The June 7 Amnesty report offers photographs of the wreckage of what it said were US-made cruise missiles and an unexploded cluster bomblet that were allegedly used during an attack on an Al Qaeda hideout in Abyan, a remote area of southern Yemen, in December. Amnesty said the photos were taken immediately following the attack, which killed 35 women and children as well as 14 militants just a week before the Christmas Day underwear bomber tried to carry out his mission.
“A military strike of this kind against alleged militants without an attempt to detain them is at the very least unlawful,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme in the report. “The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions.”
The Yemeni government denied the photographs’ validity. Yemeni Minister of Foreign Affairs Abu Bakr al-Qirbi said today that the US cooperation is limited to sharing intelligence, according to Yemen’s official news agency.
However, political analysts in and outside Yemen repeatedly asserted last fall that the US was providing military aid to help the Yemeni government battle Al Qaeda. Washington had sent a number of high-level political figures to the Yemen capital Sanaa, signaling an increased interest in the country. Gen. David Petraeus announced on Jan. 1 that the US would double its counterterrorism aid to Yemen, which totaled $67 million in 2009; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has since approved $150 million for 2010, underscoring US concerns that Al Qaeda is growing in Yemen.