Yemeni drone victim appeals to Obama as strike hits his home region for second time

A Yemeni civilian who lost his nephew and his brother-in-law – who was also an anti-Al Qa’ida imam – in a drone strike a year ago has appealed to President Obama to take heed of anti-drone sentiment in Yemen.

Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an engineer from Hadramout, has written to the US President ahead of his meeting today at the White House with Yemen’s President Hadi to discuss counter-terrorism issues.

Mr Jaber’s relatives were killed in a covert drone strike on Hadhramout in August 2012.  Just this morning, reports came in that the same area had again been hit by drones.

In his letter, addressed to both Presidents Obama and Hadi, Mr Jaber says:

“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.”

He adds: “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.”

Concluding his letter, Mr Jaber says: “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.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 7791 755 415 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The full text of the letter is available on request.