with Deputy Prime Minister Alimi and Minister of Defense Ali regarding the number of terrorists versus civilians killed in the strike. (Comment: Saleh’s conversation on the civilian casualties suggests he has not been well briefed by his advisors on the strike in Abyan, a site that the ROYG has been unable to access to determine with any certainty the level of collateral damage. End Comment.) AQAP leader Nassr al-Wahishi and extremist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may still be alive, Saleh said, but the December strikes had already caused al Qaeda operatives to turn themselves in to authorities and residents in affected areas to deny refuge to al Qaeda.

Yemen also said it would continue to ‘lie‘ about US attacks:

Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are “not very accurate” and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just “lied” by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.

Location: Sanaa
References: US diplomatic cable, The Nation, CNN

January 6 2010
A moderate Yemeni cleric warned US political officers that military activity in the country may radicalise young people, according to a secret cable:

He characterized the US military role in AfPak as having ‘increased the support of the people for al Qaeda’ and warned that the same thing would happen in Yemen if the US took direct military action on Yemeni soil.

Location: Sanaa
Reference: WikiLeaks


YEM005

January 12 2010
♦ 1-2 reported killed
Alleged Al Qaeda local commander Abdullah Mehdar was reportedly killed by Yemen security forces after he was tracked to a safe house in Shabwa and surrounded. Mohamed Val, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Sanaa, said that ‘the government confirmed Mehdar was killed along with another fighter, and that three others escaped.’ Local tribal leader Sheik Atiq Baadha challenged the view that Mehdar was part of AQAP and warned that his death might lead to more militancy: ‘They were young men who went astray, but I don’t think they were really members of al Qaeda.’ There was no suggestion of US involvement in the operation at the time.

However later reports indicated that ‘two dozen‘ US ground operations involving JSOC took place between December 17 2009 and January 31 2010 – only some of which have been located. US intelligence efforts may also have contributed to the killing. The Yemen Observer detailed other raids by Yemeni forces, including one on January 4 2010 on Arhab, about 40-50 km east of the capital Sanaa where ‘at least two al Qaeda operatives were killed‘. Editor of the Yemen Post Hakim Almasmari told Voice of America that ‘Abdallah Mehdar was killed because he did not surrender. He’s not one of the top al-Qaida leaders but he is a member of al-Qaida. The good thing is that there were no civilian casualties reported for the attack.’ He also told the agency that the national security army ‘was trained by the US for terrorist combating‘.

Type of action: Ground assault, possible US involvement
Location: Shabwa
References: Christian Science Monitor, BBC, The Nation , Yemen Observer, Associated Press, Voice of America, Al Jazeera English

YEM006
January 15 2010
♦ 0-6 reported killed
A reported JSOC strike targeted Abu Hurayrah Qasim al-Raimi (see YEM003) and Ayed Jaber al Shabwani, a local AQAP leader, along with al Qaeda leaders Ammar Obada al Waili, Saleh al Tais, Abdullah Hadi al Tays and an Egyptian known as Abu Ayman al Masri, also known as Shaykh Ibrahim Muhammad Salih al-Banna. The Yemeni government said its air force struck two cars in Al Ajasher, a mountainous region between Saada and Jawf, reportedly near the village of Yatama. However, given the precision nature of the strike on two moving vehicles, and the limitations of the Yemeni air force, the Bureau believes this unlikely.

Critical Threats website reported that ‘eight al Qaeda militants were in the two cars – six were killed and two escaped, pursued by Yemeni security forces’. But while the Long War Journal reported that both Shabwani and al Masri were thought to have been killed, al Masri, also known as Ibrahim al-Banna, was reportedly arrested six months later, in August 2010, and Shabwani was reported killed on July 21, 2011 (YEM018). The deaths were not confirmed by the US, and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the strike. AQAP issued a statement on jihaddist forums ‘asserting all their members escaped, some with minor wounds‘. Ammar al-Waili was later reported killed by a US drone on June 3 2011. (YEM012)

Type of action: Airstrike, aircraft (possibly Yemen Air Force)
Location: Al Ajasher
References: Saba News, Long War Journal, Critical Threats, The Nation, Inspire 6, The Bureau, Jane Novak blog, Jamestown, Reuters, Al-Shorfa

January 19 2010
The US designated al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) a terrorist group under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The US also called on UN members to impose sanctions on AQAP and the men it identified as AQAP’s ‘two top leaders‘ - Nasir al-Wahishi and Said al-Shihri. Anwar al-Awlaki was not named. According to a State Department spokesman ‘These actions prohibit provision of material support and arms to AQAP and also include immigration related restrictions that will help stem the flow of finances to AQAP and give the Department of Justice the tools it needs to prosecute AQAP members.

The actions taken today against AQAP support the US effort to degrade the capabilities of this group. We are determined to eliminate AQAP’s ability to execute violent attacks and to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat their networks.

References: US State Department, AFP

YEM007
January 20 2010
♦ At least 2 killed
A number of airstrikes, possibly by the Yemen Airforce, targeted the home of Ayed al Shabwani, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Marib province, in the village of Erq al Shabwan, casting doubt on Yemeni government assertions that Shabwani had been killed in the strike five days earlier (YEM006). A Yemeni official claimed that there were three strikes on the house and one on an orange grove. The Long War Journal quoted the editor of the Yemen Post as saying that Shabwani had been the primary target of several recent attacks. It also stated that an orange grove near to Shabwani’s home was hit, where ‘Al Qaeda fighters were reportedly sheltering‘. A Yemeni tribal source confirmed the air strikes in Erq Al Shabwan village to news agency AFP, and said a ‘number of people had been killed.’ Yemen Post editor Hakim Almasmari told Voice of America that there had been 17 raids throughout the day, targeting Shabwani. ‘They are still ongoing…Until now, there is only one al-Qaida leader killed. [Yemeni security forces] have troops on the ground, but doing nothing. Most of the attacks are from the air,’ he said.

