American War Crimes: Sixty years on, CIA finally admits role in Iran coup
- View SourceSixty years on, CIA finally admits role in Iran coup
Sixty years on, declassified documents have finally revealed that the agency was behind the 1953 coup – as Iranians long suspected
TIM WALKER Author Biography TUESDAY 20 AUGUST 2013
The events of 19 August 1953 have cast a long shadow over modern Iran and its political rivals.
Generations of Iranians have blamed the US intelligence agency and its British partners for planning and executing the coup that overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, and two US presidents – Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have publicly owned up to their nation’s involvement.
But yesterday, precisely 60 years on, the CIA finally formally acknowledged its own role in a declassified document published by the independent National Security Archive research institute at George Washington University in Washington, DC. The confession comes in an extract from “The Battle for Iran”, an internal CIA report written by an in-house historian, which dates back to the mid-1970s. The crucial excerpt reads: “The military coup that overthrew Mosadeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of US foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government.”
The CIA’s admission arrives at an inconvenient moment for Iran’s new moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, who came to power in June promising a break from the adversarial foreign policy style of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani, who won a landslide election victory, recently appointed Iran’s former UN envoy Mohammad Javad Zarif to be his foreign minister; Zarif is said to have been at the heart of negotiations with the US to try to break the diplomatic deadlock between the two countries, which arguably stems from the events of 1953.
Mossadegh’s overthrow led to 26 years of authoritarian rule under the Shah, Mohammad-Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was backed by the US but ultimately overthrown himself in the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The anti-Americanism generated by the coup also inspired the students who seized the US Embassy in Tehran during the 1979 revolution. More recently, the coup was invoked by President Ahmadinejad during the dispute over his country’s nuclear programme; Ahmadinejad demanded an apology for 1953.
The declassified account of the coup begins by relating the political backdrop to the CIA’s intervention. Mossadegh had been elected prime minister in 1951. One of his first acts was to nationalise the country’s oil industry, which at the time was controlled by the British-owned Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – later renamed BP. The British government, dismayed by the potential loss of its most precious foreign asset, called for a worldwide boycott of Iranian oil.
According to “The Battle for Iran”, Mossadegh “had become so committed to the ideals of nationalism that he did things that could not have conceivably helped his people… In refusing to bargain… with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, he was in fact defying the professional politicians of the British government. These leaders believed, with good reason, that cheap oil for Britain and high profits for the company were vital to their national interests.”
The US, meanwhile, believed Mossadegh’s actions left Iran “open to Soviet aggression” just as the Cold War was escalating. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Dwight D Eisenhower approved the coup, which was codenamed “TPAJAX” by the CIA, but known to British intelligence as “Operation Boot”. The mission began by promoting anti-Mossadegh propaganda, bribing members of the Iranian parliament, and enlisting the Shah to take part.
An attempt to arrest Mossadegh on the evening of 15 August failed, but on 19 August a mob paid by the CIA rioted in Tehran, and then marched on the Prime Minister’s residence. According to Donald N Wilber, one of the planners of the coup, who wrote his own account shortly afterwards: “The Army very soon joined the pro-Shah movement and by noon that day it was clear that Tehran, as well as certain provincial areas, were controlled by pro-Shah street groups and Army units… By the end of 19 August… members of the Mossadeq government were either in hiding or were incarcerated.”
According to Wilber, within days the CIA gave the new regime $5m to help provide stability. Many of Mossadegh’s supporters were imprisoned or executed. As many as 800 people may have been killed. Mossadegh was convicted of treason and sentenced to three years in jail; he spent the rest of his life under house arrest and died in 1967.
Speaking in Cairo in 2009, President Barack Obama acknowledged the role of the US in the coup, saying, “In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government.”
Yet the CIA has waited until now to openly admit its involvement, not least in order to maintain good relations with the British secret services, which have always been reluctant to reveal their part in Mossadegh’s ousting – even though the episode has long been public knowledge.
The National Security Archive’s Deputy Director Malcolm Byrne, the editor responsible for analysing the declassified documents, said the agency ought to release any remaining records relating to the period. “There is no longer good reason to keep secrets about such a critical episode in our recent past,” Byrne said. “The basic facts are widely known to every school child in Iran. Suppressing the details only distorts the history, and feeds into myth-making on all sides.”
Yemeni journalist who reported US missile strike is released from jail
Abdulelah Haider Shaye, imprisoned on charges of being an al-Qaida operative, reportedly had pardon revoked by US request
Tom McCarthy in New York
theguardian.com, Tuesday 23 July 2013 20.47 BST
A Yemeni journalist who was kept in prison for years at the apparent request of the Obama administration has been released in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a, according to local reports.
Abdulelah Haider Shaye was imprisoned in 2010, after reporting that an attack on a suspected al-Qaida training camp in southern Yemen for which the Yemeni government claimed responsibility had actually been carried out by the United States. Shaye had visited the site and discovered pieces of cruise missiles and cluster bombs not found in Yemen's arsenal, according to a Jeremy Scahill dispatch in the Nation.
Shaye was arrested in August 2010 and charged, the following month, with being an al-Qaida operative himself. He was known for his ability to make contacts with extremist groups, skills that led to regular work reporting for western media outlets such as ABC News and the New York Times. At his trial, his reporting work was marshaled as evidence of terrorist ties. In January 2011, he was sentenced to a five-year term.
The charges against Shaye provoked an outcry among tribal leaders, human-rights activists and fellow journalists. Bowing to the pressure, then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh pardoned Shaye weeks after his sentencing. But in a February 2011 phone call with Saleh, President Barack Obama "expressed his concern over the release" of Shaye. The pardon was revoked.
President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi reversed that decision in May, issuing an order to release Shaye "soon", according to the London Times correspondent Iona Craig, who covered the case extensively. "Soon" turned out to mean two months.
As a condition of his release, Shaye is required to stay in Sana'a for two years, according to local reports. A photograph circulating on Twitter showed him smiling after nearly three years of detention.
