Report: US drone may have killed dozen civilians

Human Rights Watch report cites interviews with witnesses, relatives and Yemeni officials
Associated Press
Feb 20, 2014


A U.S. military drone strike in Yemen last December may have killed up to a dozen civilians on their way to a wedding and injured others, including the bride, a human rights group says. U.S. officials say only members of al-Qaida were killed, but they have refused to make public the details of two U.S. investigations into the incident.

Human Rights Watch released a report on the drone strike Thursday, citing interviews with eight witnesses and relatives of the dead as well as Yemeni officials. The report said four Hellfire missiles were fired at a wedding procession of 11 vehicles on Dec. 12, 2013, in Radda in southern Yemen, killing at least 12 men and wounding at least 15 others, six of them seriously.

The report said the procession "may have included members" of Yemen's al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, "although it is not clear who they were or what was their fate." Family members and survivors say all those hit were civilians; Yemeni officials told Human Rights Watch that most were militants.

"We asked both the Yemeni and the U.S. authorities to tell us which of the dead and wounded were members of militant groups and which if any were civilians," report author Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press. "They did not reply to this question."

She added: "While we do not rule out the possibility that AQAP fighters were killed and wounded in this strike, we also do not rule out the possibility that all of those killed and wounded were civilians."

The New York-based group called on the U.S. government to investigate and make the findings public.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said he would not comment on specific operational details. He noted that the Yemeni government has stated that the targets were "dangerous senior al-Qaida militants."

U.S. and Yemeni officials said the target of the attack, Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani, a midlevel al-Qaida leader, was wounded and had escaped.

Al-Badani is on Yemen's most wanted list and is accused of masterminding a plan for a major attack last summer. When an intercepted message revealed the plot, the U.S. temporarily closed 19 of its diplomatic posts across Africa and the Mideast. Some European missions were closed as well.

Three U.S. officials said the U.S. government did investigate the strike against al-Badani — twice — and concluded that only members of al-Qaida were killed in the three vehicles that were hit.

The officials said the Pentagon can't release details because both the U.S. military and the CIA fly drones over Yemen. By statute, the military strikes can be acknowledged, but the CIA operations cannot. The officials said that if they explain one strike but not another, they are revealing by default which ones are being carried out by the CIA.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the drone operations publicly.

The continued secrecy surrounding the drone program shows how the Obama administration has been slow to transfer the CIA drones over to the military's Joint Special Operations Command nearly a year after Obama promised in a May 2013 speech to put the military largely in charge of lethal strikes and thereby make the program more transparent. Congress has objected to the transfer to the military, because the CIA can strike in countries where the military cannot — for instance, in countries that refuse to allow U.S. counterterrorist actions on its soil.

With the drone program in limbo, U.S. officials have simply continued to say nothing of the strikes, wherever they occur.

"The U.S. refusal to explain a deadly attack on a marriage procession raises critical questions about the administration's compliance with its own targeted killing policy," Tayler wrote in the report.

Obama's new guidelines include using lethal force "only to prevent or stop attacks against U.S. persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively." It also requires "near certainty" of no civilian casualties.

"When we believe that civilians may have been killed, we investigate thoroughly," said Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman. "In situations where we have concluded that civilians have been killed, the U.S. has made condolence payments where appropriate and possible." She would not say whether the U.S. contributed any money to families of the dead in this incident.

The local Yemeni governor and military commander called the strike a mistake and compensated the families of those killed and injured.

Lt. Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of Joint Special Operations Command, ordered an independent investigation by an Air Force general and the White House requested another by the National Counterterrorism Center. Both concluded no civilians were killed. Votel's staff also showed lawmakers video of the operation. Two U.S. officials who watched the video and were briefed on the investigations said it showed three trucks in the convoy were hit, all carrying armed men.

The Human Rights Watch report lists the names and ages of 12 men who witnesses said were killed in the attack, along with the names of six men who were seriously wounded.

The strikes are part of a joint U.S.-Yemeni campaign against AQAP, considered the most dangerous al-Qaida branch. The group is blamed for a number of unsuccessful bomb plots aimed at Americans, including an attempt to bring down a U.S.-bound airliner with explosive hidden in the bomber's underwear and a second plot to send mail bombs hidden in the toner cartridges on planes headed to the U.S. The group also aspires to govern in Yemen, and it seized large areas of the south before the military drove most of them out in the summer of 2012.

According to the nonpartisan public policy institute New America Foundation, the U.S. has launched 99 drone strikes in Yemen since 2002.



Ned Mandingo

Great job Obama, really putting that nobel peace prize to work.


"The Drone That Killed My Grandson":

"I LEARNED that my 16-year-old grandson, Abdulrahman — a United States citizen — had been killed by an American drone strike from news reports the morning after he died."

