Yemen: reported US covert action 2012

The Data
The events detailed have been reported by US and Yemeni government, military and intelligence officials, and by credible media, academic and other sources.

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. Since mid-2011 US counter terrorism operations in Yemen have been conducted by both the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Attacks are aimed at al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and more recently, Ansar al Sharia.

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

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’.

Covert US operations, Yemen 2012
Confirmed drone strikes Possible drone strikes Additional US attacks
Total reported strikes: 29-36 54-70 4-31
Total reported killed: 173-215 219-377 12-142
Civilians reported killed: 7-12 20-34 12-15
Children reported killed: 0 4-6 3
Total reported injured: 43-104 57-78 4-44


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

Click here for our 2001-2011 Yemen data.

Click here for our 2013 Yemen data.

Click here for our 2014 Yemen data.


January 31 2012
♦ 10-14 reported killed

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

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

Wuhayshi’s brother was reportedly killed by a US drone strike a month earlier, on December 22 (YEM039). 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 MarabiTareq Al Dhahab, AQAP leader in Rada, survived according to a local resident. A source close to AQAP allegedly told Xinhua by phone that militants Khadri Em-Soudah and Ahmed Mu’eran Abu Ali, an al Qaeda leader in Shabwah governorate, also died.

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

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

Late January 2012

General Mohammed al Sumali, commander of Yemen’s 25th Mechanised 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: Airstrike
Locations: Abyan/ Zinjibar
Reference: The Nation


February 12 2012
♦ 3 killed

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

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

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

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

February 26 2012
Following mass protests Ali Abduallah Saleh stepped down as President of Yemen. The US government stated that it would work together with Yemen’s new government to ‘kill or capture about two dozen of al Qaeda’s most dangerous operatives, who are focused on attacking America and its interests’. Saleh’s vice-president Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi was inaugurated as President on February 25.

In his televised speech, Hadi swore to keep up Yemen’s fight against al Qaeda-linked militants. President Obama’s chief counter terrorism adviser John Brennan visited Yemen on February 18-19. He told a press briefing: ‘Everything we do in the counter-terrorism realm, we do in full partnership with our Yemeni counterparts… Our assistance takes many forms: training, advice, different types of equipment.’ On Yemen’s new president, Brennan said that Hadi ‘is committed as well to destroying al Qaeda, and I consider him a good and strong counter-terrorism partner’.

ReferencesNew York TimesWall Street JournalUS 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
ReferencesCNNJeremy Scahill 

March 9 2012
♦ 23-34 reported killed
♦ ‘Many’ civilians reported killed (2 named)
♦ Up to 55 reported injured

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

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

On April 1 a US official confirmed the attack, with the Los Angeles Times reporting: ‘American missiles soon rained down. The al Qaeda commander was killed, along with 22 other suspected militants, most of them believed to be young recruits receiving military training, US officials said.’ The strike was reportedly carried out by a JSOC drone.

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

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

Type of action: Drone strike, possible airstrike
Location: Bayda
References: ReutersBikyamasr, Reuters, Xinhua, AGI, Reuters, Guardian, BBC, Associated Press, Long War Journal, CNN, Daily Times (Pakistan), Yemen TimesUPI, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post

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


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: Airstrike, US aircraft or drones
Location: Jaar and Zinjibar
References: Long War Journal, CNN, Yemen TimesUPI

March 11 2012
♦ 3-6 reported killed

An air attack on a militant-occupied factory where arms were allegedly stored killed at least 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: Airstrike, US drones, aircraft and/or missiles
Location: Jebel Khanfar near Jaar
References: Reuters, CNN, AFP, Radio Free Europe, Yemen Times, UPI, Long War Journal, Washington Post

Click here for our 2001-2011 Yemen data

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: Airstrike, possible US drone or aircraft
Location: Bayda province
References: Yemen Post, Africasia, BBC, Al Arabiya, AFP, Long War Journal, CNN

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 14 people. 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
ReferenceAl-Arabiya, Reuters, Yemen Times, Voice of Russia, Long War Journal, XinhuaAFP (via Ahram Online)

