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al-Majalah Freedom of Information Act Request

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On April 17, 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union made a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request to several government agencies for information about a US airstrike on a rural community in southwestern Yemen, in the al-Majalah region, on December 17, 2009.  The strike killed a reported 41 people, including at least 21 children.  The Yemeni government initially claimed that it had carried out the strike, but leaked US government cables later revealed that Yemen had covered up the United States’ responsibility for the strike.


The FOIA request was submitted to eight government agencies on April 17, 2012. 


On December 17, 2009, US missiles carrying cluster bombs slammed into a rural community in southwestern Yemen, in the al-Majalah region of Abyan province, killing a reported 41 people, including at least 21 children. The attack resulted in the highest human death toll of any US strike in Yemen to date.

While the Yemeni government initially claimed responsibility for the attack, news reports simultaneously quoted anonymous US officials stating that the United States had carried out the strike. Several months later, Amnesty International released images of US-manufactured munitions remnants found at the site of the strike, raising further questions about the United States’ role.

In November 2011, Wikileaks released a Department of State cable describing a meeting between General David Petraeus and former President Saleh of Yemen confirming that the United States had carried out the strike. According to the cable:

Saleh lamented the use of cruise missiles that are “not very accurate” and welcomed the use of aircraft-deployed precision-guided bombs instead. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said, prompting Deputy Prime Minister Alimi to joke that he had just “lied” by telling Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa were American-made but deployed by the ROYG.

CCR and the ACLU’s FOIA request seeks several categories of information about the strike in al-Majalah, including the U.S. government’s legal basis for the strike; its decision-making process and factual basis for ordering the strike; its knowledge that civilians, including children, were present in the community and any measures taken to limit civilian casualties; its measures if any to compensate victims’ surviving family members for the resulting loss of life and property; and its efforts to conceal its responsibility for the strike. The request is directed to eight government agencies, including the Department of Defense, the US Special Operations Command, and the Department of State.


A video clip of the al-Majalah attack by journalist Jeremy Scahill and filmmaker Richard Rowley:

For more information see:


On April 17, 2012, CCR and the ACLU submitted a FOIA request concerning the al-Majalah strike to eight US government agencies.