Type of action: Air assault, possibly Yemen Air Force
Location: Erq al Shabwan, Mareeb Province
References: Al Jazeera, Long War Journal, AFP, Voice of America

YEM008
Late January 2010
Over a six week period, US Special Forces carried out more than 24 ground raids in Yemen according to a single credible source – The Nation. ‘By late January 2010, JSOC had been involved with more than two dozen ground raids in Yemen, which kicked off with the December 17 strikes. Scores of people were killed in the campaign, while others were taken prisoner. At the same time, JSOC began operating drones in the country as the covert war expanded.’ The Washington Post contravened this, saying that JSOC was not directly taking part in the raids but was helping to ‘plan missions, develop tactics and provide weapons and munitions’. The Post said that,’Highly sensitive intelligence is being shared with the Yemeni forces, including electronic and video surveillance, as well as three-dimensional terrain maps and detailed analysis of the al Qaeda network‘. JSOC was operating in a ‘newly built joint operations center‘, also referred to in a secret US cable by Yemen’s President Saleh.

Type of action: Ground assault, multiple raids
Location: Across Yemen
References: The Nation, Washington Post, US diplomatic cable

YEM009
March 14 2010
♦ 9-20 reported killed
♦ 0-17 civilians killed
A JSOC night time precision strike killed two alleged militants in an air raid on a suspected terrorist training site in Abyan province, a known al Qaeda haven. According to AFP Jamil Nasser Abdullah al-Anbari, also known as Abi Saber al-Abyani, believed to be the leader of al Qaeda in southern Abyan province, was one of two militants killed. However, Critical Threats reported that three alleged al Qaeda members were killed – the others named as Samir al Sanaani, (also known as Abu Fawwaz al-Sanaani or Amin al-Maqalih), and Ahmed Amzarba. A brief statement from the Yemen government said the raids were carried out in Moudia, with an official saying that up to nine people died. Local residents told AFP that the raids had caused an unspecified number of civilian casualties, and told Reuters that up to 20 people may have been killed. AQAP later set up a Jamil al-Anbari Martyrs’ Brigade, and released an audio eulogy to the ‘fallen fighters’, which stated that Al-Anbari and al-Maqalih (Sanaani) was trying to connect to the net when he was killed by an air raid in the area of Jiza in Abyan province.

Type of action: Air assault
Location: Modia district, Abyan province
References: AFP, Long War Journal, al Motomar, Xinhua, New York Times, Nefa Foundation, Middle East Observatory, US Congressional Research Service, SITE Intelligence via Critical Threats, Al Jazeera, BBC, Reuters

April 6 2010
The US approved the targeted killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, which was formally signed off by the US Office of Legal Counsel in June 2010, although the documentation remains secret. ‘The danger Awlaki poses to this country is no longer confined to words‘ a US official told the New York Times. ‘He’s gotten involved in plots…The United States works, exactly as the American people expect, to overcome threats to their security, and this individual — through his own actions — has become one. Awlaki knows what he’s done, and he knows he won’t be met with handshakes and flowers. None of this should surprise anyone.’ Rep. Jane Harman, speaking to the House of Representatives Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, described Awlaki as ‘probably the person, the terrorist, who would be terrorist No. 1 in terms of threat against us.’ In October 2011 Harman urged the Obama administration to publish the memo, signed off by the OLC approving the killing, to increase transparency. Reuters stated that ‘US counterterrorism officials described Awlaki as the main force behind AQAP’s decision to transform itself from a regional threat into what US spy agencies see as al Qaeda’s most active affiliate outside Pakistan and Afghanistan‘.

References: Reuters, New York Times, CNN, Empty Wheel, US Department of Justice

YEM010
May 24 2010
4 civilians killed
2 civilians injured
A
botched US airstrike killed Marib Province’s deputy governor, Jaber al-Shabwani. His brother Ayed was the local al Qaeda leader, and Jaber had been attempting a reconciliation mission. Jaber’s uncle Fahed al-Shabwani and two of his escorts, Ben Aziz and Mohammad Saeed Jameel were also killed. Two others, Fahed Jaber Hassan Al-Shabwani and Fahed Saud Al-Shabwani, thought to be Jaber’s sons, were reported injured. A local security official told Reuters: ‘The deputy governor was on a mediation mission to persuade al Qaeda elements to hand themselves over to the authorities, but it seems that the airstrike missed its target and struck his car, killing him instantly in addition to three companions.’ The strike occurred in the late evening of Monday May 24, as reported by Yemen media in the immediate aftermath. Soon afterwards the date of May 25 was more commonly stated.

The strike led to an uprising of local tribes, with attacks still occurring ten months later, and a reported boost in support for AQAP. In revenge for his son’s death Sheikh Ali al-Shabwani destroyed a section of one of Yemen’s largest oil pipelines, leading to billions of dollars in lost revenue for the Yemeni government. The pipeline helped funnel crude oil to the nation’s main oil terminal in the southern port city of Aden, and the attack led to a major fuel shortage. It also increased anti-US feeling throughout the country. An Institute for Social Policy and Understanding report in February 2011 stated that ‘according to several Yemeni opinion-makers…the killing of al-Shabwani sent shock waves through the regime and undermined the hard-pressed government’s legitimacy in the eyes of tribes and the public at large’. The New York Times claimed that the intended target of the strike was AQAP leader Mohammed Saeed Jardan, with whom Shabwani was said to be meeting to negotiate a surrender. It would be 12 months before the US struck again in Yemen.

In late 2011 the Wall Street Journal reported that some current and former US military officials were now claiming that they were fed misleading intelligence which 'may have been intended to result in Mr. Shabwani’s death.’ But there was also a clear suggestion of incompetence. An official involved in the operation told the paper: ‘It turned out you didn’t really know who was at all those [Yemeni] meetings. JSOC, frankly, wasn’t as up to speed as they should have been.’ The paper went on to say:

In Washington, it soon became clear the attack hit someone besides its intended target. Mr. Obama’s top White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, angrily demanded answers. “He was pissed,” one senior US official said. Mr. Brennan wanted to know if something went wrong and why a deputy governor was supposedly meeting AQAP operatives. “If a mistake was made, [Mr. Brennan] wanted to know about it so that we could take corrective actions and deal with the fallout appropriately,” another senior official said

The Yemen government reportedly provided intelligence used in the strike but denied that it had misled the US in any way.