Former Abu Ghraib prisoner cannot forget
Iraqi who suffered psychological and physical abuse in US-run prison tells his story.
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2013 07:16
Abu Ghraib has become synonymous with one of the most notorious chapters of the war in Iraq.
Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners in the US-run prison suffered psychological, physical and sexual abuse that came to light in 2004.
Two of the US army soldiers involved were given prison terms, but no officer was ever jailed. Most of the victims of the abuse have never been compensated.
Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf has the story of one of those prisoners from Baghdad.
How the CIA ‘un-tortured’ 9/11 bomber Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in strange tale of the al-Qa'ida vacuum cleaner
Revealed: The extraordinary extent of efforts to rehabilitate mastermind behind terror attacks
RUPERT CORNWELL Author Biography WASHINGTON FRIDAY 12 JULY 2013
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was brutally interrogated countless times by the CIA following his capture in 2003. But while the methods the CIA used to break down their prisoner were well-worn, the way in which they pieced him back together was not. They did so by allowing one of the world’s most feared terrorists to design his own vacuum cleaner.
Mohammed’s interest in the topic, according to an extraordinary tale pieced together by the Associated Press, seems to have begun in the basement of a CIA secret prison in Romania, where he had been transferred after being tortured (including being waterboarded no less than 183 times) at a similar site in Poland, following his capture in Pakistan.
In his new jail, Mohammed – who in more innocent days took a degree in mechanical engineering at a US university – asked his captors a strange favour: would they let him design a vacuum cleaner? And the word from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, was, yes.
Having extracted a confession and everything else it could by duress, the agency’s priority now was to keep their star prisoner sane. Perhaps in calmer circumstances he might have further, less time-sensitive information to divulge. And who could say, he might even one day testify at a trial, at which he would need to appear a credible and uncoerced witness.
In other words, his handlers had to repair the psychological damage inflicted by the waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” to which he was subjected immediately after being captured. Apparently they succeeded, for military records at Guantanamo suggest Mohammed is in good health.
To get Mohammed back to something near normal, the CIA used a variety of carrots once it had moved him to the new facility near Bucharest, code-named “Britelite”. One was the permission to design a vacuum cleaner, with the aid of blueprints from the internet. Another was Snickers chocolate bars, doled out as rewards for tit-bits of information about his former employers, al-Qa’ida.
The architect of the World Trade Center attacks apparently also enjoyed the Harry Potter books. Gradually, his self-esteem grew. Britelite had a debriefing room where Mohammed held what he liked to call “office hours,” lecturing his captors about his childhood, his family and his path to jihad and al-Qa’ida. Tea and biscuits were served at these occasions.
But details of a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed domestic appliance are shrouded in mystery.
After the Romanian prison was closed in 2006, Mohammed was transferred to Guantanamo Bay, and Jason Wright, his current military lawyer told AP he was not allowed to discuss the matter: “It sounds ridiculous, but confirming or denying the very existence of a vacuum cleaner design…. would apparently expose US citizens to exceptionally grave danger.”
The CIA was no more forthcoming. In a letter to the AP, it said that such records, “should they exist,” would be among the agency’s operational files, a top-secret category exempt from ever being released to the public.
Guantánamo guards 'forcing inmates to stay awake'
Last British resident Shaker Aamer claims guards are slamming doors at night to deprive prisoners of sleep
The Observer, Sunday 7 July 2013
Detainees inside the US camp at Guantánamo Bay are being exposed to increasingly brutal sleep deprivation techniques with doors outside inmates' cells allegedly being slammed by guards up to 300 times a night.
According to Shaker Aamer, the last British resident inside the camp, one guard had told him that he was following orders by making as much noise as possible while detainees – many on hunger strike – tried to sleep.
Aamer, 46, in a letter written on Thursday, said: "He admitted to me: 'It's my orders to keep going up and down all night tonight'. They crashed the doors maybe 250 to 300 times in the night, keeping us awake, and continued until around 9am – then quiet."
One theory is that the escalation in disruptive behaviour is part of the camp's preparation for force-feeding of detainees during Ramadan.
US authorities have claimed that they intend to force-feed only during the night in order to avoid breaking the daytime fast which is the central feature of Ramadan.
However they have yet to say how they will implement night feeding amid concern that the prison may become "a veritable force-feeding factory" during the religious period.
Lawyers for detainees say that dozens of restraint chairs and hundreds of staff might be needed to carry out the force-feeding of 45 inmates in the 10 hours between sunset and sunrise, with each person requiring an hour of feeding time and four hours of total observation time.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of Reprieve, who spent last week inside Guantánamo Bay, said: "It's baffling that the US military is trying so hard to crush the hunger strike, when it could end it tomorrow by transferring cleared prisoners.
"It's especially disgusting that the JTF-GTMO [Joint Task Force Guantánamo] spokesperson calls night-time force-feeding in Ramadan a privilege, not a right."
Aamer, in a letter to Stafford Smith, his lawyer, also explained that he had also been affronted on other religious grounds.
Aamer, whose family live in south London, explained how he had kept his Qur'an in a plastic bag bag for more than three years to protect it from dirt, water and to stop guards from touching it.
However Aamer said that officials had told him that he had to hand back the plastic bag.
"I told them I can't keep my Qur'an without protecting it from MPs [military guards] and other damage, so they must, if they had to, take both the bag and the Qur'an.
"In the end they refused to let me have the bag and I had to give up my Qur'an. So they called the Muslim translator and took the Qur'an from me. That was the end of another day in this terrible place."
Guantánamo hunger strike: US to force-feed detainees during Ramadan
Government says feedings provide 'essential nutritional and medical care' and will not interfere with religious observance
Karen McVeigh in New York
theguardian.com, Wednesday 3 July 2013 22.18 BST
The US government has refused to stop force-feeding detainees on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay during the holy month of Ramadan.
In court papers rejecting a petition by four of more than 100 detainees said to be refusing food, the US said the feedings provided "essential nutritional and medical care" and would not interfere with religious observance of Ramadan, which begins on Monday.
