US drones are said to kill 9 in Yemen, including son of previous victim
ADEN, Yemen - Airstrikes believed to be carried out by US drones killed at least nine people in southern Yemen, including a senior official of the regional Al Qaeda branch and an American, the 17-year-old son of an Al Qaeda official killed by the United States last month, according to the government and local reports yesterday.
Fighting also escalated in the capital, Sana, where at least 12 antigovernment protesters were killed by security forces near the Foreign Ministry and at least four civilians were killed in a battle near the airport, opposition officials said.
The fighting was the deadliest since President Ali Abdullah Saleh returned to the country last month and coincided with rising political tensions as all sides await a statement expected by the UN Security Council in the coming weeks.
Yemen has been in turmoil for months as protesters demanding the ouster of Saleh, who has led Yemen for 33 years, have filled the streets and rival political factions have fought for power.
Saleh, despite tremendous domestic opposition, international pressure, and an assassination attempt that severely wounded him in June, has refused to cede power.
Islamic militant groups, including Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the terrorist organization, have exploited the chaos, especially in the southern provinces of Shabwa and Abyan.
The US drone strike that killed the Al Qaeda senior official, Anwar al-Awlaki, was particularly controversial in the United States because despite being a US citizen, he was killed without legal due process. The US government has argued that although he was known primarily as a propagandist, he had taken on an operational role in the organization, plotting attacks against Americans, making him a legitimate target.
It was unconfirmed if his son had been killed in the attack on Friday night, and it was not clear if he was the intended target of the strike.
The Yemeni authorities said that there were two airstrikes in Shabwa province Friday night, and that Ibrahim al-Banna, the Egyptian-born leader of the media wing of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, was killed. Six others were wounded, according to a statement on the official Saba news agency.
Local reports said that nine people were killed in the airstrikes and that they were carried out by US drones. Neither Yemeni nor US officials confirmed the role of drones, whose use in Yemen is officially secret but widely known.
A member of the Awlaki family said that the dead included Anwar al-Awlaki’s son, Abdelrahman al-Awlaki, 17. The younger Awlaki lived in the capital and was visiting the family home in the Assan district of Shabwa Province after the death of his father.
Two other relatives of the Awlaki family were also killed, the family said.
It was not known whether any of them had any affiliation with Al Qaeda.
There were also two battles in the capital.
In the first, antigovernment protesters staged a large march yesterday morning outside the area of the city protected by troops loyal to a military commander, Major General Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar, who defected to the opposition in March.
According to witnesses, thousands marched down a street and were fired upon once they reached the first government checkpoint just outside the Foreign Ministry.
Some protesters then retreated back to a sit-in area, while others marched on, only to be shot at again.
The attack ignited fighting between the troops loyal to Ahmar and the government forces in what has become the new front line of the battle, the neighborhood of Haeel. Artillery explosions were heard late into the evening.
The fighting also appeared to signal the end of an unofficial truce that had recently been brokered between the government and Ahmar.