Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

As U.S. Drone Strikes Rise in Yemen, So Does Anger

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

As U.S. Drone Strikes Rise in Yemen, So Does Anger

Article excerpt

SANAA, Yemen -- The cleric preached in his Yemeni village about the evils of al-Qaida, warning residents to stay away from the group's fighters and their hard-line ideology. The talk worried residents, who feared that it would bring retaliation from the militants, and even the cleric's father wanted him to stop.

But in the end, it wasn't al-Qaida that killed Sheik Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber.

Al-Qaida fighters, who hide in mountain strongholds near the remote eastern village of Khashamir, did call him out, demanding that he meet them one night -- apparently to intimidate him into stopping his sermons against them. Sheik Salem felt that he had no choice but to meet them, but a cousin who was in the police insisted on accompanying him as protection, according to the cleric's brother- in-law, Faysal bin Ali bin Jaber, who recounted the events in an interview.

"Once they arrived to the car where al-Qaida was, four missiles hit," Mr. Faysal said. At home in the village, he heard the blasts - - and heard the U.S. drone that struck the cars. "We know the buzzing sound of the drones overhead," he said.

Yemeni security officials confirmed that three militants, along with Sheik Salem and his cousin, were killed in the strike last August, and that it was carried out by a U.S. drone.

In its covert fight against al-Qaida in Yemen, the United States has dramatically stepped up its use of drone strikes the past year, scoring key successes against one of the most active branches of the terror network. With more than 40 strikes reported in 2012 and nine so far this year, Yemen has become the second biggest front in U.S. drone warfare, after Pakistan. But the escalation has meant more civilians getting caught in the crossfire.

Civilian deaths are breeding resentments on a local level, sometimes undermining U.S. efforts to turn the public against militants. …

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