A mural depicts a US drone and asks “Why did you kill my family?” in the capital Sana’a after a drone strike on a wedding convoy killed 17 people. Image Credit: AFP

Sana’a: A Yemeni tribal leader yesterday denied that there were Al Qaida members in the wedding convoy that was targeted on Thursday by drone strike.

“I deny the government’s statement that said there were members of Al Qaida among the people who were targeted by the drone strike,” Faisal Abdullah Al Ameri, the leader of Ameri tribe, told Gulf News.

Hundreds of angry mourners have buried the bodies of 11 people who were killed in the strike in the village Kaila of Rada’a district. The dead were from the tribes of Al Ameri and Attais which are branches of a larger Qaifa tribe.

Yemen’s Security Committee said on Friday that the airstrike in Al Baydha targeted many senior members of Al Qaida including some masterminds of many terrorist attacks against security forces, citizens and vital facilities. The committee’s statement did not mention the names of the targeted militants or whether they were civilians among the dead.

“They would unsurprisingly say that they targeted Al Qaida members as to justify their heinous crime. The men were in a convoy of 12 cars carrying newly-wedded couple,”

Ameri said that when the drone hovered over the convoy and began firing missiles as the panicked men fled their cars.

“It was a US drone that repeatedly kill our people. Even our children can now distinguish drones from Yemen warplanes. We only demand the government to stop US drones from killing us.”

The tribal leader said that the province’s governor would turn up in the area on Saturday afternoon to give his explanation to the airstrike.

“If the governor’s explanation fails to convince us, we will use all peaceful means to protest. We will travel to the capital and will protest in front of president’s house,”

Local residents complained that this was not the first time a drone strike missed its target and killed civilians.

“The US drones previously killed many civilians in two incidents last year,” said Abdullah Al Sawwadi, a journalist and a head of a local human right organisation, referring to a deadly airstrike that killed nearly 14 people in September last year.

“The security officials in Sana’a kill people in Baydha to get financial incentives from America. Even if they [the dead] were Al Qaida, they should not have been killed in that way.” he said.

Security forces have battled armed Al Qaida militants in the same province. The militants shortly seized the town of Rada’a early last year. US drones have backed the government forces and killed dozens of suspected operatives, mostly from Dhahab tribe.

Yemen security officials falsely accused many people of being members of Al Qaida. Early this month, the official website of the ministry of defence was forced to remove a news story accusing a slain tribal leader of being a member of Al Qaida. The website issued an apology to his tribe.

Also in June, the same website reported that government forces in the province of Hadramout arrested Omar Ashur, a customs official, accusing him of being a senior member of Al Qaida. The man was shortly released from jail.