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Yemen probes civilian deaths in apparent US drone strike

yemenSANAA: Yemeni authorities have sent tribal representatives to investigate civilian deaths in an apparent US drone strike targeting an Al-Qaeda commander, one of them told AFP on Tuesday.

Three women and a child were among 14 people killed in Sunday's strike near the town of Radaa, 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of Sanaa, targeting Al-Qaeda's Abdelrauf al-Dahab who escaped unharmed. local officials said.

Initial reports said the male dead were Al-Qaeda militants but other sources said they were fellow tribesmen of Dahab unnconnected to the jihadist network.

"We have been sent by the government to establish the reasons for the error," delegation member Tawfic al-Jahmi said.

The suspected drone fired two rockets, one of which missed the vehicle carrying Dahab and the second of which hit a following minibus killing all those inside.

Angry relatives of the dead blocked the main road linking Radaa to the town of Dhammar and the capital beyond.

Jahmi said his delegation had received an undertaking to reopen the highway in return for a promise of 20 million rials (nearly 100,000 dollars) in compensation.

The Common Forum bloc of former opposition groups now in the national unity government in Sanaa condemned the "killing of civilians by a drone."

The United States is the only country that has drones in the region and in recent months has been carrying out strikes on Al-Qaeda targets in the south and east of the country.

Dahab is the brother of Tareq al-Dahab, who led Al-Qaeda fighters in a January raid in which they overran Radaa, the closest they have reached to the capital. The militants abandoned the city later the same month, bowing to tribal pressure.

Tareq Dahab was killed in February.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula took advantage of the weakness of the central government during last year's protests against ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh to expand its presence in the impoverished country.

Al-Qaeda loyalists have carried out a spate of deadly attacks against Yemeni security forces and their militia allies since Saleh's successor President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi came to power pledging to crush the militants.

In an all-out offensive launched in May, the army retook a string of towns in Abyan province in the south.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012


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