HAJ10004 - Bani Qais Wedding Strike

August 26, 2019

Incident ID: HAJ10004
Location: Al-Raqah Village, Bani Qais District, Hajjah Governorate, Yemen
Coordinates: 15.686833, 43.349484
Incident Grading: Confirmed
Date: 2018-04-22
Time: Shortly before 2242 AST


- Open source information indicates that a large number of casualties were caused when an airstrike hit a building at 15.686833, 43.349484 in the village of Raqah.

- Around 20 people appear to have been killed in this strike, with many others wounded. There is no open source information to indicate they were military personnel. Many children appear to have been killed and wounded in this strike.

- A JIAT statement claimed that a single air strike took place on a legitimate military target. They concluded that the wedding tent was not the target of the strike, but that the proper processes had not been carried out. This included “non-compliance with the rules of engagement”.


Various searches were made across Twitter Google and Youtube using advanced searches, and across Facebook using whopostedwhat.com. The search terms used included variations of “Bani Quays”, “Raqqah” and “Hajjah” in English and Arabic. Other terms such as “airstrike”, “bombed” and “urgent” were also used. Searches were also conducted using these search terms for specific time periods, if available in the platform used. A full list of sources can be found at the bottom of this report. 


Reports of the location of this wedding mentioned both the district of Bani Qais and the village of Al Raqah in Hajjah Governorate. There are multiple villages named “Raqah” or “Raqqah” in Hajjah, but only one villiage of that name could be identified in the district of Bani Qais, at 15.69016, 43.35492. We examined the images associated with this incident and identified that we were looking for a large building surrounded by scrub. We also identified a path through the scrub which led to an open area where two cars were parked, indicating it was next to a road or track. Due to images likely being taken the morning after the incident, we could use shadows to identify a rough orientation of the building. No images or videos we identified appeared to show what we believed to be the east or south aspect of the building. 

We identified a building which appeared to match the features identified in a sketch-map of the area, including the scrub surrounding the buildings, a low wall, and exit to the north to some kind of track. 

Comparison of sketch map to building that was eventually identified in the village of Al Raqah. (satellite image taken on 01/12/2016, courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)

This location appeared to match images and videos taken of this location during the aftermath of this attack.

Top: composite panorama of the AFP video taken from roof of building. Bottom: satellite image taken on 01/12/2016 (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)

Top: composite panorama of the AFP video. Bottom: satellite image taken on 01/12/2016 (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)

Top: still from RT video. Bottom: satellite image taken on 01/12/2016. Note the building outlined in red. (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus)

There does not appear to be any available information about what this location actually is, although given its size compared to the other buildings in the village it may be an important location.


Date & Time

Different outlets reported that this attack took place on different dates. MSF and Reuters stated that the attack took place in the evening of 2018/04/22, while The Intercept and Al Jazeera stated the attack took place on the evening of 2018/04/23. 

The cause for this confusion may be that the strike appears to have taken place late at night on the 2018/04/22. MSF, who treated some of the casualties caused by this strike, stated that the hospital in Hajjah received its first patients at around midnight on the night of 22nd-23rd April. The date of the evening of the 22nd is also consistent with the timing of multiple social media posts (1, 2, 3, 4) mentioning that a wedding had been bombed in Bani Qais on the late evening of the 22nd and the early morning of the 23rd. 

The earliest social media post we identified that mentioned that there had been an airstrike on a wedding party near Bani Qais was posted on Twitter at 2242 AST on 2018/04/22 by the account @aboali1alnaser, who appears to be an individual. The account stated that a wedding party in “الراقه”, which roughly transliterates to “Al Raqih”, between Bani Qais and Kaidanah province in Hajjah had been bombed “now”.

Earliest social media post we identified which mentioned an airstrike on a wedding party. Note that the timestamp in this image is BST due to the researcher being based in the UK

Although the UN Panel of Experts stated that the strike took place at “approximately 1000 hours” and appear to use the 24 hour clock, it appears there may have been confusion over whether this strike took place in the AM or PM. All open source information we reviewed indicated it took place around 2200 PM. 

This, and multiple other posts, strongly indicate that this strike took place on the evening of the 2018/04/22 some time before 2242 AST. 


To whom?

Multiple accounts, including local media, posts on social media, NGO reports and journalists who physically visited the location stated that this strike hit a wedding.

Saleh Yahya, a 35-year-old villager, told The Intercept: “We were singing and dancing, everything was winding down. We were about to leave… then, all the sudden, I was on the ground, I couldn’t hear anything. We totally lost control of our senses. There were body parts around me, I was just looking for my children.”

This appears to be supported by the details in images and videos related to this event. For example, what appears to be the same person is noted by multiple sources, across multiple time-periods, as being the groom. He can be seen in UGC, likely soon after the strike as it appears to be dark, in the hospital, at the location of the strike some time afterwards and in his house a month later.

