Last Thursday the Yemeni government congratulated itself on a
series of raids which reportedly killed 34 al-Qaida terrorists and led to the arrests of 17 more. The raids were said to have foiled a series of suicide attacks.
President Obama even phoned President Salih and praisedYemen's efforts in the fight on terrorism, particularly "Thursday's raids in which dozens of al-Qaida suspects were killed and arrested" – according to the ruling party's website.
By Friday, though, the picture was looking more murky. Citing two local residents, al-Jazeera reported that one of the raids, at Arhab in Abyan province, killed 64 people including 23 women and 17 children. An unnamed security official was quoted as saying that "grave mistakes occurred in the operation due to failures of information, which led to a large number of civilian deaths."
Today, the Associated Press reported that the US had "provided firepower and other aid to Yemen" in the raids. This, it said, had been done with Obama's approval at the request of the Yemeni government.
Yemen has been under increasing pressure from the US to show take stronger action against al-Qaida and it seems that either the Yemenis or the Americans were careless (to say the least) in their eagerness to get some results.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 19 December 2009.