Suspected US drone strikes on a house have killed civilians
Two suspected US drone strikes killed up to 12 civilians in the south of Yemen on Tuesday.
Reports vary but between 14 and 15 people have been killed in a double air strike on the southern city of Jaar. Of these, as many as a dozen are being reported as civilians. Up to 21 civilians have also been reported injured.
Witnesses said the first strike targeted alleged militants meeting in a house. Civilians who had flocked to the impact site were killed in a follow-up strike. Although the attack is unconfirmed, if accurate this tactic would echo the grim hallmarks of US drone tactics in Pakistan.
Earlier this year the Bureau exposed a CIA practice of ‘follow-up’ strikes in an investigation with the Sunday Times. On at least a dozen occasions twin strikes killed at least 50 civilians. The civilians died when they rushed to help victims of an initial attack and were hit by a second, follow-up strike.
While the CIA alone is responsible for the American drone campaign in Pakistan both the Agency and US special forces launch attacks with pilotless aircraft in Yemen.
Two to three suspected ‘al Qaeda militants’ were killed in the double strike which Xinhua initially reported as ‘a botched air strike carried out by Yemeni warplanes.’ But three Yemeni security officials have since told CNN it was a drone strike.
This is the highest number of civilians killed in a strike in Yemen attributed to the US since 30 died on 14 July 2011 in a strike on a Mudiya police station.
These are the first civilian strike victims reported killed in Yemen since March 30. The Bureau has recorded up to 746 people killed in US strikes in the country since 2002. As many as 117 are civilians, 24 of them children.
In other developments, today the European Union anti-piracy armada off East Africa launched an attack on the coast of Somalia. Helicopters and ‘maritime aircraft’ attacked an alleged pirate base in a night-time raid that destroyed five fast-attack boats with no reported casualties.
An EU force has been deployed in the seas off Somalia since 2008. On March 23 this year the EU Council voted to expand the fleet’s mandate so it can attack pirate installations on shore.
The commander of the EU fleet Rear Admiral Duncan Potts said: ‘The EU Naval Force action against pirate supplies on the shoreline is merely an extension of the disruption actions carried out against pirate ships at sea.’
The fleet is made up of nine ships and five reconnaissance aircraft supplied by six EU member states including Germany, Spain and France. Fleet spokesman Timo Lange told the Bureau he could not reveal what forces took part in the raid.
This assault is also not the first time action has apparently been taken against pirates on land. On April 17 two reported fishermen were injured when two unidentified ‘warplanes’ fired on the coast of semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland. Initial reports said the mystery jets fired missiles on a suspected pirate base.
A spokesman told AFP the EU ‘was not involved whatsoever.’ The French and British governments denied any involvement in this mystery strike and the US Department of Defense told the Bureau it was aware of reports of the strike but would not comment on operational details.
The United States is known to have at least two aircraft carriers in the region and is understood to have aircraft and unmanned drones stationed at an airbase in Djibouti, to the north of Somalia.
For the past five years the US military and intelligence services have been fighting a covert war against the al Qaeda-linked group al Shabaab.
The Bureau has identified at least ten US operations targeting militants. American air strikes by manned aircraft and unmanned drones as well as ground operations by special forces and a naval bombardment have killed between 58 and 169 people since 2007. Up to 57 were civilians, at least one of them a child.