Location: Marib Province
References: New York Times, The Nation, Reuters, The Hindu, BBC, Al Jazeera, RTT News, New York Times, Reuters , Wall Street Journal, Reuters, ISPU Report, Amnesty, Yemen Observer, Middle East Political Science, The Peninsula, Congressional Research Service, 3Walq

June 11 2010

Claims were once again made that the UK SAS had been deployed to Yemen to hunt for US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, following concerns that Awlaki was radicalizing British extremists who 'could unleash a wave of easily planned guerrilla-style terrorist attacks, similar to the massacre in Mumbai’.

Location: Yemen
Reference: Daily Telegraph


June 21 2010

New York Times Square attempted bomber Faisal Shahzad cited US drone attacks in Yemen and elsewhere as a factor in inspiring his terrorist activities. At that time, no US drone strikes had so far taken place in Somalia, and none in Yemen since 2002:

I’m going to plead guilty a hundred times over because until the hour the US pulls it forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands and stops killing the Muslims and stops reporting the Muslims to its government, we will be attacking US, and I plead guilty to that.

Location: New York
References: Associated Press, New York Times, Bloomberg, Court transcript

July 16 2010
Anwar al-Awlaki, born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, was formally designated a terrorist by the US Treasury. This came two days after the publication of the first edition of Inspire, AQAP’s English-language magazine, in which Awlaki exhorted people to carry out terrorist acts. It was one month after the order to kill Awlaki was formally signed by the US administration, and nearly seven months after the first reported attempt to kill him. Awlaki had been linked to a number of terrorist plots outside Yemen, including Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a commercial airliner on its descent into Detroit in December 2009. ’Anwar al-Awlaki has proven that he is extraordinarily dangerous, committed to carrying out deadly attacks on Americans and others worldwide,’ said Stuart Levey, the Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, in a statement. On July 29, 2010 intelligence sources told US National Public Radio’s national security correspondent that there had been ‘almost a dozen drone and airstrikes targeting [Anwar al-] Awlaki in Yemen‘ since late 2009. In an email, the NPR reporter told the Bureau that while the strikes ‘are not public source information‘, they had been confirmed by her sources.

References: Long War Journal, International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, BBC News, NPR, Department of Justice, Inspire 1, NPR

August 29 2010
Yemen’s government denied that US and British forces were engaged in fighting al Qaeda within the country. A Defence Ministry official said: ‘We are surprised at groundless allegations in several media reports lately on the presence of British soldiers and on the arrival of US forces to aid in fighting terror in Yemen.’ He reported that Yemen’s co-operation was ‘restricted to the exchange of information which facilitates its hunt (for) terrorist elements and handing them over to justice.’ Four weeks later officials also denied the presence of US drones within Yemen.

Location: Sanaa
References: Al Arabiya, UPI, White House

September 16 2010
Jonathan Evans, head of British domestic security service MI5, made a rare public speech in which he raised concerns about extremism in Yemen:

The other area of increased concern in respect of the domestic threat to the UK is Yemen. The AQ affiliate based in Yemen, known as “Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula” is the group that among other things developed the concealable non-metallic underpants bomb used in both the attempt to murder the Saudi Security Minister His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Naif in 2009 and in the narrowly averted Christmas 2009 aircraft bombing over Detroit by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. The operational involvement of Yemen based preacher Anwar Al Awlaqi with AQAP is of particular concern given his wide circle of adherents in the West, including in the UK. His influence is all the wider because he preaches and teaches in the English language which makes his message easier to access and understand for Western audiences.

Location: London
Reference: MI5

October 13 2010
In an indication of how commonplace US surveillance drones had become in the skies above Yemen, a Reuters journalist filmed a US drone circling above a tribal meeting in Wadi Abida, in the volatile eastern province of Maarib. A tribesman told the reporter that ‘I wish I had a weapon that could reach that aircraft.’

Reference: Reuters

October 28 2010

AQAP boasts of its UPS plot in a ‘special edition’ of its magazine

At 3.28am, Leicestershire police were called to East Midlands Airport to inspect a suspicious parcel shipped aboard a United Parcel Service (UPS) courier plane. The plane was en route from Yemen to Chicago via the UK. Within the package, they found a printer containing an ink cartridge with protruding wires, covered in white powder. The white substance was confirmed to be the high explosive PETN. The US government was informed. By October 29, 2010, four UPS planes had been quarantined in the US, and a second device, described as identical, was intercepted aboard a freight plane in Dubai. On November 5, 2010, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the bombs. AQAP also claimed that they were behind the crash of a UPS cargo plane in Dubai on September 3, which killed two crew members. An al Qaeda statement said:

We downed the plane belonging to the American UPS company, but because the media of the enemy did not attribute responsibility for this work to us we kept quiet about the operation until the time came that we hit again. We say to Obama: ‘We struck three blows to your aircraft within one year. Allah willing, we will continue to strike blows against American interests and the interest of America’s allies’.

Anwar Al-Awlaki was alleged by some to be the mastermind behind this plot. The Telegraph reported that the printers were created ‘by bomb-maker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, with copies of Great Expectations and The Mill on the Floss to make them look as though they were being sent home by a Western student‘. Following the interception of the bombs, the New York Police Department’s Counterterrorism Division labeled Anwar al Awlaki ‘the most dangerous man in the world.’ After the plot’s discovery President Obama stated:

Going forward, we will continue to strengthen our cooperation with the Yemeni government to disrupt plotting by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and to destroy this al Qaeda affiliate.

Locations: London, Dubai
References: ABC News, CBS News, BBC news, The Telegraph, Fox News, White House, White House


President Obama on the attempted UPS bombings

October 28 2010
On the same day that the UPS bomb plot was discovered, Sir John Sawers, the head of Britain’s foreign security service MI6, made his first ever public speech. In it Sawers indicated that British intelligence agencies were involved in the fight against al Qaeda in Yemen:

Precisely because we are having some success in closing down the space for terrorist recruitment and planning in the UK, the extremists are increasingly preparing their attacks against British targets from abroad. It’s not just the border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa pose real threats to the UK. From his remote base in Yemen, Al-Qaida leader and US national Anwar al-Awlaki broadcasts propaganda and terrorist instruction in fluent English over the internet. Our intelligence effort needs to go where the threat is. One of the advantages of the way we in SIS work is that we are highly adaptable and flexible. We don’t get pinned in one place.

