US investigates wedding drone strike in response to Reprieve evidence

January 8, 2014

In response to evidence uncovered by human rights charity Reprieve, the US government will investigate a 2013 drone strike on a Yemeni wedding party that killed 12 civilians and injured 14.

The Defense Department’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which carried out the strike on December 12, 2013, claimed that the intended targets were “dangerous al Qaeda militants,” including Shawqui Ali Ahmed al Badani.

However, an investigation in the days following the strike led by Reprieve’s investigator in Yemen, Baraa Shiban, found that all those killed and injured in the strike were guests attending a wedding with no known militant connections. The wedding was a local celebration of a marriage connecting families from adjacent villages. Al Badani is from a distant region of the country with no connections to those villages hit in the strike.

An anonymous US official told NBC, in response to footage and testimony collected by Reprieve, that the administration is launching an internal investigation. This is the first time the US government has announced an investigation of a drone strike since President Obama’s pledge in May 2013 to tighten the rules on drone strikes.

Reprieve investigator Baraa Shiban, said: “In bombing a wedding, the US Government has demonstrated that they either don’t know or don’t care who they were targeting. As a result, 12 innocent lives have been lost and many more destroyed. These continuing drone strikes don’t bolster anyone’s security—they only serve to alienate the Yemeni people and undermine the rule of law. We can only hope that the US administration’s internal investigation is robust and that it results in needed policy change and reparation for those affected.”


Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells or Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / 8166 / /

2. Read Reprieve’s report on the strike, here.

3. Pictures and video footage available upon request.