Clockwise from left: 1. image of groom immediately after strike, posted at 0830 AST on 2018/04/23, 2. lying in hospital (Reuters report), 3. Sitting in hospital (Reuters report), 4. At location of strike several days later (RT video), 5. At family home at a later date (The Intercept)

Although the person in the images above look the same, we can also trace details within these images to show it is indeed the same man. 

Left: image of groom immediately after strike (UGC), Right: still of groom in hospital (Reuters). Note that the blood-stains and clothes match. The shirt may appear to be a different colour due to the conditions in which the image was taken  

Left: Image of groom at a later date (The Intercept). Right: image of the groom in hospital (Reuters). Note the small blemish on the nose and forehead.

Brightly coloured wreaths can be seen the Intercept report, footage taken by Ruptly, and a report from RT, which also uses Ruptly footage. Although these wreaths do not appear to be identical, they are certainly a similar design. These kinds of wreaths are often worn at Yemeni weddings.

Clockwise from top left: still from Ruptly  footage, image from The Intercept, still from RT report

There are plentiful images and videos of casualties, many of whom appear to be men and boys. Children feature prominently among the casualties, both dead and wounded. Extremely graphic image albums of the casualties, which can clearly be seen to have been taken at the site of the strike, are hosted by both Yemen Press and NTH News. Footage taken by Ruptly, Reuters and AFP all show multiple male children in hospital with what appear to be severe wounds. Multiple statements indicate that a high proportion of the casualties were children.

Still images of child casualties clockwise from top left: Reuters, The Guardian (via Reuters), The Intercept, Ruptly, Reuters 

Multiple images and videos show the same small child clinging to the body of a man, presumably his father. This child is seen consistently throughout content related to this event, from footage taken at night, shortly after the strike, after daybreak, and during the day.

The small child seen clinging to a man’s body in many images and videos of the aftermath of the strike. Top: Still from what appears to be an Al Masirah video. Bottom: Image posted by Yemen Press. The bloodstains on the trousers of the child and the body can be tracked through multiple images and videos of this event. 

The many images of dead men and children may be due to the male tent of the wedding having been hit. During most Yemeni weddings the men and women will separate into different tents. This is also consistent with statements that immediately after the strike the women ran over to the location in order to try and rescue those injured in the strike. 

Multiple accounts claim that there was no military facility or vehicles in or around this location. João Martins, MSF head of mission in Yemen stated that “These people arrived at the hospital in garlands traditionally worn to celebrate marriage. None were armed or arrived in military uniform”. We could not identify any weapons or people in military uniform in any open source imagery or videos showing the aftermath of the event. 

To what?

The main damage appears to have been caused to what may be a small, new, building to the north west of the L-shaped structure, some kind of temporary structure to the immediate north of the L-shaped building, which may have been a tent. The L-shaped building itself appears to have suffered some structural damage but does not appear to have been struck directly in any of the media we reviewed.

This is supported by statements in The Intercept which imply that the men and boys were in the single-room home of the married couple when the strike took place. The Joint Incident Assessment Team statement on this event also supports this, claiming that a building was struck, resulting in collateral damage to a tent. From the open sources available, the main L-shaped building appears to be mostly intact, which does not appear to be consistent with it having been struck directly by a large aerial bomb. 

At the time of writing there were no available satellite images showing this location after the date of the airstrike. However, images and videos of the scene show the location reasonably clearly. 

Tent structure (highlighted in blue) and possible small, new building (highlighted in red) Top: AFP video, Middle: satellite imagery taken on 01/12/2016 (courtesy of Google/CNES/Airbus), Bottom: image posted by the Yemen Press Agency


The number of those killed ranged from 20-33 people. The most consistent number stated was about 20 killed. Statements about the number of wounded appear to consistently mention around 60 people. 

MSF stated that they had treated 63 wounded
: “at least 20” killed
New York Times
: “more than 20 killed
: “at least 20” killed, but noted that “The head of Al Jumhouri hospital in Hajjah told Reuters by telephone that the hospital had received 40 bodies”
The Intercept
: 23 killed, 60 wounded, according to villagers
: “20-50 killed
NTH News
: 33 killed, 55 wounded
UN Panel of Experts
: “approximately 21 persons [killed], including many children and the injury of approximately 90 people, including many children


The Crater

No clear crater visible in images or videos of this event. 

Munition Remnants

An Image of munitions purported to have been used in this strike were posted by the Yemen Press Agency, although the image only shows the munition and not the location. It should be noted that the images have the watermark of the Ansar Allah Media Center. 

Image of fragment of munition allegedly found at scene, posted by the Yemen Press Agency

This is a wing assembly is used on a GBU-12 Paveway II guided bomb. The first set of digits, 96214, the CAGE code, corresponds to Raytheon.

Result of search of CAGE code

The ASSY (assembly number), 872128-1, corresponds to a wing assembly. Using these codes, Bellingcat determined the National Stock Number, 1325-01-041-5890, which also corresponds to “Guided Bomb Wing Assembly”.