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 (YAF) personnel were on strike until March 19. An investigation by the Bureau shortly after this strike found the YAF was decrepit and inadequate. It “has not been functioning in ages” because of endemic corruption, according to a Yemeni analyst. London-based thinktank the International Institute for Strategic Studies judged the force had insufficient training and equipment to defend its own airspace. . 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

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 reported 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

March 30 2012
♦ 5 killed
♦ 1 civilian killed
♦ 6-9 injured including 6 children

Four alleged Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants died (possibly local leaders) and three were ‘critically injured’ after a US drone struck their vehicles, according to Yemen military and security officials. The attack, in Azan, Shabwa province, came as the men left Friday prayers according to Associated Press. However, a civilian, Mohamed Saleh al Suna, 60, was also killed and six others injured in the strike, officials and eyewitnesses told Reuters.

Al Suna was reportedly walking on the road near the site of the strike and was wounded by shrapnel in his spine. He succumbed to his injuries in hospital. Initial reports said the six civilians were in a car travelling in the opposite direction. The Yemen Times partially named five of them. But a July 2013 report by Swiss-based human rights organisation AlKarama said the six injured were children playing near the scene of the strike. A delegation from the organisation met with the survivors in February 2013. The report named the injured and described their injuries:

Amin Ali Hassan al Wisabi, 13, hit by shrapnel in the right thigh
Hamza Khaled Saleh Ba Zihyad, 10, hit by shrapnel in the chest
Saleh Ali Omar Ba Ziyad, 14, hit by shrapnel in the thigh
Merouan Nasser Ahmed Suleiman Ba Btah, 14, hit by shrapnel in the right foot
Abdallah Muhammed Muhammed Ba Qtiyan, 14, hit by shrapnel in the back
Saleh Abdelfattah Abdallah Haymid Ba Qtiyan, 12, hit by shrapnel in the back

Al Wisabi told investigators: ‘We were going to play football, when suddenly we were shaken by the sound of a violent explosion… Shrapnel hit me in my foot, bu I didn’t fell any pain, and I ran towards the house with blood flowing from my injuries.’ Several houses were reportedly destroyed in the strike. In a linked second drone attack nearby a house was also struck, injuring four people. A US official confirmed both this strike and a CIA attack in Pakistan on the same day.

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

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

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

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

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


April 1-3 2012
♦ 0-38 killed

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

Type of action: Possible US drone strikes
Location: Lahjh and Abyan
References: CNN

Click here for our 2001-2011 Yemen data

April 7 2012
♦ 0-8 killed

News agencies reported a night time US drone strike on a moving vehicle in Shabwa province. The Yemen Air Force lacks the technical ability to carry out such a strike. The Wall Street Journal reported that the target was AQAP number three, Qasim al-Raimi. It reported that ‘After nightfall Saturday, Mr Raimi and three followers started driving on a road out of Shebwa toward Marib, residents said.

Around 10 pm, a missile struck the road near their car, but missed the vehicle, according to two local security officials.’ However according to an unnamed tribal chief, the strike ‘killed eight al Qaeda suspects’, who he identified as ‘five Yemenis and three Arab foreigners. ‘Al Qaeda militants were aboard a vehicle on their way from Shabwa to (nearby) Marib province when a US drone fired a missile at their vehicle, killing them all. The chief also reported that drones were seen ‘flying over several areas in Shabwa, especially those which are Al-Qaeda strongholds — Rawdah, Huta, and Azzan’.

The attack was the eighth confirmed drone strike of 2012. The Egyptian al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al Masri was reported dead by the Long War Journal, killed in an April drone strike on Shabwa province. Long War Journal cited a vague date reported by the Madad News Agency in surmising YEM047 or YEM051 as the possible strikes responsible.

