According to reports from news agencies, on Tuesday a U.S. drone reportedly killed four Yemeni suspected al-Qaida militants. The targeted attack comes not only amid decisions this week by the U.K. and the U.S. to evacuate all non-essential personnel in Yemen, citing an “extremely high” threat level, but also within the context of an uptick in drone strikes in Yemen of late. As the A.P noted, “There has been a spike in apparent U.S. drone strikes against al-Qaida leaders. The attack Tuesday was the fourth in two weeks.”
While the debate goes on as to whether the U.S. government is simply amping up claims of al-Qaida threats in order to publicly justify surveillance programs operated by the National Security Agency, the AP reports that,”Yemeni officials have suggested al-Qaida threats to multiple potential targets in the Arabian Peninsula country in recent days, including foreign installations and government offices in the capital Sanaa as well as to the strategic Bab al-Mandeb straits at the entrance to the Red Sea to the south.”
It’s worth noting that a rise in the number of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen this year is believed by many Yemeni activists to have fomented anti-American sentiment. Indeed, during a U.S. Senate hearing on drone strikes earlier this year, Yemeni youth and human rights activist Baraa Shiban said that U.S. strikes served as “kerosene for insurgency.” ” He commented, “What does the U.S. mean to these people now? A blasted car, and gruesome footage of dead families?”
Following Tuesday’s drone attack, aimed at a vehicle believed to be carrying four AQAP militants, reports from local sources say that the strike “turned [the vehicle] into a ball of fire.” Via Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
This strike came amid fears of an impending terrorist attack and a heightened state of alert in the Middle East. The US revealed it had intercepted chatter that could have precipitated a terrorist attack. On August 4 the US shut 19 embassies in the Middle East and North Africa.The UK and other European countries shut their Yemen missions. AQAP was reportedly most likely to launch an attack – three unnamed sources told CNN the group was in the final stages of launching an attack. It had also emerged senior AQAP militant Nasir al Wuhayshi had been made al Qaeda second-in-command. The US reportedly had intercepted communication between al-Qaida leader Ayman al Zawahiri and Yemen – most likely transmitted by courier according to CNN.