A drone strike today hit its Al-Qaeda target, killing not only numerous suspected terrorists, but also civilians who were near the target. The attack occurred in the al-Bayda province of Yemen.
The number of casualties reported vary depending on the source, but Al-Qaeda deaths range from nine to sixteen. The number of civilians killed by the drone strike range from three to five. US officials have been tight-lipped about the operation, and a Yemeni Defense Ministry official reporting information on the strike has done so anonymously. But one thing is certain; at least nine Al-Qaeda militants are dead and innocent civilians have involuntarily paid the price with their lives. CNN reports the ministry official as commenting:
The Yemeni Supreme Security Council said the strike was carried out by Yemeni authorities. The militants had left a training camp that had been under surveillance for some time and were travelling to the nearby province of Shabwa. The drones had been circling for days before striking. ABC News reports that one survivor reported a white SUV in front of them was hit, throwing it 60 feet from the impact site.
Since September 11 attacks, drones have been used extensively. Soon after 9/11, the CIA got the go ahead to create their own UAV program separate from the military's. There have been eight strikes this year in Yemen alone. Five of those occurred in March.
Many have criticized the strikes for their collateral damage, including the Yemeni Parliament, who outlawed U.S. drone strikes in Yemen last December after one such strike in September mistakenly killed three people participating in a wedding. Ali al-Mamari, a member of Parliament said:
The U.N. backed President Abdu Rabu Hadi, who replaced former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, continues to support drone strikes on suspected terrorists in the region. The former president resigned after the people rose up against his regime. The Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is considered by the U.S. to be the most dangerous.
Recently, a video was circulating on jihadists' websites showing Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the number two leader of the Arabian Peninsula's Al-Qaeda, speaking to a large gathering where he threatened the U.S.