Yemeni airstrike kills deputy governor, al Qaeda operatives

The deputy governor of Marib province, five of his bodyguards, and two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives, including a local leader, were killed in an airstrike today, sparking retaliation from local tribes.

Jabir al Shabwani, the deputy governor of Marib, was killed while conferring with an al Qaeda leader in an attempt to negotiate a settlement with the government. Shabwani was killed while meeting with al Qaeda leader Mohammed Saeed bin Jameel at his farm, the Yemen Observer reported. Jameel, who is also known as Mohammed Saeed bin Jardane, and another al Qaeda operative were reported killed in the strike.

Shabwani is the brother of Ayed al Shabwani, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Marib province. Ayed was targeted in airstrikes twice in January 2010; once in a strike on Jan. 15 in the Al Ajasher region, a mountainous region between Saada and Jawf; and again on Jan. 20 on his farm in Marib. The government claimed Ayed was killed in both strikes, but the reports were incorrect.

In the past, the Yemeni government has erroneously claimed to have killed various top commanders of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, including Nasir al Wuhayshi, the group’s leader; and Qasim al Raymi, the overall military commander. The government has also mistakenly claimed to have captured Said Ali al Shihri, the deputy leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Yemeni government has apologized for the death of Jabir al Shabwani and ordered an investigation into the incident. The airstrike has prompted members of Shabwani’s Abeida tribe to strike at government facilities. A military camp, an oil pipeline, and power lines have been targeted in attacks.

But questions remain as to who actually carried out the strike. Rumors from Marib indicate that unmanned US strike aircraft, either the Predators or more deadly Reapers, were seen circling over the area.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on questions about the possible US involvement in airstrikes in Yemen, but did confirm that the US continues to provide logistical and intelligence support for Yemeni counterterrorism operations. The US is known to have launched controversial cruise missile attacks on Dec. 17, 2009, that killed both al Qaeda operatives and civilians in the provinces of Sana’a and Abyan.

Yemen has become one of al Qaeda’s most secure bases as well as a hub for activities on the Arabian Peninsula and on the Horn of Africa.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen and carries out its attacks against the Saudi government from there. The group is known to operate terror camps in Abyan, Aden, and in the Alehimp and Sanhan regions in Sana’a. It has conducted attacks on oil facilities, tourists, Yemeni security forces, and the US embassy in Sana’a.

The terror group has also been instrumental in supporting al Qaeda’s operation in Somalia, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Yemen serves as a command and control center, a logistics hub, a transit point from Asia and the Peninsula, and a source of weapons and munitions for the al Qaeda-backed Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.

“Yemen is Pakistan in the heart of the Arab world,” one official said in November 2009. “You have military and government collusion with al Qaeda, peace agreements, budding terror camps, and the export of jihad to neighboring countries.”

Anwar al Awlaki, the US-born cleric who has been linked back to several recent attacks in the US, is currently sheltering in Yemen. Awlaki recently said he was “proud” to have trained Major Nidal Hasan, the US Army doctor who murdered 13 soldiers at a deployment center at Fort Hood, Texas, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who failed to detonate a bomb on an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day.

“I am proud to have been their teacher,” Awlaki said in a videotape aired in April. Awlaki has also called on US Muslims to take up arms and wage jihad against the US.

Airstrikes in Yemen targeting Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

Yemeni airstrike kills deputy governor, al Qaeda operatives

May. 25, 2010

Yemeni airstrike hits al Qaeda camp

Mar. 14, 2010

Airstrikes target home of Yemeni al Qaeda leader

Jan. 20, 2010

Al Qaeda’s military commander in Yemen reported killed

Jan. 15, 2010

Yemeni airstrike targets top al Qaeda leaders

Dec. 24, 2009

US launches cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen

Dec. 17, 2009

A look at 10 of the most dangerous Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leaders:


Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • kp says:

    As you say it seems likely (if we believe the reports) that this was a US UAV attack. Perhaps like the previous “air strikes”.

    The interesting (but difficult to answer) question is: was it solely a US operation with either with intelligence that confused the two Shabwani brothers (just like hitting the Haqanni brothers in NWFP and killing the “other one”). Or did we know that both Shabwani brothers are involved with AQIAP? Or did Yemeni government provide the intel as a deniable way to kill some disposable AQ and a troublesome Yemeni who is the brother of the leader of AQAIP (so they form a committee to find out … well, nothing much). The detailed reports all seem to be a “well informed source” one presumes from the government. Of course we may not find out the answer to this for a long while.

    But it increases the heat on Anwar al Awlaki. There is a UAV orbit in use over Yemen and the US is willing to use it when they find a target.

  • kp says:

    More background:

    “He had been trying to get a key al-Qaeda militant to surrender, reports said. The militant, named as Mohammed Said bin Jardan, was injured but escaped. Three of Mr Shabwani’s bodyguards were also killed in the bombing, security sources told reporters. The Yemen army had meant to bomb the farm but hit the deputy governor’s car instead, Reuters reported.”

    What a lucky hit … missed the farm and hit the car 🙂

  • Al says:

    Often we read “nn enemy fighters detained” etc. What really happens to “detained” fighters. Jail? Catch-and-release? Pick their brains and release?
    Seems to me the prisons there ought to be bulging with “suspects” by now.
    Are any of these terrorists ever exeuted?


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