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5 civilians killed in US raid on Yemen: Rights group

A London-based human rights group says five civilians were among the victims of a recent US raid on Yemen, challenging the American version of the attack that says only militants were slain.

The US Central Command (CENTCOM) claimed in a statement on Tuesday that it had conducted an operation against Yemen’s central province of Ma’rib, killing seven members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militant group.

The attack was carried out “through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes” in a bid to “provide insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions,” the statement read.

Reprieve rights group said on Wednesday that local sources in Ma’rib’s al-Jubah village had reported civilian casualties.

It quoted the sources as saying that the US raid went wrong from the start as US Navy SEALS opened fire on a 70-year-old partially blind man, identified as Nasser al-Adhal, who had stepped out to welcome the arrivals, thinking they were guests.

Four other men also emerged from their homes after the shooting of the old man, but they were fatally shot by the US forces, the sources were further cited as saying.

Kate Higham, who leads investigations into assassinations at Reprieve, said the rights group was “still trying to get a really full picture of exactly what happened.”

“But what we do know is that Seals landed in the village; they appear to have been trying to target a group of possible militants but in the course of the ground raid something went wrong – and they ended up killing a number of the people from the village,” she added.

Reprieve said six villagers were seriously injured in the US assault and a fight with al-Qaeda elements started only after the shooting at the locals.

The al-Qaeda militants “were alerted by the gunshots in the village and firefight ensued in which at least two of them were killed. The Navy Seals then left with the help of air support from a helicopter,” it noted.

In response to the Reprieve report, Major Josh Jacques, a CENTCOM spokesman, said the incident would be investigated.

A similar US attack was conducted in Yakla Village in Bayda Province on January 29, the first authorized by President Donald Trump. A US aircraft was destroyed while dozens of Yemeni civilians and a US Navy SEAL were killed in the ill-prepared commando raid.

A Yemeni boy walks past a mural depicting a US drone and reading ‘Why did you kill my family.’ (Photo by AFP)

Yemen has been under regular US drone strikes, with Washington claiming to be targeting al-Qaeda elements while local sources say civilians have been the main victims.

The impoverished country has also been under military strikes in a prolonged war by Saudi Arabia and a number of its client states since late March 2015. The US has been providing assistance to that war, too.

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