A U.S. drone strike on Dec. 12 in Yemen was targeted at an al Qaeda militant but, local villagers say, hit a wedding party instead, killing 12 and injuring 14 others. Now the Obama administration has opened an internal investigation into the strike, U.S. officials tell NBC News.
U.S. officials say the strike is being investigated by administration officials – one of the few times the U.S. government has confirmed an internal review of a drone strike and the first time since President Barack Obama pledged to tighten rules for the strikes in a major speech in May.
“Given that there are claims of civilian casualties, we are reviewing it,” said one U.S. official, who like the others spoke on condition of anonymity.
Asked about the Dec. 12 incident, White House National Security Staff spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said she could only respond “generally” about U.S. policy.
“Before we take any counterterrorism strike outside areas of active hostilities, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set,” she said. “And when we believe that civilians may have been killed, we investigate thoroughly.”
U.S. and Yemeni officials say the drone strike was carried out by the Defense Department’s Joint Special Operations Command, not the CIA, which operates its own drones in Yemen. The intended targets, they say, were “dangerous al Qaeda militants.”
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