Days later the Daily Telegraph claimed that British Special Forces were also stationed in Yemen, where they ‘operate as part of a counter-terrorism training unit, assisting in missions to kill or capture al Qaeda leaders, and Britain also has an intelligence presence in Yemen seeking to gain information to help the Yemenis target al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular (AQAP).’

Location: London
Reference: The Guardian (transcript), Channel 4 News, Daily Telegraph

President Obama talks with Yemen’s President Saleh Nov. 2 2010 as counter terror adviser John Brennan looks on (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


November 6 2010
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abubakr Qirbi told CNN that US drones were only involved in ‘surveillance operations‘ over his country and that there was ‘intelligence information that is exchanged about the location of the terrorists by the Americans.’ The Washington Post reported that US droneshad not fired any missiles because the US lacked sufficient intelligence on militants’ locations,’ possibly indicating that Yemen’s intelligence support may have been withdrawn following the May 24 incident (YEM010).

Location: Yemen
References: CNN, Washington Post

December 15 2010

Four CIA employees escaped injury in Sanaa after a bomb exploded under their vehicle outside a restaurant. An anonymous US official told the Washington Post that there was ‘no indication that the perpetrators knew specifically who they were targeting.’ The employees were initially described as US embassy personnel. Critical Threats reported that ‘their armored Toyota Hilux exploded while they were in the restaurant, likely from an explosive placed in or underneath the truck,‘ while Fox News reported that the four were ‘picking up pizza…when the suspect put a satchel explosive device either in the truck bed, or underneath. The Yemeni police reportedly arrested a 28-year old Jordanian suspect believed to be an al Qaeda member.

Location: Sanaa
References: Washington Post, Yemen Times, Critical Threats, Fox News, Associated Press via Yemen online

December 23 2010
Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan once again spoke by phone with Yemen’s President Saleh:

To emphasize the importance of taking forceful action against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in order to thwart its plans to carry out terrorist attacks in Yemen as well as in other countries, including in the US Homeland. Mr. Brennan emphasized the need to strengthen the already close cooperation between Yemeni and US counterterrorism and security services, as well as with other partner nations, including the timely acquisition of all relevant information from individuals arrested by Yemeni security forces.

Location: Washington DC, Sanaa
Reference: White House


2011

January 8 2011
President Obama’s personal interest in Yemen’s security situation was made clear in White House official reports of a phone call:

Assistant to the President John Brennan called President Ali Abdallah Saleh of Yemen this morning to relay President Obama’s personal condolences on the murder of more than a dozen Yemeni security forces by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula over the past two days. Brennan said that President Obama strongly condemned the brutal attacks, which reflect the group’s clear intent to kill Yemenis who are valiantly seeking to stop al-Qa’ida’s attempts to carry out terrorist attacks in Yemen as well as in other countries. Brennan told President Saleh that the United States is determined to stand with the government and people of Yemen in confronting al-Qa’ida.

Location: Washington DC, Sanaa
Reference: White House

February 8 2011
A US Predator drone reportedly crashed in Yemen. The drone came down in Jahayn village near Loder, in Yemen’s Abyan province, where al-Qaida has a strong presence, and was found by local residents, an official told AFP. Although the wreckage was initially seized by police, their convoy was ambushed by al Qaeda, who stole the machine. However, the security director of Lawdar district Ahmed Ali al-Qofeish told the Yemen Observer that it could not be confirmed that the pieces of metal found were part of a drone, claiming they could be ‘remains of a missile‘. ‘It is unlikely the remains were of a US drone. You cannot tell the difference from just small parts‘, he told the Yemen Observer. He also refuted the claim that al Qaeda militants made off with the wreckage, saying ‘Once the locals informed us, we [sent] troops there and collected all the parts. These parts filled about four large bags and they are sealed‘.

Location: Loder, Abyan Province
References: AFP, Xinhua, Fox News, Yemen Post, Yemen Observer

April 19 2011
The US revealed on July 5 that three months previously JSOC had captured Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame, (‘aka Khattab, aka Farah, aka Abdi Halim Mohammed Fara, aka Fareh Jama Ali Mohammed‘) who had been indicted in New York on charges of ‘providing material support to al Shabaab and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).‘ During the initial stages of his detention Warsame had been kept prisoner on a JSOC ship, the USS Boxer.

Type of attack: Ground assault, rendition
Location: Off the coast of Yemen
References: US Dept of Justice indictment, StrategyPage, Channel 4 News, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CagePrisoners

YEM011
May 5 2011
♦ 2 reported killed
In the first recorded US attack during Yemen’s Arab Spring uprising, a fresh attempt was made to kill US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in a co-ordinated drone strike. Instead two AQAP-linked brothers died, identified by Yemeni government officials as Abdullah Mubarak and Mosaad Mubarak (or al-Harad). ABC News featured a special investigation on the attack, stating that on the morning of May 5, ‘the US military dispatched a fearsome array of heavily armed warplanes including Marine Harrier jets, predator drones and a special operations aircraft carrying short range Griffin missiles to follow a pickup truck in which Awlaki was a passenger‘. But the US troops were unable to keep missiles locked on Awlaki’s truck. One missile grazed his bumper, then, ‘the Harriers, which were almost out of gas, had to leave. The remaining aircraft tried to keep following Awlaki to take another shot. But then cloud cover got in the way. Awlaki was able to exploit a moment of hesitation while the targeting pods and the surveillance aircraft were refocusing to jump out of his pickup truck and move to another.’ Awlaki later mocked the failed attack in AQAP’s English-language jihadist magazine Inspire, saying 'It looks as if someone was a bit angry with us this evening.’ The drone strike was the US’s first in Yemen since 2002 (see YEM001) with the Wall Street Journal reporting that 'JSOC strikes returned in May, this time using armed drones as well as manned aircraft. The CIA inaugurated its own parallel drone program in Yemen in September [2011] with the successful strike on Anwar al-Awlaki.’ The Wall Street Journal offered more detail on the assault, which it said consisted of two elements:

In the first strike, the US fired three rockets at a pickup truck in which Mr. Awlaki and a Saudi national and suspected al Qaeda member were traveling outside the village of Jahwa, located some 20 miles away from the Shebwa provincial capital, said local residents and the Yemeni security official. Those missiles didn’t hit their target. Two Yemeni brothers, who were known by local residents for giving shelter to al Qaeda militants, rushed to the scene of the attack. Mr. Awlaki switched vehicles with them, leaving the two Yemenis in the pickup. A single drone then hit the pickup truck, killing the Yemenis inside. Mr. Awlaki escaped in the other vehicle along with the Saudi.’