Observant Muslims fast daily from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan. Lawyers for President Obama also said that the "public interest lies with maintaining the status quo".
Last month, Obama gave a speech in which he promised to work towards closing the base, and to allow the release of many of the 86 prisoners held there who have been cleared for transfer. He described the camp as a moral problem for the nation that had to be solved.
The feeding of detainees, via neogastric tube, will be carried out by the facility "before dusk and after sunset in order to accommodate their religious practices", they said, "absent any unforeseen emergency or operational issues".
Colonel Greg Julian, director of public affairs for US southern command, said: "We do not force-feed observant Muslims during daylight hours during Ramadan. These policies have been in place for years, and are consistent with our mission to safely detain while supporting the religious practices of those in US custody. If told to do differently, we will do so."
Government lawyers said that enteral or force feeding is authorised by federal regulations when a prisoner's life or permanent health is in danger, and is related to "preserving order security and discipline within the detention facility", according to court documents in the case.
US government lawyers also argued that the detainees bringing the case, Shaker Aamer, Nabil Hadjarab, Ahmed Belbacha and Abu Wa'el Dhiab, are not "persons" under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and are therefore not protected under it.
A group of detainees began a hunger strike in February this year, in protest at their detention. Some have been detained without trial for more than a decade. It also highlights Obama's failure to deliver a 2008 campaign pledge to close the camp.
Aamar, who has spent 11 years without trial at the camp, despite being twice cleared for release, recently spoke of increasingly brutal tactics being used in an attempt to break the strike.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization in the US, reiterated its call on Monday for the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to stop.
Lawyers for the detainees described the tube feeding as "barbaric" and hit out at the failure of the US government to provide a specific guarantee that no feeding would happen during the day.
Cori Crider, counsel for the men and strategy director at Reprieve, said: "These are more weasel words from the Obama administration – they say they have 'no plans' to force-feed during the day in Ramadan, but give no guarantees. Meanwhile, on the eve of Independence Day, they ride rough-shod over the fundamental right of people to choose what goes into their bodies. "
Jon Eisenberg, US counsel for the men, said: "The Obama administration argues here that 'the public interest lies with maintaining the status quo'. The status quo is that these men are being held indefinitely without any sort of trial, even though they were cleared for release years ago."
"Consider the irony of the Obama administration arguing here that the Guantánamo Bay detainees are not 'persons' within the scope of US law guaranteeing religious freedom, in a post-Citizens United world where even corporations are endowed with legal personhood."
There are 166 detainees at Guantanamo, 106 of them are on hunger strike. Of those, 45 of them are being fed through tubes directly into the stomach, according to the court papers.
In its court filing, the US Department of Justice also denied claims that it was giving the drug Reglan to the detainees.
American Muslim sues FBI, saying he was tortured at their behest in Mideast
Published May 31, 2013
PORTLAND, Ore. – An American Muslim who says he was beaten with batons by prison interrogators while held in solitary confinement overseas for more than three months has sued the FBI and State Department, claiming the torture was done at their behest.
The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Oregon seeks $30 million and several injunctions against the U.S. government concerning its treatment of citizens overseas.
Yonas Fikre said he was held for 106 days in the United Arab Emirates after refusing to cooperate with Portland, Ore.,-based FBI agents in an interview in Sudan. The State Department has confirmed previously that Fikre was held in Abu Dhabi "on unspecified charges," but said he was visited by State Department officials and showed no signs of mistreatment.
Fikre said the FBI agents named in the suit wanted him to become an informant at Portland's largest mosque, Masjid As-Saber, and were angered when he refused. He said interrogators in Abu Dhabi later used information Fikre had given to the FBI agents in his interrogation.
Fikre said he told his interrogators that many of their questions were the same ones he had been asked during his FBI interview.
"(Fikre) thus inquired whether his confinement and mistreatment was at the request of the FBI," according to the lawsuit. "On each such occasion, the interrogators responded by beating plaintiff severely."
Two other Oregon Muslims who worship at the mosque have also alleged they were held overseas and were asked to become informants by Portland-based FBI agents. Both men have returned to Oregon.
The mosque has come under scrutiny before. Mohamed Osman Mohamud, a Somali American convicted of plotting to set off a bomb in downtown Portland in 2010, occasionally worshipped there. A decade ago, seven Muslims with ties to the mosque were arrested following a failed effort to enter Afghanistan and fight U.S. forces.
Named in Fikre's suit are Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State John Kerry, FBI Director Robert Mueller, FBI Terrorism Screening Center director Timothy Healy and the two Portland-based agents, David Noordeloos and Jason Dundas.
Fikre, a Sudanese man of Eritrean descent, came to Portland in 2006 and worked for a cellphone company for a period. In 2009, he decided to open an electronics retail business in Sudan. His wife remained in Portland.
In April 2010, a man claiming to be a U.S. embassy official in Sudan asked Fikre to come to "a luncheon the following day in order to discuss how Americans might stay safe during a period of political turmoil in Sudan," according to the suit.
Instead, Fikre said he went through embassy security and was met by the FBI agents, Dundas and Noordeloos, in a small room. Fikre said he was denied representation by an attorney. He believed he was not permitted to leave, though he didn't actually try to stand and leave.
The suit includes a text copy of a letter that Fikre claims was sent to him by Noordeloos.
"While we hope to get your side of issues we keep hearing about, the choice is yours to make. The time to help yourself is now." The letter, as represented by Fikre, is signed "Dave Noordeloos."
Fikre believed he was being followed by Sudanese secret police, and acquaintances told him they had been questioned about his activities. He left Sudan in June 2010 and arrived in the United Arab Emirates in September 2010, where he obtained a residency permit.
Less than a year later, in June 2011, men "invaded" his house in Abu Dhabi, blindfolded him and took him to a windowless cell.
