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article imageU.S. drones continue to kill civilians instead of al-Qaeda

By Abdul Kuddus     Apr 23, 2014 in World
Sanaa - A relentless U.S. drone offensive in the last 24 hours killed more than 50 suspected al-Qaida militants in Yemen, including civilians.
“The Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. military both run drone programs in Yemen, which work with each other. The operations over the weekend appeared to be CIA strikes,” the Christian Science Monitor reported.
The U.S. considers the Yemeni al-Qaida branch as the most dangerous in the world.
Previously, the group made a spate of unsuccessful bomb plots against the U.S., including attempts to bring down a U.S.-bound airliner using explosives hidden in the bomber’s underwear and a plot to send mail bombs concealed in toner cartridges on U.S.-bound planes.
According to Yemen’s interior minister, U.S. drones killed at least 55 al-Qaida militants, including prominent leaders reportedly concentrated in the rugged mountainous pockets in the central and southern provinces of Yemen.
The al-Qaida bases targeted by U.S. drone included a training ground, storehouses for weapons and food and vehicles used by the group to launch attacks.
“The reported deaths of 55 militants on Sunday alone would make it the biggest strike against al-Qaida militants in years,” the Guardian reported.
The identification of the dead revealed that non-Yemeni Arab fighters were also among those killed.
The U.S. hasn’t commented on the strikes, but reports say that the U.S. carried out the drone offensive based on intelligence inputs from Saudi Arabia.
Reportedly the attacks happened after Yemen’s Major General Mohammed Nasser Ahmed and his commanders returned from a two-week U.S. visit.
According to the Yemeni government, the drones killed three civilians Saturday in the central al-Bayda province.
Bayda earlier suffered a controversial drone strike Dec. 15 that reportedly killed 15 civilians on their way to a wedding.
Under President Barack Obama’s watch alone, there have been 92 drone attacks, according to a report by the New America Foundation.
The assault marks a significant escalation in the U.S. and Yemeni cooperation against al-Qaida base in the Arabian Peninsula, the terror group’s powerful branch in the southern Arabian nation.
The Obama administration insists that “surgical” drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen are legitimate and the drone strikes are within the framework of the ‘War on Terror’ against terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida and its network.
The U.S. continues to increase the intensity of drone attacks in Yemen, despite criticisms that the strikes against al-Qaida are far from “surgical” because children and women are sometimes among the casualties.
Last year, Human Rights Watch released a scathing report on U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, highlighting six of the total 80 targeted drone strikes. The report says the six strikes killed 82 people, out of which at least 57 were civilians.
While the U.S claims about the surgical precision of the drones in hitting targets but there is uncertainty about the relevance of individuals killed and, reportedly, these turn out to be innocent civilians.
RT News pointed out, “Victims of airstrikes were not simply mutilated, but also charred beyond recognition, which raises a question about the nature of the warheads used in the U.S. missiles.”
The fact that the strikes aimed at smoking out terrorists often result in civilian casualties could actually work against the U.S. efforts to decrease terrorism in Yemen.
While the rest of the world cannot question the Obama administration’s rights to reduce terror threats, the U.S in return needs to ensure that the strikes minimize civilian deaths.
Continued civilian casualties could defeat the purpose of drone attacks and further increase Yemeni recruitment in al-Qaida.
Notably the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, will thrive unless the government tackles issues like poverty in Yemen and drone-induced civilian casualties that inflame anti-U.S. sentiment.
Despite a stringent U.S and Yemeni onslaught to wipe out AQAP, the group continues to take advantage of Yemen's deteriorating security to shape its own centers of operation.
This year, the AQAP freed its own militants in February prison break and launched a devastating attack on the Defense Ministry in Yemen’s capital San'a.
According to the Independent, the Al-Qaeda has already retaliated by “shooting dead four senior security officers today. Reportedly, the assassins riding motorbikes in the capital, Sanaa, killed two colonels in military intelligence and one in the military police, and a deputy director of intelligence was shot in Harib in central Yemen.”
The Globe quoted Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center saying, “While a drone strike might represent one step forward, more often than not, it also means two steps back.”
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