Who ordered an American child to be murdered and what was his crime?

Steve P

Obama and the left ran against waterboarding, fast forward 6 years, they kill U.S. citizens without due process. Did I miss congress declaring war or these citizens being tried and convicted of treason? Can't wait for piddle and deerdong to finally wake up and defend this....


Re: "congress declaring war,"

The Pentagon is authorized only to operate in war zones. All other areas are the purview of 'special ops' or CIA.

The CIA is one facet of the Military Industrial Complex's program of the Endless War.

It's purpose is to 'smoke out' the next war zone in which American youth will have the opportunity to be killed and maimed.

"God created war so that Americans would learn geography."

- Mark Twain

The Big Dog's back

Bring them back and give them due process stevie boy.

Steve P

piddle why would this regime want to do anything legal? Go take a ride on your golf cart.

Dr. Information

Obama will do what he want when he want where he want.


Wheres all the libs like puppy dog and deerpacker? Cant wait to hear what they have to say about the Nobel Peace prize president now.


Collateral damage. IT happens! Where were all you bleeding hearts when there used to be this strange fruit hanging from trees? They were innocent Americans too! What about all those American soldiers killed because one man lied to the American people? You scary azzes want protection but cry foul when someone you have no connection to is killed just to rag on the President. I hate the loss of any life but one life is no more important than another's. There's my response rbenn!


Re: "Collateral damage. IT happens!"

There's REAL compassion on display.

Nothing like making a few more terrorists in the process is there?

And the progressive Obamabot bozos wonder: Why do they hate us?

Payback is gonna be a b*tch!


Re: "What about all those American soldiers killed because one man lied to the American people?"


"We are not about to send American boys 9 or 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves."

- Lyndon B. Johnson


What is your problem with that statement?


I don't think there's anything wrong with it. In fact, I agree with it! The problem, of course, is that LBJ blatantly lied. He wouldn't send American boys 9,000 miles to die; and you can keep your health insurance if you like it (and don't pretend plenty of people won't die because of the latter lie, either).


Pooh posted the statement. I fail to see a problem with it. Saying that people will die because they were forced into better healthcare plan is a lie! Stop lying Sham!

Steve P

deerdong you might look back when you call another president a liar.


If you're American you're pretty stupid of being over there in the first place. Don't care about you at all.… turn the sand into glass start over


Re: "If you're American you're pretty stupid of being over there in the first place."

So Americans of foreign decent shouldn't return to their ancestral homelands without fear of assassination by their own govt.?

These are CIA ops.


I agree with Jerry. Don't go there or put yourself in conflict regardless of where you were born.


Re: "I (snip)"

Sweet. Blaming the victim?

What was his crime?


To defend this practice is to showcase your stupidity. Only a moron would support a admin who defends the policy of dismantling due process of US citizens.

The Big Dog's back

dummygan, how about you bringing them back for due process.


He got his due and his process!


Thank you for proving my point.


You are Welcome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Steve P

Donegan don't argue with with a moron, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with their experience.

The Big Dog's back

So quit arguing with yourself pooh.

Steve P

piddle craw back under your rock, you add nothing.


Last months issue of Popular Science shows the vast improvement over past drones/devices. Der Spiegel Magazine also has shown where many personal devices phones,laptops,etc, have audio/visual built in. hint - this was before our current CIC. Know your history.


'Merica', always getting away with murder (literally). No wonder other countries hate us; I would too!

The Big Dog's back

The right wingnuts giving aid and comfort to the enemy. They have Al Qaeda, we have Al Teata.

Steve P

piddle you mean like obzo kissing the a^& of Putin?


Please tell us again why you don't like Bush? I fear people like you WORSE than the terrorist, You want to give your rights away before the terrorist even get a chance to try to take them. In other words YOU and your ilk are a bigger threat to my lifestyle and country than the terrorist ever thought to be.

The Big Dog's back

I'm not giving any rights away. I don't want our military risking their lives over phoney right wingnut outrage.


The right to due process is a right. You are trying to dispose of it because of your god. It is covered in the 6th and 14th Amendments of this thing called THE BILL OF RIGHTS. Notice the word "Rights" ?
I would rather have phoney outrage over something such as this than your advocacy of it.

The Big Dog's back

BRING THEM BACK! Who's stopping you?


Re: "Who's stopping you?"

So murdering an innocent child is better?

Maybe you wanna pull the trigger?


It is not my job to bring them back, That's why i pay taxes. If they think they have something on a citizen then it is the governments burden to capture them and have them face trial. Your blood lust for other citizens should scare people more than it does. You seem more of a terrorist than anyone else on here.

SanduskySlayer's picture

Gee why do the Terrorists want Americans Dead? The USA created the Terrorists. Did you know Osama Bin Laden was formerly on the CIA's payroll?