Five people who were killed by U.S. forces during a ground operation in Yemen are believed to have been civilians, a human rights group reported on Tuesday. The U.S. military previously described those killed as militants.
The operation was carried out before dawn on Tuesday when U.S. Navy SEALs targeted a compound in a village in the central province of Marib, killing at least 7 people. U.S. Central Command accused all those killed of being militants of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Later on Tuesday, human rights group Reprieve said it believes only 2 of those killed were members of al-Qaeda. The organization added that the militants who were the apparent target of the operation were actually meeting at a building outside the village.
Reprieve, citing witnesses, said a 70-year-old man who was partially blind was shot and killed when he tried to greet the Navy SEALs, mistaking them for guests arriving in the village. The man was identified as Nasser al-Adhal.
Witnesses told Reprieve that villagers started to argue with U.S. Navy SEALs after the shooting of al-Adhal. The service members then opened fire, killing 4 more people and seriously injuring 6 others, including a 69-year-old man who was shot in the leg.
The al-Qaeda militants who were the target of the raid were alerted by the gunshots in the village and a firefight ensued, during which at least 2 suspected militants were killed, Reprieve said. A number of U.S. forces were also injured, according to the Pentagon.
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. military about the report of civilian casualties, but Kate Higham of Reprieve called on President Donald Trump to launch an immediate investigation to determine what went wrong during the raid.
Tuesday’s operation happened about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of a botched raid in late January that resulted in the deaths of up to 23 civilians, including a newborn baby and 10 other children. U.S. Central Command acknowledged in February that civilians, including children, were “likely” killed in the raid.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has orchestrated a number of high-profile attacks over the past decade, including the January 2015 shooting attack against the Paris offices of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and injuring several others.
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