A sixth grade Yemeni boy was among the three victims killed by a U.S. drone strike on Monday, a human rights group has said.
The alleged CIA strike, which marked the first reported U.S. drone strike in Yemen this year, came just two days after U.S. military officials announced that the drone campaign would not by deterred by ongoing unrest in the region.
According to reports, the three victims were killed while traveling in a vehicle in central-southern Yemen near the Hareeb, Shabwa-Mareb border.
Though the deceased were reportedly members of the local militant group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), local human rights organization Yemeni National Organisation for Drone Victims (NODV) confirmed to Reuters that one of the victims, Mohammed Saleh Qayed Taeiman, was a child. "He was in sixth grade, so his age was between about 11-13 years old," said NODV head Mohammed al-Qawli. He described him as "a normal kid."
NODV said that Taeiman's 65-year-old father, Saleh Qayed Taeiman, died along with one of his sons called Jalal, 16, in the 2011 drone strike. A third brother, 17-year-old Ezz el-Deen, survived another drone strike, but still has shrapnel in his body, NODV said.
NODV said that one of the other victims in Monday's strike was identified as Abdallah Khaled Aziz al-Zindani, a farm worker married to a woman from the Taeiman clan, which was due to meet with other tribes in the area to discuss their response.
Earlier, Baraa Shiban, Yemen-based project coordinator with the international human rights organization Reprieve, also offered details about the age of the youngest victim in a series of posts on Twitter.
One of the dead is Moh Tuaiman, born in 2001, AKA "Child", was at his 6th Primary class #Yemen— Baraa Shiban (@BShtwtr) January 26, 2015
What was he doing there? That's not a question, nor an excuse to kill a child #Yemen— Baraa Shiban (@BShtwtr) January 26, 2015
And Yemeni journalist Hafez Albukari shared this photograph purportedly of the strike aftermath.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama defended his ongoing drone campaign in Yemen, saying: "It is not neat and it is not simple, but it is the best option that we have." The Monday strike was the first since the U.S.-allied Yemeni President Abed Mansour Hadi and his cabinet were forced to resign by Houthi rebels, who had seized control of the capital Sana'a.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that as many as 85 confirmed U.S. drone strikes in Yemen have killed up to 544 people since 2002. However, the group notes as many as one hundred additional drone strikes may have occurred during that time.