He was questioned for hours every day in English, only able to see the shoes and pants of his captors. The questions focused on who had a "jihad mentality" at the mosque, what its imam discussed in public and private and how the mosque conducted fundraising.
Attorney Tom Nelson, who filed the suit Thursday, said he learned of Fikre's detention in late June 2011 and contacted the offices of U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who passed on his concerns to the State Department.
In late July 2011, two months into his detention, Fikre said he was visited by a member of the State Department. Before the meeting, Fikre said he was instructed not to talk about his treatment to the visiting consular official, "lest he be beaten still more severely."
Despite efforts to alert the visiting State Department official — Fikre said he used facial expressions, but they were either misunderstood or ignored — Fikre said he remained imprisoned for another month.
His release came on Sept. 4, 2011. He had been placed on the U.S. no-fly list, and could not return to Oregon, so went instead to Sweden.
He gave a news conference on April 18, 2012, about his detention. On May 1, 2012, he was indicted in federal court in California for "conspiracy to structure" 2010 monetary transfers from his family to him in the United Arab Emirates — money transfers the government says were set up to avoid U.S. reporting requirements.
Fikre believes the indictment was a response to his decision to go public.
Contact reporter Nigel Duara at https://twitter.com/nigelduara
US 'should hand over footage of drone strikes or face UN inquiry'
The UN special rapporteur on human rights to urge establishing a mechanism to investigate such killings
TERRI JUDD Author Biography MONDAY 20 AUGUST 2012
The US must open itself to an independent investigation into its use of drone strikes or the United Nations will be forced to step in, Ben Emmerson QC said yesterday.
His comments came as Pakistani officials said that a US drone strike had killed at least four militants after targeting their vehicles in North Waziristan on Sunday. Attacks by American unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are deeply unpopular in the country, which claims they violate its sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment.
Only last week cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan vowed to defy Taliban threats to attend a rally in Pakistan's tribal areas aimed at highlighting the human cost of US drone strikes.
Mr Emmerson, a leading London barrister and UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism, said America is facing mounting global pressure over its use of UAVs and he is preparing a report for the next session of the Human Rights Council in March. The issue, he insists, will “remain at the top of the UN political agenda until some consensus and transparency has been achieved”.
American UAV strikes, most notably in Pakistan and Yemen, have shot up since Barrack Obama came to power. Estimates state that while there were 52 such strikes during George W Bush's time, this number has risen to 282 over the past three and a half years, with officials justifying it has international “self defence” against a stateless enemy.
Mr Emmerson said it was time for the US to open itself up to scrutiny as to the legality of such attacks. While it remains nigh on impossible for observers to establish the truth on the ground in many of areas, each strike is visually recorded and videos could be passed to independent assessors, he explained.
“We can't make a decision on whether it is lawful or unlawful if we do not have the data. The recommendation I have made is that users of targeted killing technology should be required to subject themselves, in the case of each and every death, to impartial investigation. If they do not establish a mechanism to do so, it will be my recommendation that the UN should put the mechanisms in place through the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and the Office of the High Commissioner”, he said.
He continued: “The Obama administration continues formally to adopt the position that it will neither confirm nor deny the existence of the drone program, whilst allowing senior officials to give public justifications of its supposed legality in personal lectures and interviews. In reality the administration is holding its finger in the dam of public accountability. There are now a large number of law suits, in different parts of the world, including in the UK, Pakistan and in the US itself, through which pressure for investigation and accountability is building.”
Recently Wajid Shamsui Hasan, Pakistani High Commissioner, said the US strikes “violated” his country and encouraged extremism while last month Navi Pillay, UN Commissioner on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict said she was “seriously concerned” by reports of civilian deaths in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.
Mr Khan, who heads the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI) intends to join a rally in Miranshah, North Waziristan, next month to protest against the US's policy of using drones to target suspected militants, when civilians get caught in the crossfire.
“During the last session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in June many states, including Russia, China and Pakistan called for an investigation into the use of drone strikes as a means of targeted killing. I was asked by these states to bring forward proposals on this issue and I am working closely on the subject of drones with Christof Heyns the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary execution. The issue is moving rapidly up the international agenda,” explained Mr Emmerson, who has called for the “end to the conspiracy of silence”.
Last month, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a law suit against senior CIA and military officials over the killing of three Yemeni-American citizens, including a 16-year-old boy. The first hit in September 2011 killed the extremist imam Anwar Al-Aulaqi and alleged al-Qa'ida propagandist Samir Khan.
“Two weeks later, on October 14, US drone strikes killed Anwar Al-Aulaqi's son, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi as he was eating dinner with his teenage cousin at an open-air restaurant,” said the CCR, claiming that the “escalated and expanded” use of drone strikes since the Obama administration came to power had killed hundreds of civilians amongst the estimated 2,500 deaths.
In May, White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan defended the targeted killings of al-Qa'ida suspects as effective tool to minimise civilian casualties, likening the use of drones to laser surgery eliminating “the cancerous tumour called an al-Qa'ida terrorist”.
A key aspect of any investigation would be whether strikes are taking place within a theatre of war such as Afghanistan or on sovereign territories outside the conflict zone despite US assertions that they are conducting a global war against a stateless enemy.
More than 50 countries worldwide now have the use of UAVs. The most dynamic sector in the aviation industry is estimated to be worth £4 billion a year with millions being poured into researching more sophisticated varieties such as autonomous drones that do not even require remote pilots.
The RAF's Predator MQ-9 Reapers, launched from Kandahar but piloted from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada by 39 Squadron, are used for surveillance in Afghanistan.
MoD figures from May state that UK drones had flown a total of 34,750 hours and fired 281 missiles and laser-guided bombs.
'Bye-bye, Miss American Pie' – then US helicopter appears to fire on Afghans
Video released on internet appears to show US helicopter crew singing before blasting Afghans with a missile
Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul
theguardian.com, Friday 6 July 2012 16.22 BST
A video has surfaced online that appears to show a US helicopter crew singing "Bye-bye Miss American Pie" before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire missile.