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

April 9 2012
♦ 16 killed

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

Type of action: Yemen air strike, possibly with US drone strike
Location: Al Kawd village (near Zinjibar), Abyan Province
References: XinhuaAssociated Press, Long War Journal, Yemen Post

April 11 2012
♦ 10-14 killed
♦ 10 injured

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

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

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

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

April 14 2012
♦ 3-7 killed

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

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

April 16 2012
♦ 5-7 killed

Up to five drone strikes killed at least five militants in the southeastern Shabwa province. CNN reported militant hideouts, checkpoints, training facilities and weapons warehouses were targeted in the strikes. The Yemen defence ministry initially claimed the attacks were carried out by Yemeni warplanes. Two security officials and one defence ministry official later told CNN US drones targeted the militants. This was echoed by a security official cited by AFP who reported a local official claiming a US drone targeted five militants late on Monday.

A local security official told Xinhua leading foreign fighters were killed in the strikes. An intelligence officer told Xinhua the foreigners were a Syrian and an Algerian. Two defence officials told CNN the US has conducted at least 11 attacks on Yemeni soil in the preceding week. Long War Journal reported Egyptian al Qaeda militant Abu Musab al Masri killed in an April drone strike on Shabwa. Citing a vague date reported by the Madad News Agency, Long War Journal surmised either YEM047 or YEM051 as the responsible strikes.

Type of action: US drone
Location: Azzan district, Shabwa province
References: CNN, AFP, XinhuaLong War Journal

April 18 2012
♦ 6-10 killed

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

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

April 19 2012

The Washington Post triggered significant debate on the future direction of US drone strikes in Yemen, revealing extensive details of US targeting policy in Yemen. It reported that the CIA was seeking the right to launch so-called ‘signature strikes’ in Yemen – attacks on alleged militants the Agency did not know the identity of. According to a senior Administration official, present CIA tactics ‘still [have] a very firm emphasis on being surgical and targeting only those who have a direct interest in attacking the United States.’

In contrast, the Pentagon’s JSOC ‘has broader authority than the CIA to pursue militants in Yemen and is not seeking permission to use signature strikes, US officials said.’ Since most of the recent US strikes were against low-ranking or unknown militants, this indicated that most current attacks were by JSOC rather than the CIA. Officials also expressed concern that the US risked being perceived as ‘taking sides in a civil war’. [see also April 26]

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

April 21 2012
♦ 12-17 killed
♦ 5 injured

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

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

April 22 2012
♦ 4 killed

At least four militants were killed when a drone strike destroyed two of three cars driving through the desert area of Sanda in central Marib province. Two senior security officials told CNN that US drones conducted the strike. The Yemen Air Force lacks the technical ability to carry out such a precise strike and has suffered serious problems of morale and discipline this year.

The Yemen Post reported the recently ousted President’s son Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, commander of the Republican Guard, had ordered a battalion of infantry to storm the Air Force base in the capital Sana’a on the same day as this attack. The Yemeni Embassy in Washington announced 34-year-old senior AQAP militant Mohammed Saeed al Umada (aka Ghareeb al Taizi) was killed in the strike.

This was confirmed by AQAP. Al-Umada died along with two of his aides the embassy said. In October AQAP released the names of two more militants who died in the attack, Hassah Hussein Dalel and Basher al Najidi. In 2005 al Umada was convicted of supporting the 2002 bombing of French oil tanker Limburg which killed one crew member and injured a dozen more.

In February 2006 he escaped from his Sanaa jail along with 22 other militants who would go on to become the core of AQAP. Among the escapees were Qasim al Raimi (aka al Raymi) and Nasser al Wuhayshi. Al-Raimi was AQAP’s military commander and had survived strikes in 2009 (YEM003), 2010 (YEM006) and 2012 (YEM051).

Al Wuhayshi was regional leader of al Qaeda who was thought to be meeting Anwar al Awlaki when the first attempt was made to assassinate the American born radical cleric (YEM004). In 2008 a Yemeni court sentenced al Umada in absentia to at least 10 years in prison for targeting the country’s energy infrastructure. The  Washington embassy said al Umada was fourth on Yemen’s most-wanted list. A senior Yemen Defence Ministry official told CNN:

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

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

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

April 23 2012
♦ 3 killed
♦ 2 injured

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

Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Nasab, Shabwa province
ReferencesAP, AFP, Reuters, Bikyamasr

April 23 2012
♦ 0-4 killed

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

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

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

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

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

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

References: Wall Street Journal, AP,