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Yemeni Official Condemns US Drones

Rare criticism comes as Panetta reveals unmanned crafts are 'continuing tool' of US defense policy

Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Yemenis gathered around a destroyed motorcycle, the site of a US drone attack, near al-Sheher in December. (Photo: Stringer/ Reuters)

Yemeni human rights minister Hooria Mashhour voiced a rare public criticism by a government official as she condemned the US use of drones and urged for justice and a renewed regard for human rights. 

Though Mashhour did not explicitly mention the US or assert that any specific strike had killed civilians, when asked for her position on the use of unmanned drones she told Reuters:

We're committed to fighting terrorism but we're calling for changing the means and strategies...These means and strategies can be applied on the ground without harming civilians and without leading to human rights violations.

This is our idea, to do this through the judiciary. But the United States said that it's in an open war with them and they declared the U.S. as an enemy. The (U.S.) declared (militants) as enemies who could be targeted wherever they are found.

All we are calling for is justice and reliance on international regulations with regard to human rights and to be true to our commitment to our citizens in that they all deserve a fair trial.

According to Reuters, the rare government criticism "reflects growing public unease about the strikes" which have continued to "outrag[e] communities in targeted areas."

Also on Tuesday, another US drone strike has killed four people described as "suspected al Qaeda members"  in northern Yemen, adding to the growing body count in the fourth such attack in four days. 

Though never mentioning the unmanned killing crafts overtly (which is standard US drone practice), Defense Secretary Leon Panetta admitted that the highly controversial US drone usage would be a "continuing tool of national defense in the future."

Moments after the second swearing in of President Barack Obama, on Monday Panetta told ABC's Martha Raddatz that the US must continue to "use what operational skills we have to go after those that would attack our country."

"I think that's reality," he added. "We've done that in Pakistan. We're doing it in Yemen and elsewhere. And I think the reality is its going to be a continuing tool of national defense in the future."

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