Yemen to Pay Families of Civilians Killed in Airstrikes

Apr 23, 2014 3:54pm

The Yemeni government plans to make a cash payment to the families of the three civilians killed in a string of airstrikes over the weekend, a spokesperson for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, D.C. said today.

Dozens of alleged militants with the al Qaeda affiliate al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were killed in multiple airstrikes – suspected to have been launched from American drones — and in an on-the-ground raid over the weekend and into Monday, according to the Yemeni government.

However, three civilians were caught in the midst of the carnage when “their pickup truck unexpectedly appeared next to [a] targeted vehicle,” a statement from the Yemeni government Monday said.

“Yes, [the] Yemeni government did and will compensate the families of civilian casualties as a result of [counter-terrorist] operations,” Yemeni Embassy spokesperson Mohammed Albasha said on Twitter today.

A local Yemeni news outlet reported Tuesday that the government planned to give up to approximately $55,000 and firearms to the victims’ families, but a Yemeni official who spoke to ABC News could not confirm those details. So-called “solatia” payments are often expected by local custom around the world in cases of wrongful deaths – a practice in which the U.S. Defense Department has historically taken part to the tune of millions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The airstrikes, conducted Saturday and Sunday, targeted militants traveling in vehicles as well as a suspected al Qaeda training camp that the Yemeni government said was “completely destroyed.”

Following the strike, Yemen launched a “successful” on-the-ground counter-terrorism raid, the government said. A source briefed on the operation confirmed to ABC News that American pilots had flown Yemeni special operations troops in on Russian helicopters, as first reported by CNN.

Monday neither the CIA, Pentagon, White House National Security Council or State Department would comment directly on any U.S. involvement in the operations, except to say, as spokespersons for State and the Pentagon did, that the U.S. has a “strong, collaborative relationship with the Yemeni government.”

Both the CIA and Pentagon have conducted unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations in Yemen in the past, to much controversy. In 2009, a CIA drone strike there killed high-profile al Qaeda recruiter and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki. Weeks later, a similar strike killed his 16-year-old son, who U.S. officials said was collateral damage in a strike targeting another al Qaeda figure. In December 2013, a suspected drone-fired missile hit a wedding procession, killing 11.

When asked about the solatia payments, a Pentagon spokesperson declined to comment to ABC News and referred any questions related to the strikes to the Yemeni government, “which publicly acknowledged the airstrikes.”

ABC News’ Luis Martinez contributed to this report.

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