US Drone Strike Kills Three Civilians, Four ‘Suspects’ in Southern Yemen

Attack Targeted Vehicle, Also Killed Bystanders

Locals say a Sunday US drone strike against Yemen’s southern Shabwa Province killed seven people, including three confirmed civilians who appear to have been bystanders, and four people riding in a vehicle, who were labeled “al-Qaeda suspects.”

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has been active in Shabwa for a long time, though none of the four suspects were conclusively identified as AQAP members, but were simply labeled suspects. This is common practice when the US destroys a vehicle anywhere in Yemen.

This lack of identification of the victims who are labeled suspects across myriad US attacks is reflective of the use of “signature strikes,” in which US drones target things on the ground that simply look like they might be AQAP. In a nation with rampant shortages, this appears to include anyone with a functioning car.

It is unusual to get admissions out of Yemen of civilians actually being killed in a US strike, however, as generally speaking any bystanders who happen to be near a car would just up the number of “suspects” slain. Suspects are almost never conclusively identified.

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.