The footage comes in the wake of a string of damaging videos and pictures showing US forces in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead insurgents, and posing with the remains of suicide bombers and civilians killed for sport by a group of rogue soldiers.
If it is proved to be authentic, it could further undermine the image of foreign forces in a country where there is already deep resentment owing to civilian deaths and a perception among many Afghans that US troops lack respect for Afghan culture and people.
The posting says the video was recorded in Wardak province, which lies south-west of the capital, Kabul, in September 2009. The caption refers sarcastically to a group of "innocent farmers planting poppy seeds in the middle of the road".
Men spotted digging in Afghan roads by the US or other foreign forces are likely to fall under suspicion that they are insurgents burying home-made bombs, one of the Taliban's main weapons.
If the US military is confident it has identified them as insurgents, bombs are sometimes used to kill them, although Afghan officials have accused troops in the past of killing farmers and people working on irrigation ditches when they thought they were targeting people laying bombs.
In the video, after the bomb appears to hit the group, survivors scatter, and the helicopter aims machine gun fire at them.
"We're aware of the video that was posted that appears to be a recording of an Isaf aircraft engagement in Wardak," said Martin Crighton, a spokesman for the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in Afghanistan.
"Unfortunately the video does not appear to have a date stamp on it to allow us to put it in an immediate context. However any impression of impropriety on the video is not representative of the professional service members who make up the Isaf coalition."
In April, the Los Angeles Times published pictures that appeared to show American soldiers posing with the bodies of dead Afghans in the south of the country, and the US president, Barack Obama, called for an investigation.
That came after several damaging months for the US military in Afghanistan that heavily undermined trust in their conduct and motives.
In March a US soldier killed 16 civilians on a solo night-time shooting rampage. Deadly violence erupted in February over the burning of copies of the Qur'an by US troops. In January a video surfaced of marines apparently urinating on Taliban corpses, and last year a group were tried for murdering three Afghan civilians for sport.
White House says drone strikes have killed four US citizens
Eric Holder acknowledges previously classified details of drone program and says US deliberately targeted Anwar al-Awlaki, who died in Yemen in 2011
Dan Roberts in Washington
theguardian.com, Thursday 23 May 2013 14.20 BST
The White House has launched a new effort to draw a line under its controversial drone strike policy by admitting for the first time that four American citizens were among those killed by its covert attacks in Yemen and Pakistan since 2009.
In a letter to congressional leaders sent on Wednesday, attorney general Eric Holder acknowledged previously classified details of the drone attacks and promised to brief them on a new US doctrine for sanctioning such targeted killings in future.
Holder claimed one of the US citizens killed, Anwar al-Awlaki, was chief of external operations for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) and had been involved in plots to blow up airplanes over US soil. However, Holder said three others killed by drones – Samir Khan, Abdul Rahman Anwar al-Awlaki and Jude Kenan – were not "specifically targeted". The second of these victims, Anwar al-Awlaki's son, is said by campaigners to have been 16 when he died in Yemen in 2011.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 240 and 347 people have been killed in total by confirmed US drone strikes in Yemen since 2002, with a further 2,541 to 3,533 killed by CIA drones in Pakistan.
Amid mounting concern that the policy has harmed US interests overseas, President Obama is expected to give a major speech on his counter-terrorism strategy at the National Defense University in Washington on Thursday, marking the start of a concerted effort to better justify and explain the killings.
"The president will soon be speaking publicly in greater detail about our counterterrorism operations and the legal and policy framework," Holder told 22 senior members of Congress in Wednesday's letter.
"This week the president approved a document that institutionalises the administration's exacting standards and processes for reviewing and approving operations to capture or use lethal force against terrorist targets outside the United States and areas of active hostilities."
The attorney general said this document would remain classified, but relevant congressional committees would be briefed on its contents. No further details were given of other killings in the five-page letter.
Earlier, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama would also outline his renewed attempt to shut the Guantánamo Bay detention centre in the speech and seek to explain why previous efforts had failed.
After a week in which Obama has been accused of failing to deal openly with crises such as the the targeting of Tea Party activists by the Internal Revenue Service, the White House hope it can defuse concern over drones and Guantánamo by being more transparent about its objectives.
"These are matters that … he believes are subject to legitimate questions, and that these are issue areas he believes we need to be as transparent as possible about." said Carney. "And I think you'll see that reflected in his remarks tomorrow."
The White House says Thursday's speech will cover "broad counter-terrorism policy, including military, diplomatic, intelligence, and legal efforts".
"[Obama] will review the state of the threats that we face, particularly as the al-Qaida core has weakened but new dangers have emerged," it added. "He will discuss the policy and legal framework under which we take action against terrorist threats, including the use of drones.
"He will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay. And he will frame the future of our efforts against al Qaeda, its affiliates and its adherents."
Greater transparency is unlikely to satisfy critics of the drone strikes alone, but the White House has also been keen to stress in recent days that the number of attacks has fallen significantly since Obama's first term and Thursday's speech may mark a turning point in the use of such tactics by the US.
Afghan children killed in 'NATO airstrike'
President Hamid Karzai denounces reported death of 11 children by NATO forces in Kunar province and orders inquiry.
Last Modified: 08 Apr 2013 07:42
At least 11 children have reportedly been killed in a NATO airstrike in Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan.
The children were killed during a joint Afghan-NATO operation against Taliban fighters in the Shigal district of restive Kunar province bordering Pakistan late on Saturday, according to Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.
Karzai "strongly condemned the ISAF air strike in Kunar that killed 11 children", in a statement issued by his office.
"The president, while condemning the use of civilians as shields by the Taliban, denounced any kind of operations that cause civilian deaths," the statement said.
The president has also ordered a government investigation into the killings.
There were conflicting figures of the death toll, but Karzai's office later said 11 people were killed - all of them children - and six women were wounded.
Wasifullah Wasifi, the spokesman for the Kunar governor, confirmed the attack to Al Jazeera.
