Drone crashes in Dhamar hours after strike kills three in Shabwa
*Update: AQAP source has confirmed the death of prominent cleric Sheikh Harith Al-Nadhari (Feb. 5).
SANA’A, Feb. 1—A US drone crashed on Saturday in the Al-Hada district of Dhamar governorate, hours after three men were killed by a suspected drone strike in the Al-Naqaba area of Shabwa governorate.
Jamal Shenaizer, a resident of Al-Said district in Al-Naqaba, reported that a Toyota Hilux carrying three suspected Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) members was targeted in the strike. There were no survivors after the vehicle was completely destroyed by three missiles, he said.
Al-Said district, in the southwest of Shabwa, has witnessed an increased presence of drones since Thursday, according to Shenaizer, who says locals are able to distinguish the humming of a drone from the sounds of other aircraft.
Those killed in the strike were confirmed as belonging to AQAP by a member of the group, Al-Batar Al-Sana’ani. Speaking with the Yemen Times, he said the victims included Abus Sayaf, a well-known communications and recruitment officer for the group who is from Sana’a governorate. The others were not named, but were said to be from Shabwa governorate and Saudi Arabia.
Al-Sana’ani said there were unverified reports that Sheikh Harith Al-Nadhari, a prominent cleric with AQAP, was also killed in the strike, but as of Monday evening the Yemen Times was unable to verify these claims.
Three hours later, in the Al-Hada district of Dhamar, another drone crashed for reasons that remain uncertain. No casualties have been reported.
An eyewitness to the crash, Mohammad Al-Ukaimi, said the drone came down at around 8 p.m. in an unpopulated area between the villages of Makhdara and Resaba, in the north of Dhamar.
Locals alerted security officials in Al-Hada following the crash, who called investigators from Dhamar’s security administration to verify the claims. Abdullah Al-Sadi, the deputy security chief of Dhamar governorate, said the aircraft was confirmed to be a US drone.
American officials have thus far made no comment on either of Saturday’s incidents. The American government rarely acknowledges drone strikes or crashes in Yemen.
According to Mohammad Hezam, public relations officer at the Ministry of Interior, drones have been known to crash after flying too low in mountainous areas or getting shot down by tribesmen.
Two crashes were reported in 2014. On Jan. 16, a drone crashed in the Hat district of Al-Mahra governorate, in eastern Yemen along the border with Oman, and another came down near the Al-Saha village of Shabwa on Sept. 23. The first known drone crash was reported in Abyan governorate in 2011.
Saturday’s attack is the second in a week, following a strike in Marib on Jan. 26 that killed three, including a 13-year old boy.