Tuesday, July 23, 2013

US drone strikes in Yemen cast a long shadow over life on the ground

From:  TheGuardian


Unmanned aircraft create refugees and resentment among civilians as remote provinces become a battleground

yemen drone strike
Wreckage … boys gather near a car destroyed by a drone strike targeting
suspected al-Qaida militants in the province of Shabwa, Yemen. Photograph: Khaled
Tiny, bright-red flashes twinkle in the night sky over Obeiraq, accompanied by a short, sharp detonation then a heavy thud. It shakes the houses and their windows. Smoke rises from the valley below. It makes the women "sick" and they stay indoors, but the menfolk strut around in the streets, flaunting their indifference to the unmanned aircraft. "We're not afraid of drones," they say.
Obeiraq, population 2,500, stands at the eastern extremity of Dhamar province, 150km south-east of the capital of Yemen, Sana'a. Its rocky volcanic landscape, peppered with fragrant shrubs, and surrounded by an unbroken chain of mountains, is a battleground for drones.
yemen drone strikes
Drone zones: areas under fire. Photograph: Graphic
For the past year the neighbouring governorate of al-Bayda has been constantly targeted by US drones. Other provinces – Abyan, Shabwa, Mareb and Jawf – have suffered a similar fate. Rada'a and Manasseh, outposts in eastern Yemen for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), have been besieged by the Yemeni military for months. Every now and then one or the other side claims victory. Obeiraq is just on the edge of this deluge of firepower.

Standing in a doorway a policeman is questioning an Ethiopian migrant who entered Yemen illegally. Tapping him on the shoulder, he asks: "Where are you going next? You're not going to become a terrorist?" The man shakes his head. "OK, we'd better take care of you," the officer concludes. In the middle of the main square a local man points to a long-haired motorcyclist carrying a Kalashnikov, claiming he is an AQAP combatant. Everyone smiles. The supposed terrorist offers us a ride to take a closer look at the fighting round Manasseh, then rides off on his own.  MORE

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