Saturday, December 19, 2009

US helped Yemen attack Al-Qaeda members but killed civilians instead

Tribal leaders from the Yemeni region of Arhab.

WASHINGTON — The United States provided firepower, intelligence and other support to the government of Yemen as it carried out raids this week to strike at suspected hide-outs of  Al Qaeda within its borders, The New York Times reports. The paper quotes American officials familiar with the operations. They said that the American support was approved by President Obama and came at the request of the Yemeni government. Yemeni officials said their security forces killed at least 34 militants in the broadest attack on the terrorist group in years. A range of Pentagon, military and intelligence officials declined to provide details of the reported attacks, which, according to ABC News, included American missiles.

The sattacks occurred on Thursday in the governorate of Abyan in the Arhab region. Residents of Abyan said that there was no al-Qaeda training camp in the area and that the raids had destroyed several homes.
Abbas al-Assal, a local human rights activist who was at the scene, said 64 people were killed, including 23 children and 17 women. 'The government wants to show the world that it is serious in pursuing al-Qaeda elements and that the south of Yemen is a refuge for al-Qaeda. That is not true at all,'  al-Assal told the Associated Press by telephone. Ali Mohammed Mansour, an inhabitant of the area, gave similar casualty figures, and said that he helped bury the dead in a mass grave.

Mohammed Hazran, Abyan's deputy governor, said that 10 al-Qaeda suspects were killed in the attack, including Mohammed Saleh al-Kazemi, a Saudi who had resided in the country since fighting in Afghanistan.
He was imprisoned in Yemen for two years before being released in 2005. But a provincial security official said that 'grave mistakes occurred in the operation due to failures of information, which led to a large number of civilian deaths'.

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