Type of action: Air assault, drone strike with US aircraft
Location: Shabwa Province
References: Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, The Daily Star, Xinhua, AFP, Washington Post, CNN, The Bureau, The Guardian, GQ Magazine, ABC News, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Long War Journal, Inspire 5.


YEM012
June 3 2011
♦ 7 killed
♦ 4 civilians killed
The New York Times claimed that US airstrike in the city of Zinjibar, most likely a drone, killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, a ‘veteran of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s al Qaeda in Iraq currently serving as a commander in the al Qaeda affiliated Aden Abyan Islamic Army,and a number of other militants as well as four civilians, according to witnesses. However, an AQAP fighter named Abu al-Harithi was also claimed to be killed in the first ever US drone strike on Yemen, November 3 2002 (YEM001), as noted by Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen. Nevertheless, AQAP later confirmed through Inspire magazine the deaths of al-Harithi, Ammar Abadah Nasser al Wa’eli, a ’veteran’ of Afghanistan, and Abu Jafar al Adeni, stating that Wa’eli was killed ‘with his brother’ Adeni. The magazine described Harithi’s death:

While fighting in Abyan, his vehicle was struck by a missile from an American drone. Nothing remained from him except small pieces of flesh scattered around. That was the death Abu Ali wanted for.

The Jamestown Foundation identified the June 3 strike as that which killed al-Harithi and al Wa’eli. And on June 9 2011, the Yemeni Defence Ministry announced that al Waili (also known as Waeli) and Adeni were killed ‘in ongoing operations by the Yemeni army against the organization in Abyan province.’

Two weeks earlier, President Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan had spoken by phone with Yemen’s President Saleh, where; ‘He affirmed the commitment of the United States to stand with the Yemeni government and people as they… combat the security threat from al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula.’

Type of attack: Air assault, drone strike with US aircraft
Location: Zinjibar, Abyan Province
References: New York Times, Long War Journal, Almotamar, ABC News, CNN, Inspire 6, Reuters, Waq-al-Waq, Jamestown Foundation, Al-Shorfa, White House

YEM013
June 10 2011
♦ 1+ killed
United Press International (UPI) reported that ‘at least one top insurgent was killed in the US military-led strikes by unmanned aircraft’, which began in Zinjibar. While Reuters reported that airstrikes on Zinjibar stemmed from ‘state forces’, according to the editor of the Yemen Post, a strike on June 10 was the sixth by US drones since the May 5 attempt on Anwar al-Awlaki. Hakim Almasmari told The Bureau that a Yemeni Ministry of Defence official had confirmed to him that 13 air force strikes claimed by the Yemeni government in the past month were actually the work of US drones: ‘Our aircraft fleet is very limited. Given that, and the targets being struck, and what the eye witnesses see, we have to believe what our sources on the ground are telling us.’ As the February uprising against President Saleh generated chaos in Yemen, the US appeared to be bolstering its attacks on militants. However it became increasingly difficult to disentangle reports of ‘drone strikes’ from US or Yemeni air strikes, or other forms of combat. CNN reported that, throughout Zinjibar, ‘heavy gunfire and explosions were heard…and planes were seen flying overhead and conducting airstrikes‘, the fighting resulting in the deaths of at least ‘twenty-one al Qaeda members and 10 Yemeni soldiers‘ between June 10 and 11 2011.

Type of attack: Air assault, drone strikes
Location: Zinjibar, various Yemen.

References: The Bureau, UPI, CNN, Reuters

YEM014
June 12 2011
♦ 3 killed
♦ 3 civilians reported killed
A security official from Abyan province claimed that one of three linked strikes against militants resulted in the deaths of three civilians. The Yemen Post reported that the residence of al Qaeda fighter Nader Shadadi was struck. Shadadi was not home during the attack but an official said his father, mother, and sister were killed in the raid. No al Qaeda suspects were killed, the official claimed. Locals claimed that drones had carried out the attacks. Abdul Hadi Mohammed, a neighbour, allegedly told the National: ‘Was Shadadi’s mother and father terrorist? They were killed by the US drone. They are both over 60 years old.’

Type of attack: Air assault, drone strikes
Location: Raia, Abyan Province.
Reference: Yemen Post, National (UAE)

YEM015
June 18 2011
♦ 6 civilians reported injured
The Yemen Post reported that six civilians were wounded in an apparent drone strike targeting ‘senior jihadists’. However, no AQAP militants were reported to be hit in the attack. Yemeni sources reported that the targets of the attack were al Qaeda fighters under the command of Sheikh Khalid Abdul Nabi, a leader in the south of the country.

Type of attack: Air assault, drone strikes
Location: Jaar, Abyan
References: Yemen Post, Press TV, The National, Kavkaz Center

YEM016
July 14 2011
♦ 6-50 reported killed
♦ 30 civilians reported killed (CNN)
At least six people were reported killed in a US strike in Abyan province. Al Jazeera English stated the six were militants who had taken over the Wadeea district police station. An eyewitness told al Jazeera that while six bodies of killed gunmen were pulled from the ruins of the police station, the death toll could ‘climb with ongoing rescue operations‘. The New York Times claimed the same strike killed eight, whilst CNN claimed that as many as fifty people were killed. ‘The casualty toll is high because fighters were gathered in that area with family members,’ a senior security source in Abyan allegedly told CNN. Witnesses also told the channel that ‘at least 30 civilians‘ were among the dead. However, according to CNN, ‘the government said that a US drone was not involved in the attack and that its air forces conducted the raid. The Interior Ministry said on its website that nine fighters were killed and dozens were wounded and that the number of deaths was expected to rise.’ However, Yemeni officials told the Associated Press that the strike must have been carried out by an American plane ‘because Yemeni planes aren’t equipped for nighttime strikes‘. Resident Mohammed al-Mashraqi told AP that weapons stored inside caused the police station to catch fire after the strike. ‘Dozens of militants rushed to the scene to evacuate the wounded and dig search the rubble for the dead’, he said.Wired wrote up its own report on the huge variation in reporting on this strike. Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee claimed that ‘some 20 Al Qaeda fighters were killed…including leaders Hadi Mohammed Ali and Abu Bilal.


