Yemen drone war: 29 dead in eight days

Noah Shachtman, writing for Wired magazine’s Danger Room national security blog Sept. 5, notes that while the Democrats are partying in Charlotte, and patting themselves on the back for the death of Osama bin Laden, the drone war in Yemen has gone into “overdrive”—to little notice in the US media.

29 dead in a little over a week. Nearly 200 gone this year. The White House is stepping up its campaign of drone attacks in Yemen, with four strikes in eight days. And not even the slaying of 10 civilians over the weekend seems to have slowed the pace in the United States’ secretive, undeclared war…

The latest attack came in Hadramout province, where a barrage of eight missiles slammed into a suspected militant safe house on Wednesday, killing six people. “The exact target of today’s strike has not been disclosed; no senior AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] leaders have been reported killed in the attack,” the Long War Journal notes. Most of those killed were fresh recruits; only one could be considered an extremist veteran, a security official tells CNN. Several others were able to escape the hideout alive.

On Sunday, at least 10 civilians were not so fortunate. They were killed in a strike gone awry near the town of Rada’a in al-Baitha province. An aircraft — believed to be an American drone — fired a pair of missiles at a vehicle supposedly carrying a local AQAP leader. One of the missiles instead hit a nearby minibus.  A 10-year-old girl and her mother were among the dead. “Families attempted to carry the victims’ corpses to the capital, Sana’a, to lay them in front of the residence of newly elected President Abdurabu Hadi, but were sent back by local security forces,” according to CNN.

“You want us to stay quiet while our wives and brothers are being killed for no reason. This attack is the real terrorism,” one Rada’a resident tells the network. Members of parliament and Yemeni human rights groups were quick to condemn the killings, as well.

The U.S. has two separate drone campaigns underway in Yemen — one run by the CIA, the other by the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. Together, they’ve conducted 43 strikes since the start of 2011, according to a Long War Journal tally, killing 274 people in the process. Exactly how many of the 274 were militants is tough to tell; the U.S. “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants,” the New York Times recently reported. As long as someone acts like a terrorists — whatever that means — he could be taken out in a so-called “signature” strike.

Don’t you just love that Orwellian trick that anyone killed in the strikes is by definition a “combatant”? Another one from the ever-popular propaganda device of words-mean-whatever-we-say-they-mean


  1. Yemen between two poles of terrorism
     A car bomb exploded Sept. 11 alongside a convoy of vehicles used by Yemen’s defense minister, killing seven bodyguards and five civilians in the heart of the capital, Sana, while the minister escaped unharmed, government and hospital officials said. The attack came one day after a top al-Qaeda operative was reported to have killed in a US drone strike. (Boston Globe, Sept. 12)

  2. Yemen: jihadis attack military base
    At least nine soldiers were killed in an attack Oct. 19 by suspected al-Qaeda militants on a military base in southern Yemen. The attackers drove a vehicle into the base in Shuqra, Abyan province, before blowing it up. Officials said the attackers travelled in a military vehicle and passed through several checkpoints to reach the camp. (BBC News, Oct. 19) A day earlier in the capital Sanaa, a shell fired at a military base hit a weapons store, setting off explosions that killed at least one soldier and wounded five. (Reuters, Oct. 18)

  3. Djibouti drone base exposed
    The Washington Post on Oct. 25 reports that the Pentagon is spending $1.4 billion to expand Camp Lemonnier, a former French colonial outpost in Djibouti, as a base for CIA Predator drone missions in Yemen and elsewhere in the region. Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog reports that US drones were operating from Camp Lemonnier as early as 2002. In November of that year, a Predator launched from Lemonnier killed Qaed Salim Sinan al-Harethi, one of the men said to have organized the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole. The drone launched a single Hellfire missile on his vehicle in Yemen, killing al-Harethi and several other men.