FRN Note: This is an AP report, but we had to find it in the German, not in the American, Press.
US Drone War in Yemen: Almost a third of deaths are civilians – not al Qaeda
The United States has conducted a drone war in Yemen against al-Qaida for 16 years. But the campaign is demanding a high price: dozens of civilians have been killed by US drone strikes. Trump is augmenting the drone war.
In a recent investigation into drone strikes in Yemen earlier this year, the US news agency The Associated Press (AP) found that at least 30 people were not part of al Qaeda. This corresponds to about one third of all people who were killed in drone attacks in 2018.
The Pentagon does not reveal its estimate of the death toll, but independent databases included 88 people, including fighters and civilians killed by drones in Yemen so far this year, according to AP.
The AP report provides an insight into the frequency with which drone strikes hit civilians at a time when the Trump administration has dramatically increased the use of armed drones. The US Army carried out 176 air strikes during Trump’s first 21 months in office, compared to 154 air strikes over the entire eight years of the Obama administration, according to an AP census and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
AP based its numbers on interviews with witnesses, families, tribal leaders and activists. Most of the killed, in the number 24, were civilians; at least six others were fighters for pro-government forces – allegedly on the same side as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States. These fighters were killed far from the front as civilians.
By comparison, several databases attempt to track deaths with mixed results. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism counted up to 1,020 US air strike casualties from 2009 to 2016 under Barack Obama’s presidency, then 205 deaths in 2017 and 2018. Another Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Projects database included 331 Dead in the last two years.
Counting civilian deaths among these numbers is hampered by the challenge of determining who belongs to al Qaeda in a country with several warring militias. Al Qaeda has joined the fight against the Houthi rebels, and many of the fighters are involved in militias armed and funded by the US-backed coalition.