The raid was aimed at gathering intelligence about Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP). A US military statement claimed that the raid found "information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots."A US military official
said American forces did not seize any militants or take any prisoners from the site. However, they cl;aimed to have killed 14 AQAP members; including the senior leader Abdul Raouf al-Dhahab. One of the military aircraft was said to have experienced a hard landing and was said to have been intentionally destroyed where it landed. Possibly this description is meant to avoid any suggestion that it could have been shot down.
Medics attending the scene claimed that thirty people were killed including 10 women and 3 children. An anonymous resident
near the house that was targeted said:
"The operation began at dawn when a drone bombed the home of Abdulraoof al-Dhahab and then helicopters flew up and unloaded paratroopers at his house and killed everyone inside. Next, the gunmen opened fire at the US soldiers who left the area, and the helicopters bombed the gunmen and a number of homes and led to a large number of casualties."
A Yemeni security officer and a local corroborated that account. A local resident Fahd said several bodies remained under debris and houses and the local mosque were damaged in the attack. In a message AQAP mourned the death of al-Dhahab and that of other fighters, confirming his death but the message did not say how many Al-Qaeda militants were killed.
According to the grandfather of the 8-year old daughter of former US citizen and Al Qaeda ideologue Anwar Al-Awlaki she was among the children killed in the raid. Nasser al-Awlaki
said: "She was hit with a bullet in her neck and suffered for two hours. Why kill children? This is the new administration - it's very sad, a big crime." The last special operations carried out in Yemen were in December of 2014 over 2 years ago. US special forces attempted to rescue an American and a South African captured by Al Qaeda. The two captives were killed in the resulting firefight.
Trump may be trying to show that he will aggressively fight against AQAP. AQAP organized the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris in 2015 and has unsuccessfully tried to mount terror attacks against US airliners.
The drone attacks have been protested constantly in Yemen with many criticizing the civilian deaths. The killing of many women and children in this attack will only add to the furor. Back in August 2013 an article noted:
Since 2002, US drone strikes in Yemen have claimed the lives of up to 860 people, according to the British Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Most of the strikes were carried out under President Obama. It could not be verified how many of those killed were in fact Al-Qaeda militants.
Even then, critics also argued
that the attacks could boost support for AQAP: Yahya Qasseb bin Sahl, a law professor at Aden University, told Reuters that he believes the drone strikes “channel the Yemeni street’s feelings in favor of Al-Qaeda.”
According to one source,
locals said that 41 AQAP militants were killed and 16 civilians. The highest death toll provided by locals was 57, including 8 women and children. There were three alleged militant leaders among those killed.
The US is already involved in the civil war between the Houthis who occupy much of the north and the government of President Hadi which is headquartered in Aden after returning from exile in Saudi Arabia. The US provides the Saudi coalition with targeting intelligence and refueling for Saudi and coalition airplanes. US drone strikes make Hadi unpopular as he has consistently supported them in spite of many protests against them. Trump appears to be following the same drone policy as Obama and perhaps will act even more aggressively with more commando raids.
In a statement on the raid,
Trump said: "Americans are saddened this morning with news that a life of a heroic service member has been taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic terrorism. The sacrifices made by the men and women of our armed forces, and the families they leave behind, are the backbone of the liberty we hold so dear as Americans, united in our pursuit of a safer nation and a freer world." A US official told Fox News that the raid had been in the planning stage before Trump took office but had not been given the green light to go ahead. The Yemeni parliament voted against drone strikes ages ago back in December 2013 as shown on the appended video. Now news articles will be unlikely to refer back to the ethics of drone strikes or consider that they might even constitute war crimes.