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US drone blitz on Yemen swells al-Qaeda's ranks.(News)
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Byline: Yemen Iona Craig Aden

With dogged determination, Samir al-Mushari pushed his walking frame down the hospital corridor. Bandages hid the burns to his neck, face and ear.

Mr Mushari is one of the latest civilian casualties of the US-backed war against al-Qaeda in Yemen - the victim of an airstrike in the Islamistcontrolled town of Jaar in southern Abyan province.

The farmer, 31, told how 26 civilians, killed alongside him, had dived to the ground as they saw the incoming missile.

The strike bore the hallmarks of a US drone attack. The residents did not hear any fighter jets as a second strike, 15 minutes later, hit the house where Mr Mushari was having breakfast.

"No one from al-Qaeda was killed," Mr Mushari said. "They were all local people, many of them friends of mine."

US drone attacks have escalated in Yemen as the government lost control. In the 12 months to May 2011, one drone attack had been carried out on Yemeni soil. This month alone about 35 drone strikes are expected.

The botched strike in May 2010 mistakenly killed Sheikh Jabir Shabwani. His death caused a backlash against the US among his tribe, who attacked power lines to the capital, Sanaa, before the then President Ali Abdullah Saleh paid them off with millions of dollars.

With Mr Saleh gone, the scale of the covert strikes has reached unprecedented levels. Some have hit their intended targets. Anwar al-Awlaki, the chief propagandist of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was killed last September. But many of AQAP's senior figures remain elusive. The notorious bomb-maker Ibrahim al-Asiri is at the top of America's hit list in Yemen.

Civilian casualties have emboldened AQAP. In 2009 a US sea-launched cruise missile hit the village of al-Majala in Abyan, killing more than 40 civilians, including 21 children. The target had been a supposed al-Qaeda training camp. Many of AQAP's new recruits have since come from that district.

"That one bombing radicalised the entire area," Abdul Ghani al-Iryani, a Yemeni political analyst, said. "All the men and boys from those families and tribes will have joined [al-Qaeda] to fight."

A "No Drones" campaign was started on Facebook and Twitter last week by activists who led the anti-government campaign to oust President Saleh last year. Atiaf al-Wazeer, a leading figure in the revolution, has now joined the campaign against US intervention and said that anti-American sentiment had increased.

"It's indiscriminate killing and there's no distinction between civilians and al-Qaeda members," Ms Wazeer said. "They will radicalise people and provoke them to join al-Qaeda even if they don't share their ideology."

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2012 The Times
Source Citation
"US drone blitz on Yemen swells al-Qaeda's ranks." Times [London, England] 24 May 2012: 25. Global Issues In Context. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.
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