Ex-US Special Ops Were Reportedly Hired To Assassinate Yemeni Political Figures

Bullet Points

American mercenaries — some of whom were ex-special operators with Army Special Forces, SEAL Team 6, and the CIA — were hired by the United Arab Emirates in 2015 to take part in a "targeted assassination program in Yemen," according to a BuzzFeed News investigation published today


  • According to the report, the contractors were employed by the Spear Operations Group LLC, a company registered in Delaware, and founded by "Abraham Golan, a charismatic Hungarian Israeli security contractor who lives outside of Pittsburgh.”
  • In interviews with BuzzFeed, Golan referred to the mission as “a targeted assassination program in Yemen,” adding that “I was running it. We did it. It was sanctioned by the UAE within the coalition.”
  • In 2015, contractors with the group led by Golan, allegedly attempted to assassinate Anssaf Ali Mayo, the leader of an Islamist political party in Yemen. Until now it was unknown that the mission was carried out by U.S. mercenaries.
  • Of the mercenaries with the group, one was a former member of the CIA, another was a Special Forces sergeant with the Maryland Army National Guard, and two were former Navy SEALs, one of whom was reportedly in the reserves and a veteran of SEAL Team 6, according to BuzzFeed. The remaining members were largely former French Foreign Legionnaires, BuzzFeed reports.
  • Golan, the founder of the group, claimed to have been educated in France, to have served in the French Foreign Legion, and to have fought oversees — though his background and military service could not be verified by BuzzFeed, although sources familiar with him told the news site that he was “prone to exaggeration,” but “for crazy shit he’s the kind of guy you hire.”
  • The CIA reportedly had no information about Spear Operations Group's missions in Yemen, and the Navy Special Warfare Command declined to comment for the BuzzFeed report. However the news organization spoke with a former official who previously worked in the UAE, and initially said there was no way Americans would be permitted to participate in such programs, only to call back and say: "There were guys that were basically doing what you said," adding that the mercenaries were “almost like a murder squad,” BuzzFeed reported.
  • The legal ramifications of the alleged program are unclear. It's illegal under U.S. law to “conspire to kill, kidnap, maim” someone in another country, and companies that provide military services to foreign nations are regulated by the State Department, which told BuzzFeed that it has "never granted any company the authority to supply combat troops or mercenaries to another country."
  • Yet the rules don't explicitly ban mercenaries — evidenced by the scores of Americans serving overseas alongside foreign militaries with little legal consequence. Spear Operations Group reportedly arranged for the UAE to bestow military rank to the Americans involved in operations in Yemen, which could provide legal protection. 

Photo illustration by Paul Szoldra

Navy Lt. Jonny Kim went viral last week when NASA announced that he and 10 other candidates (including six other service members) became the newest members of the agency's hallowed astronaut corps. A decorated Navy SEAL and graduate of Harvard Medical School, Kim in particular seems to have a penchant for achieving people's childhood dreams.

However, Kim shared with Task & Purpose that his motivation for living life the way he has stems not so much from starry-eyed ambition, but from the pain and loss he suffered both on the battlefields of Iraq and from childhood instability while growing up in Los Angeles. Kim tells his story in the following Q&A, which was lightly edited for length and clarity:

Read More

You can almost smell the gunpowder in the scene captured by a Marine photographer over the weekend, showing a Marine grunt firing a shotgun during non-lethal weapons training.

Read More

A Marine grunt stationed in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina is being considered for an award after he saved the lives of three people earlier this month from a fiery car crash.

Cpl. Scott McDonell, an infantry assaultman with 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, was driving down Market Street in Wilmington in the early morning hours of Jan. 11 when he saw a car on fire after it had crashed into a tree. Inside were three victims aged 17, 20, and 20.

"It was a pretty mangled wreck," McDonell told ABC 15. "The passenger was hanging out of the window."

Read More

Todd Robinson's upcoming Vietnam War drama, The Last Full Measure, is a story of two battles: One takes place during an ambush in the jungles of Vietnam in 1966, while the other unfolds more than three decades later as the survivors fight to see one pararescueman's valor posthumously recognized.

Read More
Protesters and militia fighters gather to condemn air strikes on bases belonging to Hashd al-Shaabi (paramilitary forces), outside the main gate of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq December 31, 2019. (Reuters/Thaier al-Sudani)

With ISIS trying to reorganize itself into an insurgency, most attacks on U.S. and allied forces in Iraq are being carried out by Shiite militias, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Alex Grynkewich, the deputy commander for operations and intelligence for U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria.

"In the time that I have been in Iraq, we've taken a couple of casualties from ISIS fighting on the ground, but most of the attacks have come from those Shia militia groups, who are launching rockets at our bases and frankly just trying to kill someone to make a point," Grynkewich said Wednesday at an event hosted by the Air Force Association's Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

Read More