Posted: 12/12/2013 1:47 pm EST | Updated: 12/13/2013 5:33 pm EST
According to the report, at least 13 people were killed in the targeted strike.
Reuters quotes Yemeni security officials as saying the wedding party was targeted after it "was mistaken for an al-Qaeda convoy." Additionally, the news outlet cites 15 deaths, with another five people injured in the attack.
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Missiles fired by a U.S. drone slammed
into a convoy of vehicles traveling to a wedding party in central Yemen
on Thursday, killing at least 13 people, Yemeni security officials said.
The officials said the attack took place in the city of Radda, the
capital of Bayda province, and left charred bodies and burnt out cars on
the road. The city, a stronghold of al-Qaida militants, witnessed
deadly clashes early last year between armed tribesmen backed by the
military and al-Qaida gunmen in an attempt to drive them out of the
There were no immediate details on who was killed in the strike, and
there were conflicting reports about whether there were militants
traveling with the wedding convoy.
A military official said initial information indicated the drone
mistook the wedding party for an al-Qaida convoy. He said tribesmen
known to the villagers were among the dead.
One of the three security officials, however, said al-Qaida militants
were suspected to have been traveling with the wedding convoy.
While the U.S. acknowledges its drone program in Yemen, it does not usually talk about individual strikes.
If further investigations determine that the victims were all
civilians, the attack could fuel an outburst of anger against the United
States and the government in Sanaa among a Yemeni public already
opposed to the U.S. drone strikes.
Civilian deaths have bred resentments on a local level, sometimes
undermining U.S. efforts to turn the public against the militants. The
backlash in Yemen is still not as large as in Pakistan, where there is
heavy pressure on the government to force limits on strikes — but public
calls for a halt to strikes are starting to emerge.
In October, two U.N. human rights investigators called for more
transparency from the United States and other countries about their
drone programs, saying their secrecy is the biggest obstacle to
determining the civilian toll of such strikes.
The missile attacks in Yemen are part of a joint U.S.-Yemeni campaign
against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which Washington has called
the most dangerous branch of the global terrorist network.
Thursday's drone strike is the second since a massive car bombing and
coordinated assault on Yemen's military headquarters killed 56 people,
including foreigners. Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the attack,
saying it was retaliation for U.S. drone strikes that have killed dozens
of the group's leaders.
Security forces in the Yemeni capital boosted their presence
Thursday, setting up checkpoints across the city and sealing off the
road to the president's residence, in response to what the Interior
Ministry called threats of "terrorist plots" targeting vital
institutions and government buildings.
Meanwhile, in the Yemen's restive northern, ultraconservative Sunni
Muslim militants and rebels belonging to a branch of Shiite Islam
battled each other with artillery and machine guns in clashes that
killed more than 40 people, security officials said.
The violence between Islamic Salafi fighters and Hawthi rebels has
raged for weeks in Yemen's northern province of Saada, but the latest
sectarian clashes marked an expansion of the fighting to the neighboring
province of Ha . The government brokered a cease-fire last month to
try to end the violence, but both sides have repeatedly broken the
Officials said clashes began when ultraconservative Salafis took over
a Hawthi stronghold in a mountainous area near the border with Saudi
Arabia. The officials say that most of the casualties were on the Hawthi
The officials said that Salafis, however, accused Hawthis of trying to infiltrate their strongholds in the town of Fa .
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the fighting publicly.
Hawthi launched in insurgency in 2004 against autocratic President
Ali Abdullah Saleh, who stepped down in 2012 after a popular uprising
against his rule. Over the course of the Hawthi rebellion, hundreds of
people were killed and an estimated 125,000 people uprooted until the
rebels and the government struck a fragile cease-fire in 2010.
But the north remained restive despite the truce, and fighting flared
along another fault line in November after Hawthis accused the Salafis
of trying to gain a foothold in their territory by spreading their brand
The rebels say their community of Shiite Muslims suffers
discrimination and neglect and that the government has allowed
ultraconservative Sunni extremists too strong a voice in the country.
Hard-line Sunnis consider Shiites heretics.