"We confirm a raid done by Afghanistan's intelligence service in the district of Shigal. In this raid, the security forces killed 20 Taliban in which 10 of them are very senior Taliban members," he told Al Jazeera.
The interior ministry said in a statement the attack by coalition forces killed six Taliban including two senior commanders.
A spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed the strike and said the coalition was gathering information to determine what happened.
Al Jazeera's Imtiaz Tyab, reporting from the capital, Kabul, said that joint forces entered houses in Shigal village in the early hours of Sunday and carried out raids in addition to the air strikes.
"Al Jazeera has contacted NATO. We were told by a spokesperson that they were aware of the operation and that they have heard of some civilians who may have been injured in this strike," our correspondent said.
Captain Luca Carniel, an ISAF spokesman, said ISAF had provided air support during the operation, but he said there had been no ISAF troops on the ground. The air strike had been requested by coalition forces, not their Afghan allies, he said.
Civilian deaths have been one of the most contentious issues in the 11-year campaign against Taliban fighters, provoking harsh criticism from the Afghan president and angry public protests.
After an air strike killed 10 civilians, mostly women and children, in February, Karzai banned Afghan security forces from calling in NATO air strikes.
The latest strike came a day after at least five Americans, including a young female diplomat, were killed in two Taliban attacks in the country's east and south.
A suicide car bomber struck a NATO convoy in the southern province of Zabul on Saturday, killing three US soldiers and two civilians, one of whom was a female US diplomat.
CIA must admit existence of drone programme, appeals court rules
US court rules that CIA must give fuller response to ACLU's lawsuit seeking access to records on drone attacks
theguardian.com, Friday 15 March 2013 16.56 GMT
A US appeals court has ruled that the CIA must give a fuller response to a lawsuit seeking the spy agency's records on drone attacks.
The court of appeals for the District of Columbia circuit said that the CIA's claim that it could neither confirm nor deny whether it has any drone records was inadequate, because the government, including Barack Obama himself, has clearly acknowledged a drone programme.
However, the American Civil Liberties Union is likely a long way from getting access to CIA records, the Guardian reports.
Its lawsuit now heads back to a trial court, where the CIA could invoke other defenses against the records request, the report said.
According to the paper, a US Justice Department spokeswoman said she was not aware of the ruling and could not comment immediately.
Meanwhile, Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU, said the ruling would make it more difficult for the government to deflect questions about drones.
Jaffer said that the public surely has a right to know who the government is killing, and why, and in which countries, and on whose orders.
Drones killing innocent Pakistanis, U.N. official says
By Ben Brumfield and Mark Morgenstein, CNN
March 15, 2013 -- Updated 1509 GMT (2309 HKT)
(CNN) -- Farmers are on their way to tend their crops when a missile slams into their midst, thrusting shrapnel in all directions.
A CIA drone, flying so high that the farmers can't see it, has killed most of them. None of them were militants.
Such attacks by U.S. drones are common, the United Nations' special rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights said Friday in a statement on strikes in Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan.
The rapporteur, Ben Emmerson, told CNN the actions are of dubious international legality, despite the United States' assertions.
"I'm not aware of any state in the world that currently shares the United States' expansive legal perspective that it is engaged in a global war -- that is to say a non-international armed conflict with al Qaeda and any group associated with al Qaeda, wherever they are to be found, that would therefore lawfully entitle the United States to take action involving targeted killing wherever an individual is found," Emmerson said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other U.S. groups are questioning the legitimacy of the President Obama-approved drone program, and they're looking for evidence for a legal battle.
On Friday, a U.S. federal appeals court ruled the CIA must acknowledge the existence of any records related to military unmanned drone strikes targeting individuals, such as overseas terror suspects.
The ACLU and others had filed a Freedom of Information Act request, but the CIA refused to confirm or deny it had any such records, citing national security.
READ: The trouble with U.S. drone policy
Emmerson has just returned from Pakistan, where he listened to residents of North Waziristan talk about terrifying encounters with one of America's weapons in the war on terror.
"Adult males carrying out ordinary daily tasks were frequently the victims of such strikes," the statement from the U.N. office for human rights said.
First on CNN: Iran confronts U.S. drone over Persian Gulf
Some Pashtun men dress the same as Taliban members from the same region, hence the drone operators mistake them for terror targets, the statement said. It is also customary for Pashtun men to carry a weapon, making them virtually indistinguishable from militants to an outsider.
A beard and a turban
A Pakistani tribal elder who spoke with CNN noted hasty judgments based on appearances can be wrong.
"Just because I have a beard and wear a turban, does that make me part of the Taliban?" asked Malik Jalaluddin.
READ: What is the drone industry really worth?
The United States has 8,000 drones, unmanned planes and helicopters flown by a remote control. They are outfitted with a video camera to help the operator spot targets and often armed with weapons used to neutralize them.
President Barack Obama has told CNN that a target must meet "very tight and very strict standards."
CIA director John Brennan has said that only in "exceedingly rare" cases have civilians been "accidentally injured, or worse, killed in these strikes."
READ: CNN Explains: U.S. drones
Reports back the U.N. conclusion
Reports by independent groups corroborate Emmerson's account, concluding that drones mistakenly target and kill a significant number of civilians.
The New America Foundation estimates that in Pakistan, drones have killed between 1,953 and 3,279 people since 2004 - and that between 18% and 23% of them were not militants. The nonmilitant casualty rate was down to about 10% in 2012, the group says.
A study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that since 2004, Pakistan has had 365 drone strikes that have killed between 2,536 and 3,577 people -- including 411 to 884 civilians.
READ: Hagel to review criteria for drone medal
The study concludes that the strikes have killed far more people than the United States has acknowledged, and traumatized many more innocent people.
That trauma is destroying a way of life, Emmerson said. "The Pashtun tribes of the ... area have suffered enormously under the drone campaign."
And tribal law prescribes revenge for the killing of a tribe member, which serves to radicalize more young men against the United States, he said.
