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The largest US military attack on Yemen in history, part of a covert program code-named Indigo Spade, JSOC launched surveillance aircraft to survey the intended targets. The operation kicked off at dawn on December 17, 2009, as a Tomahawk cruise missile was fired from a submarine positioned in the waters off the coast of Yemen. Armed with cluster munitions, it slammed into a group of houses and other dwellings in Al Majalah, a village in the southern province of Abyan. (Video 1)
When word of the strikes got out, the Pentagon at first refused to comment, directing all inquiries to Yemen. Saleh’s government issued a statement taking credit for carrying out “simultaneous raids killing and detaining militants.” President Obama called Saleh reportedly to “congratulate” him and to “thank him for his cooperation and pledge continuing American support.” But as images of the Abyan strike emerged, some military analysts questioned whether Yemen had the type of weapons that were used. Among those found at the scene were BLU 97 A/B cluster bomblets, which explode into some 200 sharp steel fragments that can spray more than 400 feet away. In essence, they are flying land mines capable of shredding human beings into small pieces. The bomblets were equipped with an incendiary material, burning zirconium, to set fire to flammable objects in the target area. The missile used in the attack, a BGM-109D Tomahawk, can carry more than 160 cluster bombs. None of these munitions were in Yemen’s arsenal.
As outrage spread across Yemen, fueled largely by the assumption that it was a US bombing, the Yemeni Parliament dispatched a delegation to investigate. When the delegates arrived in the village, they “found that all the homes and their contents were burnt and all that was left were traces of furniture” along with “traces of blood of the victims and a number of holes in the ground left by the bombing…as well as a number of unexploded bombs,” according to their report. The investigation determined that the strike had killed forty-one members of two families, including seventeen women and twenty-one children. Some of the dead were sleeping when the missiles hit. Rimi was not among the dead, and survivors said they had no connection to Al Qaeda. The Saleh government insisted that fourteen Al Qaeda operatives had been killed, but the Yemeni investigators said the government could provide them with only one name. Four days later, three more civilians were killed when they stepped on unexploded cluster bombs. After the strike, a senior Yemeni official told the New York Times, “the involvement of the United States creates sympathy for Al Qaeda. The cooperation is necessary—but there is no doubt that it has an effect for the common man. He sympathizes with Al Qaeda.”
According to documents made available by WikiLeaks, Stephen Seche, the US ambassador to Yemen, sent a cable to Washington on December 21. Referring to the strikes, it said the Yemeni government “appears not overly concerned about unauthorized leaks regarding the U.S. role and negative media attention to civilian deaths.” The cable said that Deputy Prime Minister Rashad al-Alimi told Seche that “any evidence of greater U.S. involvement such as fragments of U.S. munitions found at the sites—could be explained away as equipment purchased from the U.S.” Yemen, according to the cable, “must think seriously about its public posture and whether its strict adherence to assertions that the strikes were unilateral will undermine public support for legitimate and urgently needed CT operations, should evidence to the contrary surface.”
While praising the December strikes, Saleh “lamented” the use of cruise missiles, according to the Wikileaks cable, because they are “not very accurate.” In the meeting, Petraeus claimed that “the only civilians killed were the wife and two children of an AQAP operative at the site,” which was blatantly false. Saleh told Petraeus he preferred “precision-guided bombs” fired from fixed-wing aircraft. “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours,” Saleh said. Deputy Prime Minister Alimi then joked that he had just “lied” by telling the Yemeni Parliament that the bombs in Arhab, Abyan and Shabwa were US-made but deployed by Yemen.
WHY IS PRESIDENT OBAMA KEEPING JOURNALIST ABDULELAH HAIDER SHAYE IN PRISON? (Video 2)
One of Shaye's biggest scoops was the uncovering of the U.S. missile strike in Yemen before the release of the Wikileaks cable. As Scahill wrote: On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen's southern Abyan province, killing a number of al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military's arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label "Made in the USA," and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, 14 women and 21 children were killed.
Seven months later, Shaye was abducted by Yemeni intelligence agents, who warned him to stop speaking about the strike. Instead, he went on Al Jazeera to say what had happened to him. A month later, he was arrested and sent to prison in a trial that was widely seen as a sham.
"Haider worked with ABC News," Scahill said. "The Washington Post paid his expenses for him to go and do an interview with Awlaki. He was identified by the New York Times as an al-Qaeda expert. And all of a sudden then, you find him becoming the target of the Saleh regime."
Mohamed Abdel Dayem, the coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the Committee to Protect Journalists, also spoke to the show on Thursday. He said that he first met Shaye in Yemen in 2010.
"Immediately I could tell that this was a very smart journalist, and a journalist who really was willing to put a lot on the line to get the tough stories," he said.
Dayem also condemned the trial that landed Shaye in prison, saying that the tribunal that convicted him was essentially a kangaroo court. "I could not find a single case that met, even remotely, fair trial standards," he said.
Scahill brought up the various organizations who have spoken in support of Shaye.
"They're on one side of it, condemning his trial as a sham, talking about who he actually was as a journalist," he said. "And on the other side of it, you have the dictatorship of Ali Abdullah Saleh, a specialized criminal tribunal set up to go after journalists, and the White House. President Obama is the single person keeping that man in prison right now." To read the entire article go here:
In: Other Middle East
Tags: Yemen, hypocrisy, tomahawk, missiles, drones, Ali Abdullah Saleh, bribery, corruption, Ahmad Ali, Yahya Saleh, French property, Sarkozy, ambassador, US property, UK property, embezzlement, scandal, terrorism, profiteering from terror, arms sales
Location: Yemen (load item map)
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