Rights Group: US Killed Civilians in Yemen Drone Attack

Thursday, 20 Feb 2014 01:32 PM

By Courtney Coren

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A human rights group has found that a U.S. military drone strike in Yemen killed civilians in direct violation of President Barack Obama's new policy designed to minimize civilian casualties in drone attacks.

Human Rights Watch released a report Thursday examining a drone attack on a wedding procession in Yemen. U.S. and Yemen officials believed members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula were in attendance, and said that several of the terrorist group's members were found among the dead.

Twelve men were killed and at least 15 others were injured in the attack. The bride was among the wounded.

Human Rights Watch spoke to several witnesses of the event as well as relatives of those who were killed and was told that the casualties were actually civilians and that there were no members of the terrorist group in the procession. One of those who died was the groom's adult son, the group was told.

Local officials admitted the attack was a mistake and have offered money and firearms as an apology to the families.

"The action of local authorities, coupled with accounts of witnesses, suggest that at least some of those killed and wounded were civilians," Letta Tayler, senior terrorism and counterterrorism research at Human Rights Watch and author of the report, said in a statement.

"If the procession included members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the United States needs to explain who they were and why they were lawful targets," Tayler added.

The group is asking that the U.S. government investigate the attack and make sure those responsible are held accountable for violating U.S. policy, as established by Obama in May 2013.

When the president unveiled his drone policy in a speech at Washington's National Defense University, he promised that drone attacks would only be used if a terrorist suspect cannot be captured otherwise.

"And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set," Obama said.

Human Rights Watch released a different report in October alleging that several civilians were killed in six other U.S. strikes in Yemen in 2009, 2012, and 2013.

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