Salem and Waleed, his nephew, were killed in a US drone strike in Hadramout, Yemen, on 29 August 2012.
Salem was a preacher who was known for speaking out against al Qaeda in his sermons.
The Friday before he was killed, Salem had given a sermon at the mosque in the village of Khashamir, denouncing al Qaeda’s ideology. A few days later, some strangers arrived in the village, demanding to speak with him. Salem eventually agreed to go to meet them, going with Waleed, who was a local policeman.
The two men went to meet the strangers near the local mosque, where they had parked their car. The whole group was then hit by a drone strike, killing all of them.
The strike took place on the second day of family wedding celebrations, which Salem and Waleed were attending.
Salem’s brother-in-law, Faisal, has written to President Obama and Yemen’s President Hadi about the strike – though he has yet to receive a reply. In his letter, Faisal – who is also Waleed’s uncle – writes:
“Our family are not your enemy. In fact, the people you killed had strongly and publicly opposed al-Qa’ida. Salem was an imam. The Friday before his death, he gave a guest sermon in the Khashamir mosque denouncing al-Qa’ida’s hateful ideology. It was not the first of these sermons, but regrettably, it was his last.”
“Our town was no battlefield. We had no warning – our local police were never asked to make any arrest. My young cousin Waleed was a policeman, before the strike cut short his life.”
“Your silence in the face of these injustices only makes matters worse. If the strike was a mistake, the family – like all wrongly bereaved families of this secret air war – deserve a formal apology. To this day I wish no vengeance against the United States or Yemeni governments. But not everyone in Yemen feels the same. Every dead innocent swells the ranks of those you are fighting.”
Reprieve represents Faisal, who is seeking justice for his family and to stop the same tragedy happening to others.