The forgotten war in Yemen where the US and its Saudi Arabian proxy are mercilessly pounding that country because of the belief that the Houthi rebels are backed by Iran continues apace. Iona Craig of The Intercept continues her excellent reporting on that ignored conflict and her latest report provides a capsule summary of the nature of the conflict that led to the latest attack by the US a few days ago on the region of al Adhlan.
One of those killed in the May 23 raid, Al Khader Saleh Salem al Adhal, was a soldier in the Yemeni army currently fighting on the U.S.-supported side in the country’s complex civil war. Yemen’s conflict pits military units loyal to former president and previous U.S. ally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, along with the predominantly Shia Houthi rebels, against a local Yemeni resistance and anti-Houthi military units backed by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition of regional nations. The coalition is in turn aided by the United States, which has been providing weapons and crucial logistical support to the Saudi Kingdom and its allies in their fight against the Houthi-Saleh forces since March 2015. The Saudis, who view the Houthis as an Iranian proxy, have been the main financial backer and weapons supplier to the military and local tribes fighting in Mareb, including in al Adhlan.
In the process of that attack many Yemeni civilians were killed. Craig describes what happened in al Adhlan.
FIVE CIVILIANS INCLUDING a child were killed and another five were wounded in the latest U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen, according to eyewitness accounts gathered by The Intercept.
The raid by U.S. commandos in the hamlet of al Adhlan, in the Yemeni province of Mareb on May 23, also destroyed at least four homes. Navy SEALs, with air support from more than half a dozen attack helicopters and aircraft, were locked in a firefight with Yemeni tribesmen for over an hour, according to local residents.
College student Murad al Adhal, 22, the elder brother of 15-year-old Abudullah who was shot and killed, described how he woke to the sound of gunfire around 1:30 a.m. as the SEALs took control of buildings on the mountainside overlooking the village.
“I walked out of my house and I saw the nearby hills were filled with the American soldiers,” he said. When Apache helicopter gunships began firing into buildings, women and children started running out of their homes. “My little brother Abdullah ran for his life with the other women and children. They killed him as he was running.” Murad was shot in the leg.
Residents in al Adhlan described to The Intercept how commandos also shot dead unarmed Nasser Ali Mahdi al Adhal, who was at least 70 years-old. An account by Reprieve, a London-based human rights group, said Nasser was partially blind. The elderly man was killed while attempting to greet the Navy SEALs, after apparently mistaking them for visitors, according to Reprieve.
Craig goes on to describe how people in the region have friends and family members who belong to al Qaeda but do not belong to it themselves and that this causes tension as to whether these people should be denied hospitality and be expelled from the region.
The senior figure from the village described a long-running confrontation over the issue of locals providing guest-houses for Al Qaeda militants. A tribal dispute began in 2015 after a drone strike in the area, when the senior figure confronted other tribal leaders who were reluctant to ban Al Qaeda members from the area. A recent U.S. drone strike, on April 30, had revived the issue.
The senior villager said that in that attack two brothers were killed who were not Al Qaeda but had been living alongside them. The pair of brothers were also the brothers of Murad al Adhal, who survived the May 23 raid with a gunshot wound. Murad narrowly escaped being killed along with his siblings in the drone strike after getting out of the targeted Toyota Hillux moments before it was hit. (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, detailed a strike on April 30 in Mareb, which killed four, possibly five, men in a car. Central Command claimed all of the occupants were Al Qaeda militants.)
The April drone attack spurred the senior figure to action.
“I just needed more time to save my own people from this. There was a collective effort to kick out Al Qaeda,” he said. He expressed his anger that rather than being offered support to oust the militants his fellow tribesmen and civilians have instead been killed.
Such subtleties as awareness of the complicated local dynamics are ignored by the US and Saudi Arabia who think that going in with guns and bombs blazing and killing everyone in the vicinity of anyone who might be a militant is the way to solve what they perceive as their problem.
I was listening recently to a radio interview with a Yemeni who said that while tragic events like the Manchester bombing get a huge amount of sustained international coverage with heart-wrenching stories about the carnage inflicted on the young victims, such devastation is just another day in Yemen. And when some time in the future some Yemeni suicide bomber kills a number of civilians in the west, we will again ask, “Why do they hate us?”