Pakistan considers the strikes counterproductive, illegal and a violation of its sovereignty.
UN denounces US drone use in Pakistan
Investigator says campaign in Pakistani border areas is violation of sovereignty and has destroyed tribal structures.
Last Modified: 15 Mar 2013 23:36
The United States has violated Pakistan's sovereignty and destroyed tribal structures with unmanned aerial drone strikes in its counterterrorism near the Afghan border, a UN human rights investigator has said.
"As a matter of international law, the US drone campaign in Pakistan is ... being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate Government of the State," Ben Emmerson, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, said in a statement issued by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva on Friday.
Emmerson visited Pakistan for three days this week as part of his investigation into the civilian impact of the use of drones and other forms of targeted killings.
"It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty," he said.
Emmerson said in January that he would investigate 25 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories. He is expected to present his final report to the UN General Assembly in October.
Washington had little to say about Emmerson's statement.
"We've seen his press release. I'm obviously not going to speak about classified information here," Victoria Nuland, the US State department's spokesperson, said. "We have a strong ongoing counterterrorism dialogue with Pakistan and that will continue."
Spokesman Josh Earnest said the White House would withhold judgement until it sees Emmerson's full report.
"We have a solid working relationship with [Pakistan] on a range of issues, including a close cooperative security
relationship, and we're in touch with them on a regular basis on those issues."
Emmerson said the Pashtun tribes of northwestern Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan in Pakistan's west, have been decimated by the counterterrorism operations.
"These proud and independent people have been self-governing for generations, and have a rich tribal history that has been too little understood in the West," he said. "Their tribal structures have been broken down by the military campaign in FATA and by the use of drones in particular."
The tribal areas have never been fully integrated into Pakistan's administrative, economic or judicial system. They are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Clearing out border sanctuaries used by forces fighting ISAF forces in Afghanistan is seen by Washington as crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, particularly as the US-led combat mission ends in 2014.
Most, but not all, attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles worldwide have been carried out by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them, and dozens of other countries are believed to possess the technology.
"It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states," Emmerson said.
The UN Human Rights Council asked Emmerson to start an investigation of the drone attacks following requests by countries including Pakistan, Russia and China.
Criticism of drone strikes centres on the number of civilians killed and the fact that they are launched across sovereign states' borders so frequently, far more than conventional attacks by piloted aircraft.
Stanley McChrystal, the retired US general who devised the Pentagon's counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, warned in January against overusing drones, which have provoked angry demonstrations in Pakistan.
Civilian casualties from drone strikes have angered local populations and created tension between the United States and Pakistan and Afghanistan. Washington has sought to portray civilian casualties as minimal, but groups collecting data on these attacks say they have killed hundreds of civilians.
MILITARY & DEFENSE More: Drones U.S. Defense Military
'Double-Tap' Strikes In Pakistan Create Chaos To Start 2013
MICHAEL KELLEY JAN. 11, 2013, 1:40 PM
So far in 2013 Pakistan has been messier than usual, mostly due to brutal "double tap" tactics employed by both radical Sunni militants and busy CIA drones.
The Associated Press reports that a series of bombings on Thursday killed 115 people across the country — including 81 who died in two explosions at a billiards hall — marking the deadliest day in years. The second blast at the pool hall, five minutes after the first, killed police officers, journalists and rescue workers who responded to the initial explosion.
Greg Miller of The Washington Post reports that U.S. drone strike Thursday in North Waziristan was the seventh in 10 days, compared to there being fewer than one per week last year. On January 3 a U.S. drone targeted a vehicle then fired another hellfire missile "when people rushed to the vehicle to help those in the car," accoring to the AP.
Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal told the Post that as many as 11 civilians, along with 30 militants, have been killed by U.S. drones so far this year. U.S. officials told The Post that reports exaggerate civilian casualties but did not provide an alternate number. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) places the total death toll as high as 64.
Double taps bomb multiple targets in relatively quick succession, meaning that the second strike often hits first responders. Both the FBI and the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Christof Heyns consider the tactic to be an act of terrorism.
Islamic radicals often combine a suicide bomber and a car bomb (as they did Thursday) to pull off the devastating act while drones simply fire two missiles a few minutes apart.
America's deadly double tap drone attacks are 'killing 49 people for every known terrorist in Pakistan'
Study found war against violent Islamists has become increasingly deadly
Researchers blame common tactic now being used – the 'double-tap' strike
Drone strikes condemned for their ineffectiveness in targeting militants
By LEON WATSON
PUBLISHED: 11:52, 25 September 2012 | UPDATED: 13:39, 25 September 2012
Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today.
The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.
And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.
The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.
Today campaigners savaged the use of drones, claiming that they were destroying a way of life.
Clive Stafford Smith, director of the charity Reprieve which helped interview people for the report, said: ‘This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorised by the constant threat of death from the skies. ‘
There have been at least 345 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years.
Yemen's government tries to cover up death of civilians by US drones
SUDARSAN RAGHAVAN , THE WASHINGTON POST DHAMAR, YEMEN TUESDAY 25 DECEMBER 2012
A rickety Toyota truck packed with 14 people rumbled down a desert road from the town of Radda, Yemen, which al-Qaida militants once controlled. Suddenly a missile hurtled from the sky and flipped the vehicle over.
Chaos. Flames. Corpses. Then, a second missile struck.
Within seconds, 11 of the passengers were dead, including a woman and her 7-year-old daughter. A 12-year-old boy also perished that day, and another man later died from his wounds.
The Yemeni government initially said that those killed were al-Qaida militants and that its own Soviet-era jets carried out the Sept. 2 attack. But survivors, tribal leaders and Yemeni officials would later say that it was an American assault and that the victims were all civilians who lived in a village near Radda. U.S. officials last week acknowledged for the first time that it was an American strike.
"Their bodies were burning," recalled Sultan Ahmed Mohammed, 27, who was riding on the hood of the truck and flew headfirst into a sandy expanse. "How could this happen? None of us were al-Qaida."
