New Approach to 'Targeting Killing'?: US Kills Scores in Yemen Strike

People gathered at the site of Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, in January. (Photo: Hani Mohammed/Associated Press)

New Approach to 'Targeting Killing'?: US Kills Scores in Yemen Strike

A U.S. airstrike on Tuesday killed scores of people in southern Yemen, an attack that one analyst says may represent a new approach to the administration's "targeted killing" program.

The Pentagon said in a statement that the target of the attack was an al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) training camp, adding, "our initial assessment is that dozens of AQAP fighters" were killed.

The statement gave not detail about potential civilian casualties.

According to Yemeni sources on Wednesday, the death toll was at least 50, with another 30 wounded, Reutersreports.

The deadly strike comes hours after two men carried out coordinated attacks striking the airport and a metro station in Brussels that left over 30 people dead.

The U.S.'s latest strike on Yemen would make it "the bloodiest attack there by Washington for more than five years," the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports, citing the December 2009 by a U.S. cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs that killed at least 55 people, the majority of whom were civilians.

The new strike comes the same month as a combination of U.S. drone and air strikes in Somalia killed 150 people labeled by the Pentagon as "fighters"--an unprecendented death toll in U.S. counter-terrorism efforts.

The pair of U.S. strikes this month may offer clues about a changing approach by the Obama administration to killing supposed terrorists.

The Guardianreported on Tuesday that Micah Zenko, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations ,

speculated that the two most recent strikes in Somalia and Yemen resembled conventional-war airstrikes more than they do "targeted killings", the White House's preferred term for its lethal counter-terrorism measures.

"The Somalia and Yemen strikes suggest that the White House has authorized a significant opening of the aperture to target gatherings of suspected terror groups, rather than named individuals who pose imminent threats," Zenko said.

Also this month, Saudi-led strikes in Yemen targeting "a militia gathering" killed over 100 people, including 22 children, according to the UN children's agency.

Meanwhile, as the Saudi-led coalition's bombing of Yemen nears its one-year point, human rights groups have called for an international arms embargo on Saudi Arabia.

"For the past year, governments that arm Saudi Arabia have rejected or downplayed compelling evidence that the coalition's airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen," said Philippe Bolopion, Human Rights Watch deputy global advocacy director. "By continuing to sell weapons to a known violator that has done little to curtail its abuses, the US, UK, and France risk being complicit in unlawful civilian deaths."

"How many more airstrikes need to wreak havoc on civilians before countries supplying aircraft and bombs to the coalition pull the plug?" Bolopion said.

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