Aden News TV raw footage of the strike damage on Wadeea police station

Four days earlier, President Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser had met Yemen’s President Saleh in Saudi Arabia, where among other points:

Mr. Brennan emphasized the importance of resolving the political crisis in Sanaa so that the Yemeni Government and people can successfully confront the serious challenges they face, including the terrorist attacks carried out by al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, which have claimed the lives of hundreds of Yemeni citizens.

Type of attack: Air assault, drone strikes
Location: Wadeea district, Mudiya, Abyan
References: Long War Journal, New York Times, CNN, Wired, Nasser Arrabyee, Al Jazeera, Associated Press, Antiwar.com, White House, Aden News, Akhbar Al Youm

YEM017
July 14 2011
A US strike on a car targeted Fahd al-Qusaa, also known as Quso, an al Qaeda leader and suspect in the USS Cole bombing, according to the New York Times quoting an AQAP representative. He claimed that Qusaa had left the car minutes earlier and was unharmed. According to the Long War Journal, Qusaa (pictured), was being sheltered by the Awlaki tribe, and was allegedly involved in the failed AQAP airline bombing attack over Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. Yemeni journalist Nasser Arrabyee claimed that the car was travelling between Shakra and Zinjibar in Abyan Province.

Type of attack: Air assault, drone strikes
Location: Abyan province
References: New York Times, Long War Journal, Nasser Arrabyee, Antiwar.com

YEM018
July 21 2011
♦ 11 reported killed
An al Qaeda leader and 10 others were killed in a battle in South Yemen. Deputy Information Minister Abdo al-Janadi told a news conference in Yemen’s capital city that the US provided assistance ‘by bringing in food supplies‘. An official in Abyan told AFP that ships and boats believed to be American were seen in the area of Zinjibar. Ayad al-Shabwani, a leader of the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was once again reported killed.

Type of attack: US logistical and naval support
Location: South Yemen
References: AFP, Telegraph, Associated Press

YEM019
July 27 2011

♦ 5 reported killed
Xinhua news reported a local official as saying that five AQAP militants, including a field commander, were killed by a US drone strike on Karadeef, in western Zinjibar. Aden-online stated that a ’prominent al Qaeda leader and four terrorists’ were killed in an air strike in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan, but did not mention drones. One of the four was claimed to be ‘the son of Nasser Al-Marqashi’.

Type of attack: Air assault, drone strike
Location: Karadeef, Zinjibar
References: Xinhua, Aden-online via Yemen Post

YEM020
August 1 2011
♦ 13-16 reported killed
♦ 17 injured
Two or three airstrikes killed up to 16 alleged militants, including local al Qaeda leader Nader Shadadi. The Washington Post reported that three attacks took place and that Yemeni local and security officials claimed the strikes stemmed from US Predator drones. But Reuters reported that Yemeni warplanes conducted at least one of the strikes, on the village of al-Khamilah. Critical Threats reported that ‘Yemeni airstrikes “in and around” Zinjibar killed local al Qaeda leader Nader Shadadi and at least 15 other militants. One strike targeted an al Qaeda roadblock near al Wahda (Unity) stadium. Another strike destroyed an armored troop carrier, while two others struck militant positions in Khamila area, five miles south of Zinjibar. Seventeen others were wounded in the strikes.’

Type of attack: Air assault, possibly with Yemen Air Force
Location: Al Khamila, Abyan Province
References: Yemen Post, Washington Post, antiwar.com, Long War Journal, Pakistan Today, Reuters, Critical Threats, AFP

YEM021
August 24 2011
♦ 30 reported killed
♦ 40 reported injured
An air strike targeted militants near the town of Zinjibar. AP reported Yemeni officials as saying that: ‘A first round of airstrikes early Wednesday killed 30 militants near Zinjibar‘. The officials told AP that 40 militants were also wounded in the operation, which was a ‘deadly blow’ to the militants. It is not clear whether this was a US or Yemeni airstrike. Residents in Zinjibar, Abyan, told CNN that ‘air raids on militant hideouts are heard at least five times a day‘.

Type of attack: Air assault, possible US
Location: Zinjibar
References: AP (via Air Force Times), MSNBC, CNN, AP (Guardian), Explosive Violence Monitoring Project



AQAP propaganda images from Inspire issue 2

YEM022
August 24 2011
♦ 6 reported killed
An airstrike killed a group of alleged militants in Arkoub, with medical sources telling AFP that six bodies were taken to a hospital in Jaar. AP reported that a pair of suicide bombings had killed 11 anti-al Qaeda tribesmen in the town days earlier. However, a tribal source speaking to AFP ‘was unable to confirm whether the air strike was carried out by the Yemeni air force or by a US drone‘.

Type of attack: Air assault, possible US
Location: Arkoub, Abyan Province
References: AFP, AFP (via MSN), AFP (via Islam Tribune), AP, Dawn, Explosive Violence Monitoring Project

YEM023
August 25 2011
♦ 8 reported killed
♦ 3 people injured
Eight suspected al Qaeda-linked militants were killed in an airstrike. They were reportedly members of Ansar al-Sharia, or ‘supporters of Islamic Sharia’. According to website Critical Threats, Yemeni officials said that one of the militants killed was a local leader, Abu Jaber al Sanaai. It is not clear whether this was a US or Yemeni strike.

Type of attack: Air assault, possible US
Location: Wadi Hassan, Abyan Province
References: Critical Threats, Associated Press, Dawn, Explosive Violence Monitoring Project

YEM024
August 31 2011
♦ 30 reported killed
US airstrikes killed at least 30 alleged al Qaeda militants over August 31 and September 1 near Zinjibar. ‘The airstrikes freed a Yemeni military unit besieged in southeast Abyan for several weeks,’ Yemeni military officials told The Associated Press. The Long War Journal posited that the Yemeni military unit involved was the 25th Yemeni Mechanized Brigade, ‘known to have been under siege by AQAP fighters just outside of Zinjibar‘. During the fighting the US military provided aerial resupply drops to the encircled forces using US aircraft, reported the Washington Institute. On September 1 White House counter terrorism adviser John Brennan said the US had urged Yemen to send more troops into Zinjibar to free the besieged unit. On the Yemeni government, he said: ‘This political tumult is … leading them to be focused on their positioning for internal political purposes as opposed to doing all they can against AQAP.

