Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Amnesty asks clarification from US about targeted killings by drones in Yemen

Amnesty International said on Wednesday the United States appeared to have carried out or collaborated with Yemen in attacks that killed suspected al Qaeda militants. Yemen's killings of al Qaeda suspects, often in aerial bombings, are extrajudicial executions and are unlawful, Amnesty said. The organisation urged Washington to clarify the involvement of U.S. forces and drones in such attacks.
U.S. officials say only that Washington plays a supporting role by helping Yemen track and pinpoint targets. Yemen launched a major crackdown on al Qaeda after the movement's Yemen-based regional arm said it was behind an attempt to bomb a U.S.-bound plane in December.
Washington, fearing that al Qaeda was using Yemen as a base for attacks abroad, stepped up its training, intelligence and military aid to the state and sent special forces there. In May, Yemeni opposition media reported that a drone had carried out an air strike aimed at al Qaeda that mistakenly killed a government mediator, sparking clashes between government forces and his kinsmen.
"The U.S. government has deployed drones in Yemen to kill those it describes as 'high value targets', a practice that has been increasingly criticised as involving unlawful killings," Amnesty said, without mentioning specific incidents.  Amnesty said it had also obtained photographs apparently showing the remnants of missiles known to be held only by U.S. forces at the site of a December air strike against al Qaeda suspects that killed 41 people, half of them children.
Amnesty said Yemen was increasingly sacrificing human rights in the name of security. It is under pressure from Washington and Riyadh to deal with a range of threats -- al Qaeda, southern secessionism and a now dormant Shi'ite rebellion in the north. Amnesty said the latest fighting with the northern rebels, before a February truce brought relative calm, saw both Yemen and Saudi Arabia appear to violate international law when they apparently bombed homes and apartment blocks.
"Aerial and other bombardments of markets, mosques and other places where civilians gather, as well as of large residential properties, apparently killed hundreds of men, women and children not engaged in the fighting," the report said. In the south, Yemen has used "excessive and lethal force" against demonstrators and carried out arbitrary detentions, torture and unfair trials of southern activists, Amnesty said.

Ironically Today's Wall Street Journal carries the news that the US are stepping up their presence
in Yemen and countries around Somalia and are considering to expand their operations in Yemen. The WJS:
The U.S. military's Special Operation Forces and the CIA have been positioning surveillance equipment, drones and personnel in Yemen, Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia to step up targeting of al Qaeda's Yemen affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP, and Somalia's al Shabaab—Arabic for The Youth. U.S. counterterrorism officials believe the two groups are working more closely together than ever. "

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