Yemen: At Least 3 Civilians Among Dozens Killed in US Drone Strikes
At least three innocent civilians were among at least 68 people killed in a series of joint US-Yemeni weekend aerial attacks targeting al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.
AFP reports Yemen’s interior ministry said at least 68 al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) fighters were killed in an “unprecedented” joint US-Yemeni air campaign against the militant group. The attacks targeted a training camp in southern Yemen.
The Guardian reports three civilians were killed in a US drone strike against militants allegedly targeting Yemen’s military and civilian infrastructure. Saba, the Yemeni state news agency, quoted an official source in the High Security Committee who described the militants as “among the dangerous and leading elements of al-Qaida.” They were killed by a missile launched from an American drone as they traveled in a sport utility vehicle to Yemen’s central al-Bayda province.
The three slain civilians were traveling in a vehicle near the targeted SUV. A civilian survivor told the Associated Press that the SUV carrying the militants was thrown 20 meters (66 feet) through the air by the drone strike, and that explosions continued around him for half an hour.
“We found a completely burnt car and body parts strewn around and we started picking them up,” witness Nasser Salem told Reuters.
The Yemeni interior ministry said joint US-Yemeni air strikes on AQAP bases in the remote mountains of Abyan province killed 55 more militants on Sunday, including three local al-Qaeda chiefs. The ministry said the attacks continued for several hours, and that “terrorists of Arab and foreign nationalities are among the dead and are in the process of being identified.”
Meanwhile, unidentified but suspected AQAP gunmen on a motorcycle shot two Yemeni intelligence officers in the capital city of Sanaa on Monday. A Yemeni official told Al Jazeera the attack “bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda.”
AQAP is considered by the United States and its Gulf allies to be the most active and dangerous branch of al-Qaeda in the world. The group has been linked to a number of failed or foiled plots against the United States, including the attempted 2009 Christmas “underwear bombing” of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, and its leader, Nasser al-Wuhayshi, recently appeared in a video, vowing to attack Western “crusaders” around the world.
US drone strikes have stoked widespread anger toward the US, which is seen by many Yemenis as violating the volatile nation’s air space. Civilian casualties resulting from US drone strikes have also infuriated Yemenis. According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as many as 82 Yemeni civilians, including half a dozen children, have been killed by US drone strikes. As many as 193 people have been injured.
Last December, 15 innocent civilians on their way to what was supposed to be a joyous wedding were killed by a US drone strike targeting what US military officials believed was an al-Qaeda convoy traveling in al-Bayda province.