Yemeni government pays out $55k to civilian victims of Easter drone strikes

April 23, 2014

Image of drones

The Yemeni government has already made condolence payments to the victims of at least one of several US drone strikes on the country over the Easter weekend, it has emerged. It is unclear whether the money ultimately derives from US sources, which heavily fund Yemen’s counterterrorism programme.

Yemeni media reported yesterday that local leaders from the central province of Al-Baida, where a night-time strike killed four civilians, had mediated an agreement between the government and the families of victims. The agreement included payments of up to 12 million riyals, or around US$55,866 (GBP£56,000). The negotiations were reportedly conducted by high-level Yemeni officials, including the former interior minister.

The series of air strikes last weekend reportedly killed up to 55 people. Yemeni authorities have named a handful of those killed, and according to the New York Times, given varying estimates of casualty numbers: “Yemen’s Interior Ministry said Monday that as many as 55 militants had been killed, but a senior Yemeni official put the figure in the 40s,” the paper reported. No official explanation has been given for the targeting of the individuals, or what risk they posed to the US or Yemen.

Condolence payments are typically made by the Yemeni government to the families of the civilian casualties of drone strikes.

Cori Crider, Strategic Director at legal charity Reprieve, which assists civilian victims of drone strikes in Yemen, said: “The Obama administration says it only strikes when it is nearly certain it won’t kill civilians, but these payments speak for themselves. The US drones policy in Yemen is short-sighted and counterproductive. Neither the US nor Yemeni governments seem to know who they’re killing. Time and again we have seen the depth of resentment this causes across Yemen. The risk of blowback at home in America gets worse with every strike.”   Notes to editors   1. The issuing of condolence payments was reported by Al-Masdar (Arabic): http://almasdaronline.com/article/56908 2. For further information, please contact Kat O’Shea in Reprieve’s press office (US): +1 917 855 8064 / katherine.oshea@reprieve.org or Alice Gillham (UK): +44 207 553 8160 / alice.gillham@reprieve.org.uk