A US drone strike destroyed a house in the al-Qaeda-held city of Mukalla in southern Yemen Wednesday night, killing the five people within according to local officials. All five are being labeled as suspected al-Qaeda militants, though none were identified.
This is not unusual for US drone strikes anywhere, but particularly in Yemen, where anyone killed in a town held by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is automatically labeled an AQAP fighter, and US drones have repeatedly destroyed cars and houses in “signature strikes.”
“Signature strikes,” common in US drone wars, are situations where the US doesn’t know who it’s attacking, but sees them as behaving in a way that makes them possible targets of interest. In cities like Mukalla, this often means simply having a working car with gasoline in it being a presumptive AQAP vehicle, or a house with multiple adult men inside being a “AQAP meeting.”
AQAP seized Mukalla shortly after Saudi Arabia launched its Yemen war. Since then, it has been the target of virtually all US drone strikes in Yemen, though of all the strikes only a couple of people were ever named as victims, and the rest remain anonymous “suspects.”