In fewer than two weeks, Hellfire missiles launched by U.S. drones have killed at least 31 people in Yemen. At least 14 of the victims were believed by President Obama — the launcher-in-chief — to be al-Qaeda militants.
On the heels of reports of the foiling of a plot purportedly hatched by the Yemeni-based branch of the alleged terrorist organization, the president has accelerated the frequency and ferocity of the drone strikes in the small Arab nation.
The Associated Press reports that on August 7, “A suspected U.S. drone strike killed seven alleged Al Qaeda militants Wednesday in southern Yemen” according to security officials quoted by the AP.
Later that same day, CNN reported that “in central Yemen's Mareb province, eight people were killed in an early morning drone strike, including four with links to al Qaeda,” again quoting Yemeni security officials.
Then, for the third day in a row, the United States sent drones to summarily execute targets in Hadramout province, an area of Yemen identified by the Obama administration as “a bastion of al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP).
According to the establishment party line, the purpose of the drone strikes is to prevent any further terrorist attacks on the United States or her allies and to eliminate the vestiges of al-Qaeda. There are those in Yemen, however, who see a paradoxical outcome.
In a hearing before the Senate in April, Yemeni journalist Farea al-Muslimi testified, “The US thinks it understands Yemen but the drones have been one of the most effective tools for AQAP to succeed in Yemen. A big part of al-Qaeda power at the moment is convincing Yemenis that they are in a war with America, (that) America is attacking the sovereignty of Yemen and this government is non-legitimate.”
Yalda Hakim, reporting for the BBC from Zinjibar in southern Yemen, echoes al-Muslimi’s criticism, asking, “Are U.S. drones creating more enemies than they kill?” According to locals interviewed by Hakim, the answer is yes.
“The drones are killing our people, killing our children, and destroying our homes,” one man said, as he sat among the sheared rebar and crumbled concrete that was once his village. “The drones don’t differentiate between people,” he added, “they just kill.”
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Photo of MQ-9 Reaper drone: AP Images