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Middle East

Yemen drone strike 'targeted al-Qaeda leader'

Anonymous US officials contradict earlier reports that drone killed 13 civilians in Yemeni wedding party on December 12.

Last updated: 20 Dec 2013 21:02
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Human Rights Watch says US missile strikes have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen this year [EPA]

American and Yemeni officials have said the target of a deadly drone strike that hit a wedding convoy and killed 15 people in Yemen earlier this month was a mid-level al-Qaeda leader.

Two US and one Yemeni official, speaking to Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity on Friday, said that Shawqi Ali Ahmad al-Badani was wounded and escaped the December 12 air strike.

The officials described al-Badani as the leader behind a bomb plot that briefly closed 19 US diplomatic posts across Africa and the Middle East earlier this year.

The US officials said between nine and 12 other fighters were killed in the December drone strike, and that there were no civilian casualties.

Initial reports from Yemen, however, had said that 13 civilians were killed in the drone strike, as their wedding party in the south of Yemen was mistaken for an al-Qaeda convoy.

"Even if it turns out that this was a case of killings based on mistaken identity or dodgy intelligence, whoever was responsible needs to own up to the error and come clean about what happened in this incident," said Philip Luther, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Bomb plot link

Yemen is among a handful of countries where the US acknowledges using drones, although it does not directly comment on the practice.

Human Rights Watch said in a report earlier this year that US missile strikes have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.

On Friday, a Yemeni official told the AP al-Badani was linked to a plot to bomb the US embassy in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, in 2012, and to a threat that shut down 19 US embassies across the region last August.

The US said it intercepted a message between al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri and Yemen's al-Qaeda offshoot about plans for the attack on August 2.

The US missions, as well as some European diplomatic posts, were shut for at least a week.

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