The Yemeni government today admitted that previous claims about the US backed Christmas Eve air strike in southern Yemen were false, and that they did not kill “over 30 al-Qaeda leaders” as they claimed to the press at the time.
Instead, Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi conceded, the attack killed only two low ranking al-Qaeda members and some 42 civilians, the vast majority of them women and children.
Alimi issued an official apology for killing so many civilians, saying compensation would be paid to their families, and closing with the comment “we work, and anyone who works makes mistakes.”
The attack was initially reported to have killed US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, sparking a growing number of questions about the Obama Administration’s policy regarding the assassination of American citizens it hasn’t accused of any crimes. Awlaki was not killed in the attack, however.
Reporting on the failed southern Yemen air strike and the massive civilian toll have focused on US pressure to increase attacks after the failed Christmas lap bomber was linked to Yemeni al-Qaeda groups. It should be noted, however, that the lap bomber’s failed attack came a day after this air strike and could not possible have been the reason for the Yemeni government’s haste in launching missiles into the densely populated area.