Yemenis took to the streets of the southern governorate of Shabwa after a US drone strike killed at least seven civilians in late January, Al Jazeera reported yesterday.
The strike targeted a car carrying six civilians reportedly searching for a missing child in southern Yemen.
The “victims were all innocent civilians who had nothing to do with any political or religious organisation”, Saleh Al-Aishi Al-Ateeqi, a relative of one of the victims said.
At the protest, Al-Ateeqi blamed the deaths on the Saudi-led coalition, claiming it is responsible for Yemen’s airspace and protecting civilians.
The US has been executing drone strikes in Yemen since 2002. US President Donald Trump inherited the policy of targeted killing by drone outside declared battlefields from his predecessor, Barack Obama. Since Trump’s presidency, strikes in Yemen have tripled.
In August last year, the US and the UAE recruited 2,000 Yemenis locally in Shabwa to form the Shabwani Elite force to conduct a mission against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The recruitment process caused discomfort among tribesmen however many joined due to the difficult living conditions and lack of jobs.
On 5 August, the US-UAE forces conducted a raid on the largest Awaliq tribe, arresting an innocent tribesman along with his family. This triggered “blowback” as a result of the disproportional use of force, compelling the Awaliq tribe to release anti-UAE statements on social media blaming the “Emirate’s role” in Yemen and forces supporting the US “agenda”.
Two years ago, four former US drone pilots with more than 20 years of experience wrote an open letter to former US President Obama, warning of the drone programme being a “recruitment tool” for armed groups.
The US’s “war on terror” spread to Yemen in 2002. After the Houthi opposition group took over control of the capital, Sana’a. a Saudi-led coalition – of which the UAE is a member – entered the area in an effort to recapture areas occupied by them.
Drone strikes in Yemen have killed 1,341 Yemenis, and injured 300 since 2002, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which tracks US strikes globally.