Yemeni government officials have confirmed that 13 innocent civilians were killed by a U.S. unmanned aerial drone strike in al-Baitha province on Sunday.
RT reports that the deadly attack occurred near the town of Rada, about 95 miles (153 km) southeast of the capital city of Sana’a. The dead reportedly included three women.
“This was one of the very few times when our target was completely missed,” a senior Yemeni Defense Ministry official told CNN. “It was a mistake, but we hope it will not hurt our anti-terror efforts in the region,” the official added.
Democracy Now! reports that protests have erupted in the wake of the deadly strike, with outraged relatives of the victims unsuccessfully attempting to deliver their bodies to the residence of Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Hadi.
“You want us to stay quiet while our wives and brothers are being killed for no reason,” Mansoor as-Maweri, who was near the site of the U.S. attack, told CNN. “This attack is the real terrorism,” he added.
U.S. unmanned aerial drone strikes have been increasing in Yemen recently as Washington believes there may be as many as 200 members of the al-Qaeda terrorist network operating out of the country. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was responsible for the thwarted 2009 Christmas Day “Underwear Bomber” and 2010 cargo plane bomb plots; the October 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, which killed 17 American sailors, was also carried out by al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen.
Sunday’s strike wasn’t the first time the US has inadvertently killed innocent Yemeni civilians. A Tomahawk cruise missile laden with BLU 97 A/B cluster bombs targeted on a suspected al-Qaeda training camp in Abyan province killed 41 civilians, including 14 women and 21 children, along with 14 terrorists in December 2009.
The killing of innocent civilians has outraged many Yemenis and damaged US efforts to win hearts and minds in the fight against terrorism in the strategically important country of 25 million.
“I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined the lines of al-Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake,” activist Nasr Abdullah told CNN. “This part of Yemen takes revenge very seriously.”