Drone Strikes Barrage Yemen Over Weekend, Kill Up To 65

A joint operation between the U.S. and Yemen killed up to 65 AQAP militants and at least 3 civilians over the weekend in southern Yemeni provinces.
Posted at 12:06 AM, Apr 22, 2014

In what's being called an "unprecedented" joint operation between the U.S. and Yemen, the Middle East nation was bombarded by drone strikes over the weekend killing scores of militants and some civilians.

​The multiple strikes targeted training camps and senior officials of the Yemeni Al-Qaeda branch known as "Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula." These strikes hit along the southern provinces of al-Bayda, Abyan and Shabwa. (Via YouTube / TRAC)

The first strike took place on April 19 in the al-Bayda province and reportedly killed 15 AQAP fighters in a pickup truck and at least 3 civilians in a separate car that was also hit. A strike on Sunday reportedly hit an off-road vehicle killing three more men. (Via CBS)

Al Jazeera reports U.S. drones killed more than 30 additional fighters later on Sunday when they "fired 'several missiles' into the AQAP training camp ... in the southern province of Abyan."

The Wall Street Journal reports a senior official in Yemen's Ministry of Defense called the regions "a hideout and training facility for the terror militants," and that "The Yemeni government is insistent on continuing raids against militants until they surrender or are killed."

The Long War Journal, a War on Terror watchdog site, wrote that one of the targeted terrorists might have been Ibrahim Hassan Tali al Asiri, a bomb maker for AQAP who was added as to a list global terrorists in 2011. His death has not been confirmed. 

So the ultimate death toll? A total of up to 65 Al-Qaeda militants were killed over the weekend. But while that may sound like a win-win situation for the U.S. and Yemen, there are reports of growing frustration among Yemeni officials concerning the accuracy of the reported strikes.

One official quoted by CNN said that he was worried that the recent reports are propaganda and that "At this hour, the numbers of militants being reported as being killed keeps changing. ... If this does turn out to be exaggeration, it will make the people here trust their government even less than they do and fuel growing anger over the drone program."

Another official told McClatchy last week that “When it comes to the current drone policy, there have been too many mistakes.” The article goes on to note how many Yemenis view the drone strikes as violating their nation's sovereignty. 

Last December, the U.S. admitted to carrying out a drone strike that attacked a Yemeni wedding procession in al-Bayda, killing as many as 12 civilians. Human Rights Watch condemned the attack in a 28-page report calling for the government to investigate the strike and publish its findings.

So far this year, the U.S. has carried out 11 strikes in Yemen, four of which took place this month. Since 2002, nearly 1,000 people are estimated to have been killed by drone strikes in Yemen, at least 81 of whom were civilians.