Yemen: Reported US covert actions 2017

This page details events reported by US and Yemeni government, military and intelligence officials, and by credible media, academic and other sources.

Many of the US attacks listed below have been confirmed by senior US or Yemeni officials. However some events are only speculatively attributed to the US, or are indicative of US involvement. We therefore class all strikes in Yemen as either “confirmed” or “possible”.

Both the Pentagon and CIA have been operating drones over Yemen. But the US has also launched strikes with other weapons systems, including conventional jet aircraft and cruise missiles. The Bureau records these operations as “additional US attacks”.

A US military press release announced a strike in Bayda province had killed one AQAP operative. The press release was published four days after the strike occurred.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement on January 13 that the strike had killed Abd al Ghani al Rasas, described as an AQAP “terrorist leader”. Cook said: “This strike removes an AQAP senior leader and facilitator in the area and will disrupt AQAP’s terrorism operations in Yemen and the region.”

Type of strike: Confirmed US strike
Location: Bayda province
Reports surfaced of at least two suspected US drone strikes hitting Bayda province and killing members of Yemen’s branch of al Qaeda, but the reporting differed on some key details.

A security source told AFP that a drone strike on 20 January killed a “local military instructor” for al Qaeda and second strike on 21 January hit a vehicle in Sawmaa of Bayda province killing three “armed members” of al Qaeda. A third strike on the same day killed three suspected “jihadists” riding a motorcycle.

AP reported security and tribal officials saying that three al Qaeda operatives were killed in two strikes on January 21, including Abu Anis al Abi, an “area field commander”. Local officials told Reuters that three suspected al Qaeda members were killed in two separate US drone strikes hitting two vehicles, both occurring on January 22.

The US Central Command confirmed the strikes in Bayda province to the Bureau on January 23. A spokesperson said that a strike hit the province on January 20 killing one AQAP operative, a second strike on January 21 killed three AQAP operatives and the third strike hit on January 22 killing another alleged AQAP operative .

Although these strikes seem to be the first US strikes outside areas of active hostilities since the new administration moved in, the Washington Post reported Pentagon spokesperson Navy Captain Jeff Davis saying that they did not require approval by recently appointed Defense Secretary James Mattis or President Donald Trump.

Type of strike: Confirmed US strike
Location: Bayda province

The US Navy special forces conducted a raid in the Yakla region of Bayda province with the intent to gather information on AQAP. A US Central Command press release said a US serviceman and approximately 14 terrorists had been killed in the operation. Yemeni officials reported multiple civilian casualties following the raid.

US soldiers were flown to the location from the USS Makin Island, an amphibious assault ship, off the Yemeni coast. They approached the compound with Emirati troops but were met with withering fire. The “site exploitation mission” target was described by CENTCOM in a February 3 press release as an AQAP “staging area, propaganda center, and logistics hub”. Three US soldiers were wounded and Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, a Navy SEAL, was killed, according to CENTCOM.

According to the US, a military aircraft assisting the operation experienced a “hard landing at a nearby location,” resulting in three more American injuries. It was unable to fly afterwards and was intentionally destroyed. US sources said it was a MV-22 Osprey, a helicopter-fixed wing hybrid used by the US marines.

US Central Command issued a later press release which said that an investigating team “concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed”, which “may” include children. It said that the civilian casualties appeared to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire called in to assist US forces in “contact against a determined enemy”, which included “armed women firing from prepared fighting positions”. The ongoing assessment is probing whether there are still un-detected civilian casualties.

The Bureau worked with a journalist who visited the targeted village of al Yakla five days after the raid and talked to nine of the survivors. We collected the names and ages of all 25 civilians killed as reported by those who live there, see here. Nine of those killed were under 13, including a baby of three months. Eight women were killed, including one who was heavily pregnant. Seven more women and children were injured.

The article was published at Yemen: Reported US covert actions 2017.

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