Citing unnamed officials in Yemen, both the Associated Press and Reuters initially reported that the casualties came from a U.S. drone strike in Radda, the capital of the western al-Bayda province and a known stronghold of al-Qaeda militants. The AP reported that militants were suspected to have been traveling with the group, but Reuters cited sources saying the convoy was mistakenly targeted, resulting in civilian deaths.
The AP reported the death count was at least 13 people; Reuters reported that 15 died. “An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital,” one official told Reuters.
“If proven to be correct, this is very serious,” Christof Heyns, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told TIME. “I have to verify the facts before I can give further comments, and need to engage with the governments of the USA and Yemen to get their explanation of what appears to be a terrible event. But you can be sure I am following it very closely.”
Confusion and conflicting reports about air strikes in Yemen are common.
One question that likely won't be answered is: who the US thought it was targeting in Yemen and if that person was a true imminent threat.—
GregorydJohnsen (@gregorydjohnsen) December 12, 2013
Thursday’s air strike comes three days after missiles shot from a U.S. drone killed at least three people in a car in eastern Yemen. The U.S. has increased its strikes in the country, the main base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.