US airstrikes worry locals in Abyan

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Ali Saeed

ABYAN, Apr. 26th – US airstrikes in Abyan governorate are still threatening the lives of citizens. The Al-Ma’jala strike – which took place on 17 December 2009 and killed 55 people, including 14 women, 21 children and 14 alleged Al-Qaeda members – still looms large in the region’s collective memory.

According to Abyan’s security chief, Colonel Abdullah Ali Saeed, a new airstrike hit the small village of Amfryad in Mudiyah district on 24 April 2011. The attack involved two cruise missiles being launched by a US Predator drone.

The Predator was pursuing a pickup truck allegedly belonging to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) jihadists.

However, according to Abdullah Al-Waleedi, chief of security at the checkpoint leading out of the village, the missiles missed their target and exploded on the main asphalt road that connects Aden-Shabwa and Hadramout. This road also divides the village of Amfryad in two.

One of the missiles did not explode and remained on the side of the road until Tuesday, when the district’s security chief came to collect it in a container.

Approximately 4,000 people live in Amfryad and have all been terrified by the recent US airstrike. In the days that followed, villagers refused to send their children to school, fearing for their very lives.

Al-Waleedi criticized the way that the US has been targeting alleged Al-Qaeda elements, saying that “…there are many other ways that could be employed to catch those people.”

“The airstrikes often result in the killing of innocent civilians and they terrify people,” he said.

Al-Waleedi explained that around 70 Al-Qaeda members still exist in the village. Only ten of them are from Mudiyah district, while the others allegedly hail from tribes in Marib and Al-Jawf governorates.

According to Al-Waleedi, there are also several Saudis, Egyptians and Algerians within their camp.

He added that, “Locals are not sympathetic to or supportive of Al-Qaeda. However, any member of this group should be pursued via methods other than airstrikes.”