More than three months later, the incident offers a window on the Yemeni government's efforts to conceal Washington's mistakes and the unintended consequences of civilian deaths in American air assaults. In this case, the deaths have bolstered the popularity of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terror network's Yemen affiliate, which has tried to stage attacks on U.S. soil several times.
Furious tribesmen tried to take the bodies to the gates of the presidential residence, forcing the government into the rare position of withdrawing its claim that militants had been killed. The apparent target, Yemeni officials and tribal leaders said, was a senior regional al-Qaida leader, Abdelrauf al-Dahab, who was thought to be in a car traveling on the same road.
U.S. airstrikes have killed numerous civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other parts of the world, and those governments have spoken against the attacks. But in Yemen, the government has often tried to hide civilian casualties from the public. It continues to insist in local media reports that its own aging jets attacked the truck.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has kept silent publicly, neither confirming nor denying any involvement, a standard practice with most U.S. airstrikes in its clandestine war against terrorism in this strategic Middle Eastern country.
In response to questions, U.S. officials in Washington, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said it was a Defense Department aircraft, either a drone or a fixed-wing warplane, that fired on the truck. The Pentagon declined to comment on the incident, as did senior U.S. officials in Yemen and senior counterterrorism officials in Washington.
Since the attack, militants in the tribal areas surrounding Radda have gained more recruits and supporters in their war against the Yemeni government and its key backer, the United States. The two survivors and relatives of six victims, interviewed separately and speaking to a Western journalist about the incident for the first time, expressed willingness to support or even fight alongside AQAP.
"Our entire village is angry at the government and the Americans," Mohammed said. "If the Americans are responsible, I would have no choice but to sympathize with al-Qaida because al-Qaida is fighting America."
Public outrage is also growing as calls for accountability, transparency and compensation go unanswered amid allegations by human rights activists and lawmakers that the government is trying to cover up the attack to protect its relationship with Washington. Even senior Yemeni officials said they fear that the backlash could undermine their authority.
"If we are ignored and neglected, I would try to take my revenge. I would even hijack an army pickup, drive it back to my village and hold the soldiers in it hostages," said Nasser Mabkhoot Mohammed Al-Sabooly, the truck's driver, 45, who suffered burns and bruises. "I would fight along al-Qaida's side against whoever was behind this attack."
After Osama bin Laden's death last year, Yemen emerged as a key battlefield in the Obama administration's war against Islamist militancy. AQAP members are among those on a clandestine "kill list" created by the administration to hunt down terrorism suspects. It is a lethal campaign, mostly fueled by unmanned drones, but it also includes fixed-wing aircraft and cruise missiles fired from the sea.
This year, there have been at least 38 U.S. airstrikes in Yemen, according to the Long War Journal, a nonprofit website that tracks American drone attacks. That is significantly more than in any year since 2009, when President Barack Obama is thought to have ordered the first drone attack.
The Radda attack was one of the deadliest since a U.S. airstrike in December 2009 killed dozens of civilians, including women and children, in the mountainous region of al-Majala in southern Yemen. After that attack, many tribesmen in that area became radicalized and joined AQAP.
"The people are against the indiscriminate use of the drones," said Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubaker al-Qirbi. "They want better management of drones. And more important, they want to have some transparency as far as what's going on — from everybody."
The concern over civilian casualties has grown louder since the spring, when the White House broadened its definition of militants who can be targeted in Yemen to include those who may not be well-known.
"We don't attack in populated areas," said an Obama administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of discussing the U.S. airstrikes here. "We don't go after people in dwellings where we don't know who everyone is. We work very hard to minimize the collateral damage.
"Having said all that, like any programs managed and operated by human beings, mistakes happen. We are not perfect."
The rise in U.S. attacks came as AQAP and other extremists seized large swaths of southern Yemen last year, taking advantage of the political chaos of the country's populist Arab Spring revolution. Before that, AQAP orchestrated failed attempts to send parcel bombs on cargo planes to Chicago in 2010 and to bomb a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner the previous year.
In January, AQAP-linked militants briefly seized Radda, placing them only 100 miles south of the capital, Sanaa. But they left after the government, agreeing to their demands, released several extremists from prison. By the summer, the radicals had also been pushed from towns in southern Yemen after a U.S.-backed military offensive initiated by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who took office early this year after the country's autocratic leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, stepped down after 33 years in power.
But today, al-Qaida-linked extremists are still in and around Radda, as well as in other parts of Yemen, staging attacks on government and military officials.
In recent months, villagers in Sabool, about 10 miles from Radda, said they have heard U.S. drones fly over the area as many as three or four times a day. Some described them as "little white planes."
"It burns my blood every time I see or hear the airplanes," said Ali Ali Ahmed Mukhbil, 40, a farmer. "All they have accomplished is destruction and fear among the people."
On that September morning, his brother Masood stepped into the Toyota truck in Sabool. It was filled with villagers heading to Radda to sell khat, a leafy narcotic chewed by most Yemeni males. After they sold their produce, they headed back in the afternoon.
Nasser Ahmed Abdurabu Rubaih, a 26-year-old khat farmer, was working in the valley when he heard the explosions. He ran to the site and, like others, threw sand into the burning vehicle to douse the flames. As he sifted through the charred bodies lying on the road, he recognized his brother, Abdullah, from his clothes.
"I lost my mind," Rubaih recalled.
Mukhbil's brother Masood was also dead.
Some witnesses said that they saw three planes in the sky, two black and one white, and that the black ones were Yemeni jets. But both missiles struck the moving vehicle directly, and the terrain surrounding the truck was not scorched — hallmarks of a precision strike from a sophisticated American aircraft.
"If you say it wasn't a U.S. drone, nobody will believe you," said Abdel-Karim al-Iryani, a former Yemeni prime minister and senior adviser to Hadi. "A Yemeni pilot to be able to hit a specific vehicle that's moving? Impossible."
The Yemeni government publicl
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