Saturday, September 1, 2012

U.S drone attack kills 8 in Yemen


The U.S. is stepping up drone and missile strikes in Yemen. Eight suspected militants were killed on Friday in Hadramut province.
Yemeni official pronouncements claim the 8 killed were members of Al Qaeda. Naturally no mention is made of other victims if any and there is often no independent verification. The strike was on a vehicle in a remote area of the eastern province of Hadramut.
The official defense ministry site claims that the men were heavily armed and were carrying machine guns and explosives. A local anonymous official said that the men were thought to have been on the way to carry out an attack and added that it was a drone strike. The official site version does not mention that.
Probably this was a signature strike. Based upon patterns of behavior and the circumstances the drone operators decided that these were militants. This is a broadening of targets since earlier strikes were restricted to cases where those targeted were known.
The U.S. has small groups of Special Forces in Yemen advising Yemeni security forces and also offers missile and drone strikes against suspected militants. The U.S. helped drive militant forces out of areas they had occupied a year ago in August. The militants are now in remote mountainous areas or in hiding but they continually strike back. However the U.S. is increasing drone attacks as well. Since last Tuesday six other suspected militants have been killed probably by drone strikes. In some cases missiles are fired from ships offshore. A Yemeni intelligence officer was shot dead by a gunman on a motorbike on Thursday in the capital.
Map of Yemen
United States Central Intelligence Agency
Map of Yemen
Yemeni's generally react negatively to the drone attacks and the attacks are increasing anti-American feelings. However, some local sheikhs are loyal to the new Hadi government after having opposed the former Saleh regime. These sheikhs keep quiet about the strikes. Some others have helped the regime drive out Islamists and have become targets of radicals themselves.
However, a sheikh from an area south-east of the capital that is an Al Qaeda haven said:
“People are afraid to go to weddings because, whenever large groups of men gather, they are afraid a drone will hit them,”
The sheikh says about one drone a week flies over his home. He and his friends regularly complain about them when they get together. A friend of the sheikh, smuggler, said:
“Our people ask how these foreign planes have a right to come here and kill them, even if some of the people they kill are al-Qaeda.. The other thing is that they think the drones are taking photos of them and spying on them. Because of this, our people have finished with America. "
The new Yemeni president, Mansour Hadi, supported by the U.S. who ran and won unopposed has been very cooperative with the U.S. He was vice-president under Saleh but has managed to bring into his government some who opposed Saleh. The U.S. has stepped up involvement in Yemen since Hadi has been president. Unofficial sources count at least 28 aerial attacks by the U.S. this year alone. Some drones come from Djibouti across the Red Sea where the U.S. maintains a base. Other aerial attacks may be cruise missiles launched from U.S. warships in the area.
Militant attacks are actually increasing. Last month a suicide bomber killed 40 people in Jaar a city recently held by the militants. A tribal leader opposed to Al Qaeda was attending the funeral. The move is perhaps meant to show that there is no security for those supporting the government.
The Yemeni government also faces secessionist forces in both the north and south of the country. Use of U.S. firepower to put down Islamic militants may simply exacerbate conflict rather than pacifying the many opposition forces in Yemen. The long and continuing conflict has ruined the economy and displaced many people creating a continuing humanitarian crisis that is hardly solved by drone attacks.

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