Civilians likely killed in US raid in Yemen - Pentagon

Yemen (Wael Qubady, AP)
Yemen (Wael Qubady, AP)

Washington - Civilians were "likely" killed in a US commando raid in Yemen over the weekend and children may have been among the dead, the US military's Central Command said on Wednesday.

The January 29 raid against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has garnered wide attention because a Navy SEAL was also killed and several more wounded in what marked the first operation of its kind authorised by President Donald Trump.

A Yemeni provincial official had previously said 16 civilians were killed in the raid - eight women and eight children - but CENTCOM did not provide any numbers.

"A team designated by the operational task force commander has concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during a raid in Yemen January 29. Casualties may include children," CENTCOM said in a statement.

The civilian deaths appear to have occurred when US aircraft were called to help the commandos as they conducted the dawn raid that US officials have said killed 14 AQAP members.

"The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist US forces in contact against a determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions, and US special operations members receiving fire from all sides to include houses and other buildings," the statement read.

Officials were conducting an ongoing "credibility assessment" to see if there may have been additional civilian casualties in the intense firefight.

Navy SEAL Team Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, 36, was killed and three other US troops were wounded in the action.

Three more service members were injured when the tilt-rotor aircraft they were in made a hard landing.

That aircraft, a V-22 Osprey, was then intentionally destroyed by US troops to prevent it from falling into enemy hands.

CENTCOM described the raid as a "complex" situation that included small-arms fire, hand grenades and close air-support fire.

"Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has a horrifying history of hiding women and children within militant operating areas and terrorist camps, and continuously shows a callous disregard for innocent lives," CENTCOM spokesperson Colonel John Thomas said.

"That's what makes cases like these so especially tragic."

US special operations forces had mounted the raid in the Yakla region of Baida province against AQAP, which Washington views as the global terror network's most dangerous branch.

The raid snagged "an unbelievable amount of intelligence that will prevent the potential deaths or attacks on American soil", White House spokesperson Sean Spicer said earlier.

But "you never want to call something a success 100% when someone's hurt or killed," he told reporters.

Trump and daughter Ivanka earlier flew from the White House aboard the Marine One presidential helicopter to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the repatriation of Owens's remains.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
When planning for the Black Friday sales do you:
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Save, research and plan ahead, preparing to make the most of it?
7% - 984 votes
Wait and see what looks like a good deal on the day?
14% - 1870 votes
Have no interest in spending more money this year?
79% - 10498 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
15.21
(-0.63)
ZAR/GBP
20.28
(-0.23)
ZAR/EUR
18.11
(-0.56)
ZAR/AUD
11.20
(-0.61)
ZAR/JPY
0.15
(-0.77)
Gold
1809.55
(+0.09)
Silver
23.33
(-0.06)
Platinum
960.00
(+0.09)
Brent Crude
48.73
(+1.57)
Palladium
2371.00
(+2.44)
All Share
57923.69
(+0.31)
Top 40
53084.13
(+0.27)
Financial 15
11645.28
(+0.04)
Industrial 25
79993.34
(+0.20)
Resource 10
52790.93
(+0.35)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo