A U.S. drone mistakenly targeted a wedding convoy in Yemen’s al-Baitha province after intelligence reports identified the vehicles as carrying al Qaeda militants, two Yemeni national security officials told CNN on Thursday.
The officials said that 14 people were killed and 22 others injured, nine in critical condition. The vehicles were traveling near the town of Radda when they were attacked.
“This was a tragic mistake and comes at a very critical time. None of the killed was a wanted suspect by the Yemeni government,” said a top Yemeni national security official who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to talk to media.
U.S. officials declined to comment on the report.
The convoy consisted of 11 vehicles, and the officials said that four of the vehicles were targeted in the strikes. Two of the vehicles were completely damaged. Among the killed were two prominent tribal leaders within the province.
Residents in Radda were outraged about the attack and called on the Yemeni government to put an end of drone strikes in their region.
“More than 50 innocent civilians in our town have been killed by drones,” said Abdullah al-Kabra, an eyewitness to the drone strike.
“All those who were killed were supportive of the governments anti-terror campaign. That will surely not be the case of their tribes and families if the government does not strongly intervene,” he added.
Yemeni security experts have argued that drones have on numerous occasions have directly played into al Qaeda’s favor, turning peaceful tribal communities into vengeful killers.
“The attack proved the need for tighter control and regulations as far as drones are concerned. At times, they have proved deadly and destructive to civilians,” said Abdul Salam Mohammed, the president of the Sanaa-based Abaad Studies & Research Center.
The drone operation in Yemen is part of a joint U.S.-Yemeni campaign against al Qaeda. Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi has vowed to continue attacks against terror elements until they surrender their arms.