Two suspected U.S. drone strikes killed up to 12 civilians in southern Yemen on Tuesday, as the Obama administration’s escalated drone war in the unstable Gulf state begins to resemble the one in Pakistan more and more.
The strikes were initially reported as a botched airstrikes by Yemeni airplanes, but Yemen officials later told the media that they had been U.S. drones.
The initial strike allegedly targeted two suspected militants somehow associated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The second strike was launched once rescuers and onlookers gathered around the impact site and was the source of most of the civilian casualties.
This practice of “follow-up strikes” resembles policies in the drone war in Pakistan, apparently a hallmark of the so-called “signature strikes” President Obama recent approved for use in Yemen. Signature strikes are those that target unidentified individuals in unidentified groups that are not engaged in direct hostilities with the U.S., nor are they presenting any imminent threat the administration is willing to establish.
“Our lives are valueless in the eyes of our government,” said one resident of Jaar, following the strikes, “and that is why civilians are being killed without a crime.”
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has recorded up to 746 people killed in U.S. strikes in Yemen since 2002, with as many as 117 confirmed civilians, 24 of them children.
Tuesday’s strike is the highest number of civilians killed in a U.S. strike in Yemen since 30 died on 14 July 2011. Over 30 U.S. drone strikes have been launched in Yemen this month, a record in the drone war.