Home US & World News NEWS & COMMENTARY: Deaths of children & US involvement in Yemen downplayed

NEWS & COMMENTARY: Deaths of children & US involvement in Yemen downplayed

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There are few mainstream sources following recent U.S. military strikes in Yemen.  --  Sunday's major dailies showed no interest in following up the very limited initial articles; if they published any editorial comment, we were unable to find it.  --  Development of the story was left to the circumspect wire services reports that were the more circumspect the closer they were to U.S. centers of power.  --  Thus AP spoke vaguey of an "unusually heavy assault" in which the U.S. "provided firepower and other aid," and gave prominence to a statement from a Yemeni Embassy spokesman who "denied the U.S. launched missiles in the attack," though this denial is not credible given ABC's report of two U.S. cruise missile strikes in Yemen on Thursday.[1]  --  Reports that most of those killed in the attacks were "mostly civilians, including women and children" and denials that the target was an al-Qaida stronghold were vague and confined to unnamed "[w]itnesses."  --  Reuters, which did mention the ABC News report, spoke only of "missiles," not "cruise missiles," and Yemen's harsh dictator was described as a "fragile neighbor" to whom the U.S. and Saudi Arabia provided "help."[2]  --  Only Deutsche Presse-Agentur mentioned demands from Yemen's parliament for information about "reports of a large number of civilian deaths in the operations," quoting "Yislam Nasser Anburi, an official in Mehfed province, [who] told the German Press Agency DPA that the attacks failed to distinguish between civilians and Islamist militants."[3]  --  Only Libya's Ennahar published a photograph of a wounded child, giving details on civilian deaths that derived from an AFP report.[4,5]  --  Iran's Press TV noted the irony of President Barack Obama killing dozens of civilians one week after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.[6] ...


1.

SUSPECTED AL-QAIDA LEADER IN YEMEN ESCAPES RAID


Associated Press
December 19, 2009

WASHINGTON --
A military strike on al-Qaida's network in Yemen killed the deputy commander of the terrorist network's cell in Abyan province, the Yemeni government said.

Embassy spokesman Mohammed Albasha identified the dead man as Mohammed Al Kazimi, but said suspected al-Qaida leader Qasim al-Raymi, the intended target of this week's raid, escaped.

Al-Raymi is one of 23 militants who broke out of a prison in San'a in February 2006 and is at large.  Yemeni authorities have said they believe he was involved in the July 2007 suicide bombing that killed eight Spanish tourists and two Yemenis visiting a temple in central Yemen.

Christopher Boucek, a Yemen expert at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said al-Raymi is deputy commander of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula and has managed to escape several previous attempts by authorities to get him.

The U.S. provided firepower and other aid to Yemen for the strike this week against suspected al-Qaida hide-outs and training sites within its borders, according to a *New York Times* report.

President Barack Obama approved the military and intelligence support, which came at the request of the Yemeni government.  It was intended to help stem growing attacks against American and other foreign targets in Yemen, the newspaper said.

Albasha denied the U.S. launched missiles in the attack.

Officials said at least 34 militants were killed in the Yemeni strike on Thursday in what was an unusually heavy assault as the Obama administration presses the unstable country for tougher action against al-Qaida.

Witnesses put the number killed at over 60 and said the dead were mostly civilians, including women and children.  They denied the target was an al-Qaida stronghold, and one provincial official said only 10 militant suspects died.

The United States has called on Yemen to take stronger action against al-Qaida, whose fighters have increasingly found refuge in the country in the past year.  Worries over the growing presence are compounded by fears that Yemen could collapse into turmoil from its multiple conflicts and increasing poverty and become another Afghanistan, giving the militants even freer rein.

2.

U.S. HELPED YEMEN WITH HARDWARE, INTELLIGENCE: REPORT


Reuters
December 19, 2009

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BI12R20091219


WASHINGTON -- The United States gave military hardware, intelligence, and other support to Yemeni forces who raided suspected al Qaeda hide-outs this week, the *New York Times* reported on Saturday.

The newspaper cited officials familiar with the operations as saying the U.S. help, approved by President Barack Obama, had been given at the request of the Yemeni government.

The support was intended to help Yemen prevent al Qaeda from mounting attacks on American and other foreign targets inside its borders, the *Times* reported.

