US Drone Strikes Fueling Backlash in Yemen Over Civilian Deaths

Locals in Targeted Areas Fear a New US Escalation

A problem as old as the US drone wars themselves is the lack of information from the administrations about who they’re actually killing. Occasionally we hear a name, when officials think they got someone they were hoping to get, but the vast majority of victims remain anonymous, usually dubbed “suspects” by compliant allies.

Locals in Abyan Province tell stories of the US drone campaign against them in 2012, when the Yemeni military was retaking the town from militants and the US was providing drone support. Large numbers of people were killed, but “who” was mostly left unstated at the time.

Mohammed Bagash, a mechanic in Jaar, describes losing his 8-year-old daughter to a drone strike. A drone hit a hospital near where they were, and he and his children fled to a nearby school to hide in the basement. Another drone hit the school, killing his daughter and wounding his son. Several other children were injured as well.

Such stories are almost cliche at this point, as years of pounding Pakistan and Yemen have left scores of such shattered families with grudges against the US. Such killings have provided fertile ground for al-Qaeda’s recruiting.

And as the US escalates into Yemen, the concern of many Yemenis is not with al-Qaeda but with the US itself, as they have seen what the US drone campaign has done to families in Abyan and Maarib and fret what may happen as it expands nationwide.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.