Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Helene Cooper and Mona El-Naggar / The New York Times – 2015-01-27 18:47:05
US Drone Strike Kills Three in Yemen,
Raising Questions of Authorization
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(January 26, 2015) — Reports last week of a halt to US drone strikes in Yemen, in as much as Yemen doesn’t have a government anymore, didn’t last long, with a drone strike today killing three people in the central Maariv Province.
It was claimed that the three people were “al-Qaeda operatives,” and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) said that the killed included only one of their fighters, along with an “anti-Houthi” tribesman and the teenage son of another drone strike victim.
The US has long claimed permission from Yemeni presidents for the drone war, but since there isn’t a president since the resignation of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, they can’t even claim a secret understanding, as they have in Pakistan.
The White House has been keen to insist that their policy toward Yemen won’t change because of Hadi’s ouster, and today’s strike seems to be an effort to underscore that. The legal basis for the killings, however, is even flimsier than usual.
US Drone Kills 3 Qaeda Operatives in Yemen, Continuing Policy on Strikes
Helene Cooper and Mona El-Naggar / The New York Times
WASHINGTON (January 26, 2015) — A C.I.A. drone strike in Yemen, the first since the resignation of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, killed three suspected Qaeda fighters on Monday, American officials said, in a signal that the United States will continue its counterterrorism operations there despite the apparent takeover by Houthi fighters.
A missile launched from a drone struck a car in which the three men were riding in the central province of Marib, near the border with the province of Shabwa, which is believed to be a Qaeda stronghold. The CIA operates a drone base in southern Saudi Arabia.
A senior American official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, declined to confirm the names of the victims. A CIA spokesman declined to comment.
But a member of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula identified the men killed as Awaid al-Rashidi, a Saudi citizen in his early 30s who spent years in a Saudi prison before he was released and joined Al Qaeda in Yemen; Abdullah Khaled al-Zindani, a Yemeni citizen from Sana, who with Mr. Rashidi was said to be engaged in anti-Houthi activities; and Mohammed Toiman al-Jahmi, a Yemeni teenager whose father and brother were previously killed in American drone strikes. The Qaeda member did not know Mr. Jahmi’s age but said he was a member of the terrorist group.
The strike is the latest episode in the chaos that has engulfed Yemen for months, pitting Mr. Hadi against the Iranian-backed Houthis. Mr. Hadi resigned last week after the Houthis lay siege to the capital, demanding greater political influence for their minority group than Mr. Hadi was willing to allow.
Mr. Hadi’s resignation raised questions about whether American counterterrorism efforts in Yemen could continue, but the Houthis also oppose Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, leading some American officials to speculate privately that the Houthi takeover may not necessarily signal the end of American efforts.
Monday’s strike was a clear demonstration that American counterterrorism efforts had not abated. At a news conference in New Delhi on Sunday, President Obama said that his administration would “continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen” and would “continue to maintain the pressure that’s required to keep the American people safe.” Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, on Monday echoed the president, responding to reports that the fall of the Yemen’s United States-backed government had led to a suspension of American operations there. “We will continue to hunt AQAP wherever they are,” Colonel Warren said.
There was no official reaction from the Houthis to the American strike, but one member of the movement, who is close to the leaders of the group, said, “We are against any American plane penetrating our airspace.”
He added: “But they killed militants who were probably planning an attack against us in Marib.” He did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
The turmoil in Yemen comes at a particularly fraught time, just two weeks after AQAP claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks in Paris on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. The French attacks have raised the level of concern about the group, and American officials say they are worried the group could exploit the power vacuum in Yemen.
There are also rising fears that the current political standoff could lead to the partition of Yemen. Alarmed by the Houthis’ expansion, the southern separatist movement, Heraq, has been seizing territory, and some tribes are now more open to working with Al Qaeda, giving the group a larger pool from which to recruit.
“Al Qaeda in Yemen tried to strike a deal with tribes in many places before, but they failed,” said Jamal Benomar, the United Nations envoy to Yemen. “Now, some tribes are fighting along with them.”
Helene Cooper reported from Washington, and Mona El-Naggar from Sana, Yemen. Reporting was contributed by Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt from Washington, Kareem Fahim from Baghdad and Shuaib Almosawa from Sana.
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