"Yemen should be commended for actions against al Qaeda," Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, told the newspaper.

Yemeni officials said their security forces and warplanes had killed around 30 militants in the country's largest attack on the group in some years.  One Yemeni source said the operations had foiled a planned series of suicide bombings.

The *Times* story did not provide details of the U.S. support, but cited ABC News as saying it included missiles.

The reluctance of administration officials to comment on whether U.S. forces had launched missiles into Yemen appeared to reflect a desire to make clear the Yemeni government was in the lead in operations within its borders, the newspaper said.

U.S. officials told the *Times* that some of the strikes against suspected terrorist camps in Yemen were carried out solely by local forces.

American officials said last summer that they were seeing the first evidence that dozens of al Qaeda fighters, and a small handful of the group's leaders, were moving to Somalia and Yemen from Pakistan.

Saudi and Yemeni militants said earlier this year that they were uniting under the name Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but using Yemen as their base.

Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, fears instability in Yemen could turn into a security threat for the kingdom by allowing al Qaeda to gain a stronger foothold in its fragile neighbor.

3.

YEMENI LAWMAKERS SEEK CLARITY ON MILITARY STRIKES


Deutsche Presse-Agentur
December 20, 2009

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/news/middleeast/news/article_1520412.php/Yemeni-lawmakers-seek-clarity-on-military-strikes

SANAA, Yemen --
Yemen's parliament summoned the government on Sunday to clarify recent military operations against alleged al-Qaeda camps in the country's south, the official news agency SABA reported.

The request from lawmakers came amid reports of a large number of civilian deaths in the operations.

The SABA report said parliament had urged the government to 'enhance the accuracy of its targets to avoid error' in pursuing terrorists and insurgents.

Forty-nine civilians and 10 militants were killed in airstrikes carried out by the Yemeni army on al-Qaeda camps in the south of the country last week, according to one provincial official.

Yislam Nasser Anburi, an official in Mehfed province, told the German Press Agency dpa that the attacks failed to distinguish between civilians and Islamist militants.

At least 51 al-Qaeda suspects were killed or arrested last week in ground and air strikes, according to officials with the military in Sanaa said.

The international terrorist organization has allegedly set up bases in southern Yemen.

South Yemen was an independent country under Communist rule from 1967 until 1990 when it was reunified with the north. Civil unrest several years later was eventually quelled by the central government in Sanaa, though some southern separatist groups are still active.

4.

YEMEN: 49 CIVILIANS KILLED IN A RAID


Ennahar Online (Libya)
December 20, 2009

http://www.ennaharonline.com/en/international/2660.html


SANAA -- Forty-nine civilians, including 23 children, were killed in the raid on Thursday morning by Yemeni forces against an alleged training camp of Al-Qaeda in the Abyan province (southeast), said political and tribal sources.

"The raid was carried out indiscriminately and killed 49 civilians including 23 children and 17 women, told AFP an official of the Al-Mahfed, which depends on the village of Al-Maajala where a raid took place.

A tribal leader confirmed this statement:  "In total, 49 civilians were killed," he told AFP, adding that they belonged to the tribe of Al-Kazam, his own tribe.  This assessment has not been confirmed by official sources.

"Al-Qaeda has chosen to build its training center on a land where the Bedouin nomads have pitched their tents, and government forces have estimated that these nomads housed fighters of Al Qaeda," said the tribal leader, who requested anonymity.

The raid on Al-Maajala had resulted in the deaths of 30 suspected members of Al Qaeda, including foreigners, in addition to 4 others killed in a military operation Thursday [in] Arhab, an area controlled by some tribes 35 km north of Sanaa, officials said.

Several local leaders of Al Qaeda were killed in the raid, said the Yemeni Ministry of Defense on its website 26sep.net, identifying five of them, including Mohammad Saleh Al-Kazimi, who is the commander of the Training camp provided by the raid according to unconfirmed reports.

A Saudi, identified as Ibrahim al-Najdi, is also among the activists of Al-Qaeda killed, according to the Ministry of Defense.

The province of Abyan, which is part of the former South Yemen, has become in recent years an area of consolidation of Islamist fighters, including veterans of Afghanistan, beyond the control of security forces.

Since the raid on Thursday, more than 30 members of Al Qaeda were arrested in Yemen, said Saturday the Department of Defense.

