On Thursday, a U.S. drone strike hit a convoy traveling to a wedding in Yemen, killing about a dozen civilians. The New York Times reports 11 deaths, while other reports state 17. A recent AFP report states that two of the victims were on the Yemeni government’s list of wanted Al Qaeda suspects, while most of the others have been confirmed as civilians.
The drone strike follows one on Monday that killed three people traveling in a car in Yemen. Last week, Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for an attack on Yemen’s Defense Ministry Hospital that left 52 people dead and 160 wounded. According to The New York Times, Al Qaeda-linked websites stated that this attack was in retaliation for drone strikes.
This reiterates the sentiment heard in villages throughout Yemen. Mohamed al-Qawli, the brother of an innocent drone victim in Yemen, told Reuters: "These (drone) strikes create more terrorism. In our area there was never anyone linked to al Qaeda. After the strike, everyone in the area started listening to al Qaeda types, exchanging videos on mobile phones."
Reuters also reported that U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) told the outlet: “according to one U.S. official who served in Yemen, ‘every drone death yields 50 to 60 new recruits for Al Qaeda.’"
In May, President Obama promised more transparency and stricter guidelines in regards to drone strikes. Yet, drone strikes in Yemen have increased, while the Obama administration has failed to acknowledge them or report unlawful deaths. In October, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing the missile and drone strikes in Yemen that have killed dozens of civilians.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that U.S. drone strikes have killed 269-389 people in Yemen. Of those, five children and 21-56 civilian deaths have been confirmed. The reason the media reports that drones are constantly killing militants is mainly because President Obama redefined the term “militant” to mean every man of military age.
Robert Greenwald, director of Unmanned: America's Drone Wars, a new documentary that investigates the impact of U.S. drone strikes at home and abroad, released a statement on Thursday, demanding that the Obama administration explain the reasoning behind the strike:
I am deeply saddened to hear about the senseless deaths that occurred today in Yemen. About a dozen people were killed when a wedding convoy was mistaken for Al Qaeda operatives and hit by an US drone strike. This strike is just another example of why our drone program needs to be investigated. We demand an immediate response from the Administration on why this strike took place. We need transparency and accountability to fix this inhumane and morally corrupt policy.