Protesters in Yemen expressed outrage Friday over a recent spike in US drone attacks which killed, according to witnesses, many civilian bystanders in addition to the likely targets.
Dozens of protesters in the southern town of Redaa staged a sit-in at a government administration building in reaction to at least five deadly attacks in the last ten days.
"If the authorities don't stop the American attacks then we will occupy the government institutions in the town," one protester told Reuters.
The southern region has become a continual and growing target for US drone missiles. Redaa, the site of the most recent strike, was also the scene of a drone strike in September that resulted in the death of at least 11 civilians, including three children.
On Thursday, a missile killed at least three people in Redaa. Local sources say the strike came from a US drone, though neither the Yemen or US government—per government policy—will confirm or deny such attacks.
An unnamed local Yemeni official told Reuters that those killed included a "senior al-Qaeda figure" and two "companions"; however, as the Washington Post recently reported, US drone strikes commonly take the lives of innocent civilians while US and Yemen officials—while offering no evidence—often claim the victims are militants.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that US drone strikes rose sharply in Yemen in 2012, saying a major covert US military offensive began there in March 2012.
"US or Yemeni officials often claim responsibility when senior militants are killed. In contrast there are rarely admissions of responsibility when civilians die in US airstrikes, as between 18 and 58 did in 2012. Only in December – three months after a dozen civilians died in Rada’a [sic] – did anonymous US officials admit that an American drone or plane had carried out an attack," TBIJ reports.
Additionally, as US and Yemen government officials seem to be working together in the attacks, other regional interests may also be at work in the skies over Yemen. According to the London Times, at least, Saudi Arabia may be providing fighter jets to assist the United States with its attacks in the region.
The Times reports, citing an anonymous US intelligence source, that "some of the so-called drone missions are actually Saudi Air Force missions".
Regardless of which government carried out any particular strike, the lives of innocent civilians are increasingly at risk due to covert foreign powers and their seemingly indiscriminate killings. US forces alone have killed up to 170 civilians since 2002, according to research by TBIJ.