According to Asharq Alawsat, the Sept. 2 drone strike in Rada’a that killed 13 civilians targeted Abdelrauf al Dhahab, a local al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader whose brothers took control of the town earlier this year:
A US drone reportedly fired two missiles at known Al Qaeda affiliate Abdelrauf al Dhahab, who was traveling in a car near the town of Rada’s in al Baydah province. However the first missile missed the target, whilst the second missile hit a minibus behind him, killing all those inside. Local officials reported that Abdelrauf al Dhahab escaped unharmed.
Abdelrauf’s brother, Tariq, seized control of Rada’a in January. He released a videotape in which he swore allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri and al Qaeda, and said “the Islamic Caliphate is coming….” His fighters flew the terror group’s banner over the town’s citadel. In February, Tariq abdicated control of Rada’a to local tribal leaders, including his brother Hazam, after they threatened to launch an offensive to retake the town. Later that month, Hazam killed Tariq; then Tariq’s followers retaliated and killed Hazam.
After Tariq’s death, his brothers Kaid and Nabil took control of AQAP’s operations in Baydah province. They were targeted by a US drone strike on May 28, but are believed to have survived. The Dhahabs are brothers-in-law of Anwar al Awlaki, the US citizen who served as a senior al Qaeda operational commander and ideologue. Awlaki was killed in a US drone strike last fall.
Both the US and the Yemeni government are now dealing with the blowback from the Sept. 2 strike that killed 13 civilians. Again, from Asharq Alawsat:
Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has launched an investigation into the deaths of the civilians. For his part, a senior Yemeni Defense Ministry official told CNN “This was one of the very few times when our target was completely missed. It was a mistake, but we hope it will not hurt our anti-terror efforts in the region.”
Hundreds of angry Yemeni gunmen joined the families of the victims in closing major roads and demanding the Yemeni government explain the killings. They also tried to carry the corpses of the victims to Sanaa to lay them in front of the residence of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi but were prevented from doing so by local security forces.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.