First Drone Strikes Under Trump Administration Kills Three al-Qaeda Terrorists

January 22, 2017 12:55 pm Last Updated: January 22, 2017 1:32 pm

Drone strikes have killed at least three alleged al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen’s southwestern region, security officials said, the first of such killings under the new Trump administration.

The strikes were carried out Saturday in Bayda province, killing Abu Anis al-Abi, an area field commander, and two others, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to release the information to journalists, AP reported.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that left nearly 3,000 dead, drone strikes have become commonplace against al-Qaeda. But drone strikes rose dramatically under President Barack Obama, with spikes in drone attacks in 2012 and 2016, the Britain-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism said.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism says Obama’s “covert drone war” carried out ten times more strikes than President George W. Bush’s two terms in office.

“A total of 563 strikes, largely by drones, targeted Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen during Obama’s two terms, compared to 57 strikes under Bush,” the Bureau says in a report.

In this Nov. 8, 2011 file photo, a Predator B unmanned aircraft taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)
In this Nov. 8, 2011 file photo, a Predator B unmanned aircraft taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Human rights and other groups have criticized the Obama administration, saying it has undercounted civilian casualties. They also worry that President Trump will more aggressively conduct drone strikes, which are subject to little oversight from Congress or the judiciary.

Obama was forced to respond to the criticism of U.S. drone strikes last summer, and he acknowledged “legitimate criticism” of the attacks in the Middle East that caused the deaths of civilians.

“In the past, there was legitimate criticism that the legal architecture around the use of drone strikes wasn’t as precise as it should have been,” Obama said, as CBS reported. “There’s no doubt that civilians were killed that shouldn’t have been.”

On Sunday, Mwatana, one of Yemen’s top human rights groups, released a documentary on civilian victims of drone strikes, interviewing family members who say their relatives were innocent and they had received no compensation from the U.S. despite their wrongful deaths.

It cited much higher civilian death tolls than the U.S. intelligence report, saying that hundreds of innocents had been killed by the U.S. strikes across the country since at least 2002.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.