Suspected US drone strikes kill three al-Qaida suspects in Yemen, officials say
First strikes under President Trump reported by Yemeni officials
· Use of unmanned aircraft for strikes increased dramatically under Obama
Suspected US drone strikes have killed three alleged al-Qaida operatives in
Yemen’s south-western Bayda province, security and tribal officials said, the first such killings reported in the country since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on Friday.
The two strikes on Saturday killed Abu Anis al-Abi, an area field commander, and two others, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information to journalists.
The use of unmanned aircraft as well as airstrikes in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, rose dramatically under President Obama, with data from the Britain-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism showing spikes in attacks, especially in 2012 and 2016.
On Thursday, US intelligence officials said as many as 117 civilians had been killed in drone and other counter-terror attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere during Obama’s presidency. It was the second public assessment issued in response to mounting pressure for more information about lethal US operations overseas.
Human rights and other groups have criticized the Obama administration, saying it has undercounted civilian casualties. They also worry President Trump will more aggressively conduct drone strikes, which are subject to little oversight from Congress or the judiciary.
In the years since the drone program began, Yemen has fallen ever deeper into chaos. A two-year civil war began after Shia Houthi rebels seized the capital Sana’a and forced the president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to flee the country. In March 2015 a Saudi-led military coalition launched an extensive air campaign aimed at restoring Hadi’s government.
Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, long seen by Washington as among the most dangerous branches of the global terror network, exploited the chaos, seizing territory in the country’s south and east. The Islamic State group has also claimed attacks. The northern region remains under Houthi control. On Sunday,
Mwatana, one of Yemen’s top human rights groups, released a documentary on civilian victims of drone strikes, interviewing family members who say their relatives were innocent and they had received no compensation from the US despite their wrongful deaths.
It cited much higher civilian death tolls than the US intelligence report, saying that hundreds of innocents had been killed by the US strikes across the country since at least 2002.
In one segment from Bayda, the same province where Saturday’s drone strikes hit, Ali Abedrabbo Ahmed said his 17-year-old son was only a construction worker killed while he was going to work in a pickup truck with colleagues in 2014, an incident other witnesses corroborated in the video.
“Who do we talk to? America? Where is America?” said Nasser Mohammed Nasser, a survivor from the targeted convoy.
“They would kill two or three from al-Qaida on one hand and 10 or 15 civilians on the other hand. Where is this al-Qaida they claim to be killing? … There are many other incidents like ours due to drones.”
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