“Guided Bomb Wing Assembly” specifications from nationalstocknumber.info

The serial number begins 1325… Serial numbers for GBU-12s are typically at least 6 digits. The US State Department tracks GBU-12 sales by serial number, and so likely knows the country this weapon was sold to. Possible candidates are Saudi Arabia and the UAE. That specific information is not publicly available, and the State Dept almost always cites National Security requirements in not revealing the information when requested.

This is consistent with a statement from the Joint Incident Assessment Team which claimed that a “single guided bomb” had been used to strike this location. 

The UN Panel of Experts also released images claimed to be of the munition, but stated that “the Panel was unable to identify the specific aircraft guided bomb used during that attack

Figure 33.B.274 from the UN Panel of Experts report from showing munition fragments recovered from the site of this incident

Figure from the UN Panel of Experts report from showing munition fragments recovered from the site of this incident


Based upon multiple witness statements of planes flying overhead, the fragments of munition allegedly recovered from the location, and the statement from JIAT which investigated the strike, we can confirm this was an airstrike. 



JIAT investigated this incident and found that:

...on Sunday evening… 22/4/2018, the coalition forces received information from the Yemeni interior confirming the presence of foreign ballistic missile experts with one of the known Houthi leaders in a specific location in Hajjah governorate. The coalition forces had previous information on the arrival of ballistic missile experts to Yemen through the port of Hodeidah. Since the province of Hajjah saw seven cases of ballistic missile firing on Saudi territories, the coalition forces carried out a reconnaissance mission to the coordinates from the source. 3 persons, two vehicles and one thermal source were observed beside a building, which is a legitimate military target. The building was targeted at 8:10 pm in the evening with a single guided bomb which hit the targeted building. after seeing the videos of the mission, the joint team did not find the tent of the target area and no signs of civilian gatherings that suggest that there is a celebration ceremony in the target area.
In light of this, the Joint Team concluded that the coalition forces did not target the wedding tent at the claimed place. After reviewing the results of the operation and the actions of the coalition forces, the Joint Team found a number of errors indicating non-compliance with some of the Rules of Engagement procedures to minimize damage which caused collateral damage to the tent in the claim as a result of the bombing of the target building. The Joint Panel recommends that legal measures be taken to hold perpetrators accountable and provide assistance for the damage and losses resulting from this operation.

Aspects of this statement appear confused, and do not appear to be consistent with open source information. For example, the claim that “3 persons, two vehicles and one thermal source were observed beside a building” appears inconsistent with the number of casualties caused by this strike. The time given for the strike, 2010, also appears to be two hours earlier than the time consistent with the first social media posts. This may be a result of confusion in the use of AST and UTC.

The Houthis

No verifiable statement from the Houthis could be identified. 

Other Statements

The UN Panel of Experts stated that:

5. The Coalition admitted responsibility for the airstrike and non-respect of the procedures to minimise civilian collateral damages.
6. Even if, as claimed by the Coalition, the three persons, two cars and one thermal source identified at the site were military objective and/or civilians having lost their protection under IHL, the Panel finds that it is unlikely that the IHL principle of proportionality was respected due to the significant number of victims. As for the principle of precaution, the Coalition recognised that the operation failed to take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimise, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.


Open source information and most parties, including the SLC, agree that on 2018/04/22 a wedding party in a village in Bani Qays was struck by a munition dropped by an SLC aircraft. The strike appears to have resulted in the deaths of around 20 people and the wounding of many more. A notable number of the casualties were children. JIAT identified that the SLC carried out the strike.


User Generated Content (UGC) with time of posting

2242 AST - 2018/04/22 - Tweet stating an airstrike had taken place on wedding party near Bani Qais
2301 AST - 2018/04/22 - Tweet stating an airstrike had taken place in Bani Qais
0107 AST - 2018/04/23 - Tweet stating air strike had taken place
0314 AST - 2018/04/23 - Tweet with images of casualties
0509 AST - 2018/04/23 - Video showing child clinging to adult casualty
0830 AST - 2018/04/23 - Image of groom immediately after strike
1058 AST - 2018/04/23 - Twitter thread with images of strike
2120 AST - 2019/04/29 - Video showing child with casualty

International media reports

Al Jazeera report (Arabic copy of Intercept report)
BBC report
Bellingcat report
Guardian report 
The Intercept report 
The New Arab report 
New York Times report 
Reuters report 
RT report 
RT video 1
RT video 2
Ruptly video
VoA video

Local media reports

Yemen Press Agency photo album
Yemen Press photo album (extremely graphic) 
Yemen Press image showing casualties (extremely graphic)
Yemen Press image showing casualties (extremely graphic)
Yemen Press image showing casualties (extremely graphic) 
NTH News
photo accident (extremely graphic)
NTH News image showing casualties (extremely graphic)
NTH News image showing casualties (extremely graphic)
NTH News image showing casualties (extremely graphic)
NTH News image showing casualties (extremely graphic)
NTH News image showing casualties (extremely graphic)
Al Masirah video 1
Al Masirah video 2


MSF statement 
Mwatana report
OHCHR statement 
OHCHR report
UN Panel of Experts report
JIAT statement
Geonames location
CAGE code database