A drone strike bombed two cars in southern Yemen on Thursday, killing five people allegedly suspected of belonging to the al-Qaeda-linked group Ansar al-Sharia.
Witnesses said the drone fired four missiles at the two cars as they travelled through the town of Saeed in Shabwa province. “The two cars are still burning and we couldn’t get close to them because the drones are still hovering in the area,” a local resident said, wary of now notorious follow-up strikes which target rescuers fleeing to the bomb sites.
One tribal chief, probably on the payroll of the Yemeni government to give information, said gunmen that he suspected having links with al-Qaeda had earlier arrived in vehicles and “set up a checkpoint on the road linking Saeed and Ataq.” Apparently, the Obama administration thinks setting up a road-side checkpoint in far-off Yemen demonstrates an imminent threat to the security of Americans.
According to a recent legal memo from the Congressional Research Service, President Obama has redefined the meaning of “imminence,” a required element in international law to justify the use of force on the territory of another country. Usually imminence means an overwhelming threat that allows “no moment for deliberation.”
But, the memo explains, the administration apparently defines imminence “to refer to the window of opportunity for striking rather than the perceived immediacy of the threat of an armed attack.” This usage, and its resultant expansive drone war in Yemen, “may pose some challenge to the international law regarding the use of force,” the memo said.