US military officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on airstrikes, but said: ‘We continue to provide counterterrorism aid, intelligence, and logistical support to Yemeni forces‘. On the first day of strikes, Wednesday 31 August, Reuters reported that 17 militants were killed as ‘army troops pushed back the militants from an area about 8 km (5 miles) from Zinjibar, the provincial capital seized by the militants in May‘. Yemeni troops then ‘seized several arms caches‘, initially suffering no casualties. However, a later report by Reuters stated that three government soldiers died.

Type of action: Air assault, airstrikes
Location: Abyan Province
References: Long War Journal, The Atlantic Wire, AP (via Critical Threats), antiwar.com, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Reuters, Associated Press, Washington Institute


AQAP’s propaganda indicates growing impact of US airstrikes – Jan 2011, from Inspire 4

September 2 2011
Reports emerged that the CIA was building a secret drone base ‘in the Arabian Gulf’ -rumoured to be Saudi Arabia or Oman- from which to conduct a parallel campaign against militants in Yemen. The new base was later reportedly used to attack and kill Anwar al-Awlaki. ‘The new CIA base provides a backstop, if al-Qaida or other anti-American rebel forces gain control‘, one senior US official told the Associated Press.

Location: Arabian Gulf
References: Washington Post, Associated Press

YEM025
September 7 2011
♦ 3-10 reported killed
♦ 2-24 reported injured
Multiple strikes. A Predator drone strike allegedly struck a makeshift al Qaeda checkpoint in Mihfed, Abyan Province. AFP reported that a local security official said that the US drone strike had killed three militants and wounded two more. Meanwhile, Xinhua reported that ‘10 al-Qaida militants were killed and dozens of others were injured‘ on the evening of 7 September when a US drone struck ‘several targets‘ in Abyan. Xinhua said that Predator drones ‘bombed an abandoned hotel and a primary school on the eastern outskirts of Jaar city‘ in Abyan, and that local residents in Jaar said that dozens of families have fled to nearby provinces of Aden and Lahj, ‘fearing renewed botched air strikes by the Yemeni air forces and the US drones‘.

Type of action: Air assault, multiple airstrikes
Location: Mihfed, Abyan Province
References: Daily Times, CNTV, Xinhua, Long War Journal, AFP

YEM026
September 21 2011
♦ 4 reported killed
There were two alleged US drone strikes reported on this day. The first killed four militants and was apparently targeting Saeed al-Shehri, AQAP’s Saudi ‘number two’, who escaped. A local official told the AFP that: ‘US drones carried out two air strikes on Al-Mahfad (in the southern Abyan province) where al Qaeda militants – among them al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) number two Saeed al-Shehri – are present.’ According to Aden Online, the four fighters were on a mountain pass in al Mahfed, Abyan, eyewitnesses saying that ‘an American military aircraft bombed a vehicle [which] was heading on a mountainous road in Saraw‘. A later article on October 3 by AFP stated that, according to a tribal chief, Anwar al-Awlaki was with al-Shehri in Al Mahfad when the strike occurred, but both escaped.

Type of action: Air assault, airstrikes
Location: Al-Mahfad, Abyan Province
References: AFP, Al Arabiya (via NeoClassics), Critical Threats, AFP, Long War Journal, Aden Online, Press TV

YEM027
September 21 2011
♦ 6-7 reported killed
3 people injured
A second strike reportedly targeted militants in the southern port city of Shaqra, killing up to seven al Qaeda fighters, according to The Long War Journal and Aden Online. AFP stated that the second wave killed six ‘al Qaeda gunmen‘ and wounded three, according to an official from the town of Shaqra (under AQAP control). The Long War Journal contacted US military officials for a comment on the reported airstrikes, but officials would only confirm that ‘US forces are supporting Yemeni forces‘.

Type of action: Air assault, airstrike
Location: Shaqra, Abyan Province
References: Long War Journal, Aden Online, Press TV, AFP

YEM028
September 30 2011
♦ 4 reported killed
Anwar al-Awlaki, the US-born cleric, became the first US citizen to be deliberately killed by the CIA in a drone strike. The attack – assisted by JSOC – also killed US citizen Samir Khan, editor of AQAP’s Inspire magazine, Abu Muhsen al-Maribi and Salem al-Marwani. According to the Washington Post, after locating al-Awlaki the CIA assembled a fleet of armed drones to track, and finally target him.’The choreography of the strike, which involved four drones, was intricate. Two Predators pointed lasers at Awlaki’s vehicle, and a third circled to make sure that no civilians wandered into the cross hairs.’

The killing of Khan and Awlaki, and Awlaki’s 16-year old son a week later, led for calls for the US to publish the legal basis on which it had ‘extrajudicially executed US citizens‘, as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) put it. On December 20 2011, the New York Times filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration, seeking the release of the Justice Department legal opinion in the Awlaki case, which the department would not disclose. The NY Times had previously reported that the secret memo which authorised the killing stated that it would be lawful ‘only if it were not feasible to take him alive’. The memo was ‘narrowly drawn to the specifics of Mr Alwaki’s case‘ and circumvented ‘an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war,‘ said the NY Times.

Type of action: Air assault, drone strike
Location: Jawf
References: New York Times, Washington Post, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, TIME Magazine, Financial Times,Critical Threats, Flashpoint Intel, Washington Post, Daily Beast, Lawsuit transcript, New York Times, Department of Justice

YEM029
October 5 2011
♦ 5 reported killed
♦ 7 reported injured
This strike targeted alleged militant hideouts in al-Arqoub, east of Zinjibar, the embattled provincial capital of Abyan in southern Yemen. Officials told the Associated Press that the strike killed five and injured seven. The Long War Journal stated that the exact target of the strike was not disclosed, and no ‘senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders have been reported killed‘.

