US drones strike again in Yemen, killing 6 AQAP fighters near capital

US drones yet again targeted al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters in Yemen, this time outside the capital of Sana’a. The strike today is the fourth by the US in Yemen in five days. The US has expanded the drone campaign throughout all of Yemen over the past year.

The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers attacked a vehicle as it traveled in a rural area outside of Sana’a, according to Reuters. Six AQAP members are said to have been killed in the attack. No senior AQAP fighters are reported to have been killed in today’s strike.

US drones have struck AQAP in Sana’a one other time in the past. On Nov. 7, 2012, the remotely piloted attack aircraft killed Adnan al Qadhi, an al Qaeda commander who was involved in the attack on the US Embassy in Sana’a in 2008, along with two fighters. Al Qadhi commanded local AQAP forces in and around the capital at the time of his death.

Today’s strike in Sana’a is the fourth in Yemen in five days, and the fifth strike this month. The US launched two strikes in Marib province on Jan. 19 and Jan. 21; two Saudis are reported to have been killed in the Jan. 19 attack. In another strike, on Jan. 22, the US killed four AQAP fighters in a strike on a vehicle in Al Jawf province in northern Yemen.

The US appears to be launching several strikes over a short period of time, followed by weeks in which no strikes occur. Between Dec. 24, 2012 and Jan. 3, 2013, the US conducted five drone strikes in Yemen. But prior to the Dec. 24 strike, the last recorded strike by the US in Yemen took place on Nov. 7, 2012.

Additionally, over the past eight months, the US has begun to target AQAP outside of the traditional strongholds of Abyan and Shabwah provinces in the south. Of the 25 strikes against AQAP since the beginning of June 2012 that have been recorded by The Long War Journal, only four have hit AQAP in Abyan and Shabwah. The other 21 strikes have targeted AQAP operatives in the provinces of Aden, Al Baydah, Al Jawf, Hadramout, Marib, Saada, and Sana’a. Of the 18 strikes that were conducted between January 2012 and the end of May, 10 occurred in Abyan and Shabwah.

In 2012, the US launched 41 drone strikes in Yemen against AQAP and its political front, Ansar al Sharia. The previous year, the US launched 10 drone and air strikes against the al Qaeda affiliate.

Although five senior AQAP operatives were killed in strikes in Yemen in 2012, the group’s top leadership cadre remains intact. Said al Shihri, the deputy emir of AQAP, is thought to have recently died from wounds suffered in a drone strike in December 2012, but the report has not yet been confirmed.

The US has targeted both senior AQAP operatives who pose a direct threat to the US, and low-level fighters and local commanders who are battling the Yemeni government. This trend was first identified by The Long War Journal in the spring of 2012 [see LWJ report, US drone strike kills 8 AQAP fighters, from May 10, 2012]. Obama administration officials have claimed, however, that the drones are targeting only those AQAP leaders and operatives who pose a direct threat to the US homeland, and not those fighting AQAP’s local insurgency against the Yemeni government.

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

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: ,


  • gb says:

    Anyone else get the sense that we are shoveling against the tide in this region of the world? We’ve taken the hammer to these people, and radical Islam is spreading like the plague in some areas. Perhaps we should pull back, contain, and watch it all burn down from a distance.

  • Caleb says:

    I wonder why we have these moments where we conduct numerous strikes over a short amount of time, then just stop; only to repeat this over and over. I assume to keep them guessing, but we run the risk of letting them regroup all the time doing this.
    Anyway, good shootin’ guys.

  • AndrewC says:

    Wow, what is happening in Yemen? They must be actively hunting some kinda big fish.

  • Charles says:

    I have read in the not reliable Debka that the Gulf States and the west have slowed down their funding for the rebels in Syria because of concerns that movement was being taken over by AQ. And because of the slow down in funding the Assads are gaining the upper hand.

    Is this true?

    If so then it would also explain the higher number of drone strikes in Yemen. ie the US is getting more and better intelligence from the Gulf States on AQ activities in Yemen.

    The upshot is that Gulf States have come round to understanding that US malfeasance in Egypt has given AQ the chance to gain the upper hand in the Moslem world. Which would pose an existential threat to the Gulf State rulers.

    Remember here that Bin Laden was the internationalist but his second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri–who now rules– is only interested in the Moslem world.

    Its a shame the ISI doesn’t understand that the only existential threat to them comes from the Taliban and AQ.

  • Charles says:

    Speaking of the Pakistani ISI. Here is an interesting article about massive oil discoveries in the Frontier and Tribal areas there. One thing the article approaches but doesn’t say is that no one will want to drill for oil if they’re going to be constantly harassed by the drug lords of South Waziristan.

    Tapping into Pakistan’s Massive Oil and Gas Reserves
    By Editorial Dept | Fri, 18 January 2013 18:18 |

    Pakistan’s Tribal Areas (FATA) and Frontier Regions (FR) are believed to have massive reserves of oil and natural gas—which Pakistani officials have suddenly become very keen to demonstrate. But this is a highly restive, war-torn area where one right move could make all the difference, and one wrong move could ignite a conflict with irreversible consequences.

    For now, the area remains unexplored and it was only in 2008 when Pakistani geologists began to study the area in earnest, with the support of the local authorities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the Frontier Region (FR). The results of this research were collected, processed and digitized in June 2012. The geologists discovered seven new oil and gas seepages during the mapping. The geologists also claim that 11 oil and gas exploration companies have already reserved 16 blocks in Fata.

    The potential:

    • Pakistani geologists say Fata in particular is poised to become a “new oil state” whose production could rival Dubai’s in only five years
    • The FR is bursting at the seams with gas, so they say

    Here’s what the interest looks like so far:

    • 17 companies have initiated operations in Fata/FR (in Khyber, Orakzai, North and South Waziristan, Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu, Tank and DI Khan)
    • Tullow has been active in Pakistan since 1991,…


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram