US drone strikes on Yemen escalate
By Damien McElroy, Chris Woods and Emma Slater
America has dramatically escalated its drone strikes war in Yemen with the tempo of attacks rising to parity with incidents in Pakistan since the installation of a new government this month.
President Barack Obama has authorised all but one of the estimated 44 drone strikes by the US in the troubled Arab state since 2002 and has overseen a rapid increase in attacks since last May with 26 incidents recorded.
The pace appears to be accelerating with nine attacks so far this year and at least five this month, including a strike last week near the terrorist hot bed of Zinjibar. Up to 30 militants were killed in three separate missile strikes on the town, eyewitnesses said.
Nationwide the figures are comparable to those in Pakistan where America has struck on ten occasions, even as it scales back activities in the face of a backlash from an angry public.
Research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism at City University has found that as many as 516 people have been killed in the attacks – mostly suspected members of al-Qaeda’s local ally al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Up to 104 were civilians.
With the majority of the attacks carried out by the CIA or US special forces command from a base nearby Dijbouti, American officials refused to confirm or acknowledge the attacks.
President Obama has, however, made plain his determination to go after AQAP, which he has described as “a network of violence and terror” that has attracted a number of US citizens to its cause, including the radical cleric Anwar al Awlaki.
Awlaki was killed last September, along with Samir Khan, editor of AQAP’s English-language propaganda magazine Inspire, which had been blamed for recruiting Western-raised youths to Islamic radicalism.
Days later a follow-up attack killed other militants – but also Awlaki’s 16-year old son and 17-year old nephew. AQAP’s ability to speak to an English-language audience was finished.