Type of action: Air assault, airstrike
Location: al-Arqoub, Abyan
References: Associated Press, New York Times, Yemen Observer, Long War Journal

YEM030
October 14 2011
♦ 0 killed
In the first of several attacks on this day, a drone attack struck a house in the Azan district of Shabwa, targeting the Egyptian-born AQAP Yemen media chief Ibrahim al-Bana, but the occupants of the house had left two minutes earlier, according to local tribal elders.

Type of action: Air assault, drone strike
Location: Azan, Shabwa
References: CNN, GlobalPost, Business Insider, Yemen Post, ABC, AP (via Taiwan News)

YEM031
October 14 2011
♦ 7-24 people killed, including 16-year and 17 year old boy
♦ 2 teenage children reported killed
A second drone attack then struck the vehicle in which Ibrahim al-Bana and Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki, the 16-year old son of al-Awlaki were travelling. A statement from Abdul Rahman’s family read, ‘he left with some friends for dinner under the moonlight when an American missile landed, killing Abdel-Rahman and his friends‘. In a separate statement, the family said: ’On October 14th, 2011 Abdulrahman, along with some of his tribe’s youth have gone barbecuing under the moonlight. A drone missile hit their congregation killing Abdulrahman and several other teenagers’. A second teenager and family member, Ahmed Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki, 17, is known to have died. Five to seven others were also killed, including Sarhan al-Qusa (aka Farhan al Quso) brother of AQAP leader Fahd al-Qusa or Quso, according to a member of Awlaki’s tribe. Reuters later claimed that the dead men were planning to renounce al Qaeda before they were killed. Elders claimed that four other Awlaki tribal members died in the strike. However, two weeks after the strike, AQAP released leaflets stating that Ibrahim al-Bana had not been killed. The Washington Post reported that it was JSOC rather than the CIA which carried out the attack:

When pressed on why the CIA had not pulled the trigger, US officials said it was because the main target…an Egyptian named Ibrahim al-Banna, was not on the agency’s kill list. The Awaki teenager, a US citizen with no history of involvement with al Qaeda, was an unintended casualty. In interviews, senior US officials acknowledged that the two kill lists don’t match, but offered conflicting explanations as to why.

In a statement, Yemen Security officials said the air strike was among five that targeted al Qaeda positions in Shabwa, adding that al-Bana was wanted internationally for planning attacks both inside and outside Yemen. ‘He was one of the group’s most dangerous operatives,’ it said.

Type of action: Air assault, drone strike
Location: Azan, Shabwa
References: CNN, GlobalPost, Business Insider, Yemen Post, ABC, AFP (via Taiwan News), Reuters,Press TV, AP, Washington Post, Long War Journal, LA Times, Reuters, Yemen Post, Time Magazine, Antiwar.com, Empty Wheel, Salon, Al-Awlaki family statement

YEM032
October 14 2011
♦ 15-17 possible killed
Reports indicated a possible third strike which may account for between 15-17 casualties.

Type of action: Possible air assault, drone strike
Location: Unknown
References: CNN, GlobalPost, Business Insider, Yemen Post, ABC, AP, AP (via Taiwan News), AFP (via Taiwan News), Reuters, Press TV, AP

YEM033
October 14-15 2011
♦ 2 reported killed
♦ 12 reported injured
AP claimed that a further two strikes occurred over a weekend, with 2 killed and 12 wounded.

Type of action: Possible air strike
Location: Unknown
Reference: AP (via CBS)

YEM034
November 8 2011
♦ Unknown number reported killed
The militant stronghold of Rumeila was targeted by ‘five US drone strikes,’ according to an unnamed Yemeni official based in Jaar.

Type of action: Air assault, drone strikes
Location: Rumeila
Reference: AFP

A US Navy helicopter on the tarmac at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti (DoD/ Flickr)


Late 2011
As revolutionary chaos continued to grip Yemen the US withdrew most of its military assets from the country. Co-ordination of counter-terrorism operations passed to Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. The New York Times reported that the US ‘pulled out about 75 Special Forces trainers and support personnel in Yemen, and counterterrorism training ground to a halt‘. However on January 23 2012 The Atlantic magazine claimed that the number of US troops on the ground (working under JSOC) was still in the 300 to 500 range.

Locations: Yemen/ Djibouti
References: The Atlantic, New York Times

YEM035
December 22 2011
♦ 1 reported killed
A US drone strike reportedly killed Abdulrahman al-Wuhayshi, the younger brother of Nasser al-Wuhayshi, a Yemeni who leads AQAP. Wuhayshi was initially reported to be a victim of Yemeni military action by the Associated Press. However, Reuters reported that Wuhayshi was targeted by a US drone attack on Zinjibar, Abyan province. The Long War Journal reported that this was ‘the first reported attack by the US since the strike in Azzan in Shabwa province that killed Abdul Rahman al Awlaki‘. It must be noted that Wuhayshi’s death has not been confirmed by AQAP.

Location: Zinjibar
References: AP, Reuters, Long War Journal, National Yemen


2012

YEM036
January 31 2012
♦ 10-19 reported killed
Up to 19 alleged militants were killed in a drone strike in southern Yemen. Local residents said a drone struck militants in 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. (YEM035) 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.

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

YEM037
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, drone strikes
Locations: Abyan/ Zinjibar
Reference: The Nation

February 12 2012
3 killed
Three men were ‘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‘.

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

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

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 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

YEM038
March 9 2012
♦ 30 – 34 reported killed
♦ Up to 55 reported injured
A late evening airstrike on Bayda by US drones struck a gathering of alleged militants. At least 30 ‘AQAP militants died including ‘four senior leaders‘ – one named as Hadaar al-Homaiqani, a local AQAP leader. Bayda’s governor claimed thattwo 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.

Type of action: Air strike, US drones
Location: Bayda
References: Reuters, Bikyamasr, Reuters, Xinhua, AGI, Reuters, Guardian, BBC, Associated Press, Long War Journal, CNN, Daily Times (Pakistan), Yemen Times, UPI

YEM039
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

YEM040
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

YEM041
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: Al-Byatha
References: Yemen Post, Africasia, BBC, Al Arabiya, AFP, Long War Journal, CNN

YEM042
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

YEM043
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

YEM044
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

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