Evidence gathered by a human rights group has forced the Obama administration to investigate a deadly drone strike that targeted a wedding party in Yemen and killed a dozen people.
The December 12 drone strike carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command was said to be targeting "al-Qaeda militants" but instead left a trail of scorched civilian corpses including those of children.
"You cannot imagine how angry people are," local Yemeni journalist Nasser Al-Sane, who took video and photographic evidence of the strike, told NBC News. "They turned a wedding into a funeral."
In the aftermath of the strike, Baraa Shiban with the UK-based charity Reprieve led an investigation into the attack and found that the 12 people killed and others that were injured had no militant connections but were simply guests going to a wedding.
Claims by the U.S. that the strike was targeting suspected al Qaeda operative Shawqui Ali Ahmed al Badani don't stack up, Reprieve said in a statement, because Badani is from a distant region of Yemen with no connections to the villages affected by the strike.
"In bombing a wedding, the U.S. government has demonstrated that they either don’t know or don’t care who they were targeting. As a result, 12 innocent lives have been lost and many more destroyed," Reprieve investigator Shiban said in a statement.
"These continuing drone strikes don’t bolster anyone’s security—they only serve to alienate the Yemeni people and undermine the rule of law. We can only hope that the US administration’s internal investigation is robust and that it results in needed policy change and reparation for those affected,” Shiban stated.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that as many as 30 civilians were killed by U.S. drone strikes on Yemen in 2013.
The new year brings a continuation of U.S. drone attacks on the impoverished country, with a strike on Wednesday killing two people described by Reuters as "suspected al Qaeda militants."