A drone strike on a wedding convoy in Yemen killed 17 people, mostly civilians, medical and security sources said Friday, adding grist to mounting criticism of the US drone war.
“Some” of the dead in Thursday’s strike near the central town of Radaa were suspected members of Al-Qaeda, but the rest were all civilians with no connection to the jihadist network, a security official said.
The death toll from the two-missile strike rose to 17 overnight, a medical source in Radaa told AFP.
Two of the dead whose names were released — Saleh al-Tays and Abdullah al-Tays — had figured in the past on Yemeni government lists of wanted Al-Qaeda suspects.
But most of those killed were civilian members of the Al-Tays and Al-Ameri clans headed to the wedding, the security official.
He said one of the rockets scored a direct hit on a vehicle carrying at least 10 passengers. The other struck near the convoy.
The US military operates all unmanned aircraft flying over Yemen in support of Sanaa’s campaign against Al-Qaeda and has killed dozens of militants in a sharply intensified campaign this year.
Yemen is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden and the home base of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which the United States views as the global jihadist network’s most dangerous franchise.
But critics say the drone strikes have claimed numerous civilian lives and have demanded an end to the secrecy surrounding their use.
The number of victims from the strikes in Yemen remains unclear and estimates vary widely.
According to November figures from the Washington-based New America Foundation, a think-tank that has tried to closely track and vet the numbers, 93 strikes since 2002 have killed 684 to 891 people, including between 64 and 66 civilians.
AQAP remains active across most of the country from its strongholds in the south and east, despite Yemeni military operations and the US drone strikes targeting its leaders.
The group claimed a brazen daylight attack on the defence ministry’s sprawling headquarters in the capital on December 5, which killed 56 people, among them expatriate medical staff.