Civilians killed in errant Yemen air strike

At least 14 killed in Bayda province after fighter pilots mistake two cars carrying civilians for al-Qaeda members.

    An attack by fighter planes in Yemen has mistakenly hit vehicles carrying civilians travelling south of the capital, Sanaa, killing 14, including women and children, officals and tribesmen said.

    Military officials said Sunday's air raids in Radaa in the province of Bayda were based on faulty intelligence that the passengers were al-Qaeda members.

    Missiles fired from the warplanes hit two vehicles carrying local residents returning to their villages. Tribesman Sheik Ahmed Ali said the dead included three women and three children.

    The attack prompted angry protests by relatives of the victims, residents told the Reuters news agency.

    The impoverished Arabian Peninsula state has become a key battleground for the US in its war against al-Qaeda.

    US drones have regularly targeted al-Qaeda suspects.

    On Sunday, a US drone strike killed a top al-Qaeda figure wanted for allegedly masterminding a 2002 attack on a French oil tanker.

    The country has been in turmoil since an uprising against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh began in January last year.

    Saleh stepped down in February but fighters have managed to strengthen their foothold in remote regions during the unrest.

    Earlier reports

    Officials initially said a US drone had killed five people in the attack in Radaa on Sunday evening, but residents said on Monday a Yemeni warplane had hit a car, killing civilians.

    "It seems Yemeni warplanes missed the vehicle carrying the suspected militants and instead hit one carrying civilians, who were killed while four were injured," an official from a clan in the Radaa region told Reuters.

    "The car that carried the al-Qaeda militants happened to pass in the same place where the civilian car was," he added.

    Families of the victims marched on Sunday evening in protest against the deaths, a witness told Reuters.

    The incident could fuel already growing resentment over a US-Yemeni campaign against al-Qaeda that has often claimed civilian lives.

    "There will be a meeting today with the heads of the tribes and government official. People are angry and want this to
    stop," another tribal official said.

    Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen. It has mounted operations in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and tried to launch attacks against the US.

    Washington, which fears the spread of Islamist groups in Yemen, has stepped up drone attacks this year in response.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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