According to the *New York Times* Saturday, U.S. President Barack Obama has given the green light to Yemeni forces raids this week against fighters from Al Qaeda.

5.

49 CIVILIANS KILLED IN AIR STRIKE: YEMENI OFFICIAL


Agence France-Presse
December 20, 2009

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle08.asp?xfile=data/middleeast/2009/December/middleeast_December443.xml§ion=middleeast


SANAA -- A local Yemeni official said on Sunday that 49 civilians, among them 23 children and 17 women, were killed in air strikes against Al-Qaeda, which he said were carried out “indiscriminately.”

Exiled southern leader Ali Salem al-Baid had accused the Yemeni authorities of killing at least 62 civilians in Thursday’s air strikes Sanaa said targeted an Al-Qaeda training camp in the southern province of Abyan.

The local official from the Al-Mahfed region, which includes the village of Al-Maajala where the strike took place, on Sunday confirmed civilian deaths.

“The raid was carried out indiscriminately and killed 49 civilians, including 23 children and 17 women,” said the official, who did not wish to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.

A tribal leader from the Al-Kazam tribe too confirmed civilian deaths.

“In total, 49 civilians were killed,” he told AFP.  “Al-Qaeda has chosen to build its training center on land where bedouin nomads pitch their tents, and the government forces believe the nomads harbour Al-Qaeda forces,” said the leader, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

Yemeni government officials said the Thursday air strikes against Al-Maajala killed 30 suspected Al-Qaeda members, and that four Al-Qaeda members were also killed Thursday in a ground raid in Abhar, 35 kilometers north of Sanaa.

Yemen’s defense ministry said on its website that “several” local Al-Qaeda leaders were killed in the air strikes.  It identified five of them, including Mohammad Saleh Al-Kazimi, whom it said was the commander of the training camp.

The ministry also said that a Saudi, identified as Ibrahim al-Najdi, was among those killed in Abyan.

The province of Abyan has in recent years become a base area for Islamist fighters, including veterans of fighting in Afghanistan.  It is outside the control of Yemeni security forces.

Since the air strikes, more than 30 members of Al-Qaeda have been arrested by government forces, the defense ministry said on Saturday.

The *New York Times* reported Saturday that US President Barack Obama approved firepower, intelligence and other support for Yemen’s efforts against Al-Qaeda.

6.

OBAMA ORDERED DEADLY BLITZ ON YEMEN: U.S. MEDIA


Press TV
December 19, 2009

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=114119§ionid=351020206


U.S. Nobel Peace Prize laureate President Barack Obama has signed the order for a recent military strike on Yemen in which scores of civilians, including children, have been killed, a report says.

Upon the orders of Obama, the military warplanes on Thursday blanketed two camps in the North of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, claiming there were "an imminent attack against a U.S. asset was being planned," ABC News quoted anonymous administration officials as saying on Friday.

The U.S. air raids were then followed by a Yemeni ground forces attack.

The operation led to the death of around 120 people of whom many were civilians, including children, the report quoted Yemeni opposition as saying.

Obama also contacted Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, after the blitz in order to "congratulate" him on his efforts against 'al-Qaeda,' the U.S. news outlet quoted White House officials as telling reporters earlier.

The latest development comes in the wake of recently intensified attacks on the country's Shia Houthi fighters which has brought about a dire humanitarian situation in northern Yemen.

So far, the U.S. officials have categorically denied any direct involvement in the air strikes on Houthi fighters, alleging they have only targeted growing al-Qaeda training camps, mostly located in southern parts of the Persian Gulf state.  Yemen's Houthi fighters, however, insist U.S. fighter jets have been bombing their region, claiming the lives of civilians in their air raids.

The reports of the U.S. military intervention in Yemen come as Saudi Arabia has also been lending full support to the Yemeni government's crackdown on Yemen's Houthi minority.

Yemen's Shia minority have recently slammed foreign military intervention in Yemen and the United Nations' apathy on the humanitarian situation and the "siege on civilians in northern Yemen."

International aid agencies and some U.N. bodies including United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have voiced concern over the dire condition of the Yemeni civilians who have become the main victims of the conflict in the country.

The United Nations, which according to its charter is set up "to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace," has failed to adopt any concrete measures to help end the bloody war.

 

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 December 2009 18:46