At least a dozen people in a wedding convoy were killed in the al-Bayda province of Yemen on December 12 when the United States launched a drone attack. It provoked great outrage, and, in the aftermath, the Yemeni government compensated a local tribe and Yemen’s parliament passed a resolution to ban US drone strikes.
Nothing was said by any US official in the immediate moments after news about the strike began to circulate in Yemen. What unnamed Yemeni officials claimed hours after was that a wedding convoy had been mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy. But now, over a week later, anonymous US officials decided to tell a reputable news organization the strike targeted “ringleader behind the summer plot that shuttered 19 diplomatic posts across Africa and the Mideast.”
The Associated Press reports:
Two U.S. and one Yemeni official say Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani was the target. He is a mid-level leader in Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. officials say between nine and 12 other militants were killed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to describe drone operations publicly.
The Yemeni government paid the local tribe compensation for the loss of life, but Yemen’s official security committee also announced that the airstrike had targeted al-Qaida militants, including those who masterminded attacks on government institutions, the police and army.
U.S. officials say the militants were traveling to the wedding, but were not near civilians when they were hit.
This conflicts with everything that has been reported by journalists covering the strike that took place. It strongly suggests that US officials are lying or attempting to cover up what happened, which would not be surprising since the drone attack was the worst in Yemen’s history.
When the attack occurred, Iona Craig, a freelance journalist in Yemen, reported that a convoy of 11 vehicles had been hit. “Two of the vehicles were destroyed.” Al Qaeda militants were “believed to have been among those killed, but at least a dozen of the dead were civilians.”
A Yemeni government official told Craig, “There was a [militant] target, but something went wrong.”
“A local news website,” according to Craig, “published a list naming the casualties, claiming that all 15 [of the casualties] were civilians. Two tribal sheikhs were believed to be among those killed.”
Craig reacted to the claims by anonymous US officials:
This conflicts with everything I saw and heard from witnesses and survivors including the name of the apparent target http://t.co/p8UWUnlD2Y— Iona Craig أيونا (@ionacraig) December 20, 2013
For Foreign Policy magazine, Adam Baron, a journalist also based in Yemen, wrote:
The initial reports left me incredulous. As I started to make calls to sources in the area, it became clear the strike hit four cars in a convoy of about a dozen vehicles, killing at least a dozen people and wounding many more. The casualties were identified as members of local tribes. The information I received, as usual after such an event, was sometimes contradictory: While some sources stressed that those killed were all civilians, others seemed just as confident that some were indeed militants.
He added this was not a “targeted killing” nor was it “consistent with the White House’s claim that the strikes are only carried out when civilians will not be caught in the crossfire.” The “suspected militants” had been surrounded by “civilian bystanders.” And, he confessed, “It was hard not to wonder if the wedding convoy was mistaken for something more sinister — that someone in the bowels of the US intelligence community concluded that vehicles carrying heavily armed wedding guests were actually an al Qaeda convoy.”
It is just one paragraph, but there are multiple lies in this piece of propaganda fed to the Associated Press.
One, US officials are sure they were all “militants,” a statement that sharply conflicts with what those in the area where the strike took place have said. They are also certain all were “militants,” but the officials do not apparently know exactly how many were killed, which makes statements on who died further perplexing. (Craig reported 15 killed.)
Two, the officials completely deny that any civilians were nearby. The people of Yemen have bodies to show that civilians were killed. Even the Yemeni government does not dispute that civilians were killed. The security committee just excuses what happened by stating “al Qaeda militants” were targeted.
Three, the name of the alleged ringleader of this embassy plot does not include a last name similar to any of the victims reported killed.
In Yemeni news media, these are the names of the dead that were reported:
Hussein Mohammed Saleh Al Amiri, 65
Mohammed Ali Massad Al Amiri, 30
Ali Abdullah Mohammed Al Taysi, 35
Zeidan Mohammed Al Almiri, 40 Z
Saif Abdullah Mabkhout Al Amiri, 20
Motlaq Hamoud Mohammed Al Taysi, 45
Saleh Abdullah Mabkhout, 30
Aaref Mohammed Al Taysi, 30
Saleh Massad Al Amiri, 42
Massad Dayfallah Al Amiri, 25
Shayef Abdullah Mabkhout Al Amiri
Hussein Mohammed Al Tomayl Al Taysi, 20
Salem Mohammed Ali Al Taysi
Those reported wounded were:
Abdullah Mohammed Al Khashal Al Taysi
Mohammed Ali Abdullah Al Amiri
Abdullah Aziz Mabkhout Al Amiri
Nasser Ali Ahmad Al Amiri
Nayef Abdullah Al Khasham Al Taysi
The name of the alleged target of the strike on December 12 is, according to these US officials, Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani. But no member of the al-Badani family was being married that day. And the people killed were either from the -al-Taysi family or the al-Amiri family.
This person may or may not have attended the wedding, but al-Badani certainly was not in either of the vehicles the drone attacked. He would have been riding with members of his family if he was in the convoy and it would appear from the list of people wounded and killed, someone from the Al Amiri family married someone from the Al Taysi family.
In June of this year, reports claimed a drone killed al Qaeda militants. It was later reported a child was killed too.
On September 2, 2012, according to Jack Serle of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a senior al Qaeda leader was reported that a senior al Qaeda leader was killed. That was revised later to twelve civilians killed in a US drone strike.
And Yemenis will never forget four years ago when, in an unforgettable cruise missile attack on al-Majalah, 55 civilian deaths occurred. Fourteen of the deaths were women, including seven who were pregnant, and 21 of the deaths were children.
News media incorrectly reported that the village in al-Majalah hit was an al Qaeda base. The Yemeni government was covering up the fact that the United States was launching missiles in Yemen and had killed dozens of innocent people.
Yemenis know all the people killed in the attack on a wedding convoy were not all “militants.” That lie is for a press and public that need this lie to believe the covert drone war being waged his not responsible for regular occurring atrocities and that terrorism is effectively being fought by these strikes.
Finally, one aspect of the US officials’ claims happens to be positive. The claims put to rest any notion, as suggested in a report by New York Times reporter Robert Worth, that the al-Taysi and al-Amiri families were targeted because they have members “closely associated” with al Qaeda. That is not the cover story being adopted by the Obama administration.
There is more in this story from The New York Times on what allegedly happened in this drone strike on a wedding convoy. Somehow the Times came to the conclusion that it can only be certain six of the 15 killed were innocent civilians.
This is paragraph is a thing of beauty:
American officials will not say what they knew or did not know about the targets of last week’s strike. But in the past, American officials have sometimes appeared to be misinformed about the accidental deaths of Yemeni civilians in drone strikes.
US officials sometimes appear to be misinformed when they report on drone strikes that kill people associated with individuals who appeared to be suspected al Qaeda militants. That’s essentially what you get when the Times covers America’s covert drone war.