A US drone strike in Yemen on Thursday left at least 14 dead and injured at least 22. An unnamed security official says that none of the dead were wanted militant suspects. He calls the attack directed at a wedding convoy a “tragic mistake.”
Two important tribal leaders were among those killed in the strike. The official government statement, however, appears conflicting. It reports that two of the dead may have had militant connections, despite other claims. This has been denied by Yemeni officials who asked to not be named. As is standard for drone strikes, US officials have not commented on the incident. Some sources say Thursday’s death toll reached 17.
Reports say a group of 11 vehicles were driving to a wedding party near the central town of Radaa. Two missiles launched from a US predator drone, striking four vehicles. Within moments, two of the cars were transformed into charred masses.
The drone strike fuels growing animosity within Yemen surrounding the US drone program. People living in the Radaa District were quick to contact the Yemeni government to demand an end to strikes near their homes. Among the petitioners were relatives of civilians killed in Thursday’s drone strike. They are not only demanding an end to drone use, they are also seeking “financial and moral compensation.”
As a top Yemeni security official remarked, the unfortunate drone strike comes “at a very critical time.” Some security experts have argued that the US drone campaign all too often works to al Qaeda’s advantage. They say strikes like the one on Thursday can anger allies and turn them against US interests.
One man who witnessed the recent attack explained that those killed Thursday supported the government’s campaign to purge Yemen of radical militants. However, the anger is especially great as two important tribal leaders were killed. Protesters have blocked roads leading from Radaa to the Yemen capital, Sanaa. They have warned of tribal unrest.
This recent drone strike in Yemen appears to join the list of attacks among a growing US-led anti-militant campaign in the troubled nation.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons / US Air Force]