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Drone Wars report for December 2013 compiled by Elayne Jude for Great North News Service
The tempo of the drone campaign in Yemen and Waziristan continues to slow, with only four strikes, in Yemen and in Pakistan, on record for December 2013.
More than a dozen Yemeni civilians were killed and several were wounded in a strike on a wedding party min-month. This incident, and the outcry that followed, is perhaps an example of the reasons why.
On the 17th, RAF Waddington, in Lincolnshire, England, opened its doors for the first time. Waddington is the base from which XIII Squadron pilots the UK's Reaper UACVs. The following day Philip Dunne MP, Minister for Defence Equipment, wrote a defence of UAVs for the Huffington Post:
AQAP claimed responsibility for a suicide assault on the Ministry of Defense in Sana'a on 5 December. The attack was characterised as an effort to disrupt the drone programme. The 52 dead included foreign doctors and nurses, and 11 AQAP fighters.
"As part of the policy of targeting the operation rooms of pilotless planes, the mujahideen (holy fighters) have heavily struck one of these rooms in Defense Ministry headquarters," the group said, via Twitter. "Such joint military locations, which participate with the Americans in their war against this Muslim nation, are a legitimate target for our operations."
The volume of strikes has decreased over the past twelve months, as the US faces increasing international pressure over strikes in Yemen and in Pakistan.
December 9 - Yemen. Two AQAP operatives killed in the eastern province of Hadramout.
Several missiles were fired at a vehicle as it traveled in the Al Qutn area. A Yemeni intelligence official told the Reuters that the bodies were burned beyond recognition. No senior AQAP personnel are reported killed at the time. No statement was released by AQAP.
This is the first strike reported in Yemen since Nov. 19, when three AQAP fighters were killed, also in Hadramout, the ancestral home of the bin Ladens. The province is an AQAP stronghold. In May 2013, the Yemeni government claimed it foiled a plot by AQAP to establish an Islamic emirate in the Ghayl Bawazir area.
December 12 - Yemen. Many civilians killed and injured in the second strike in Yemen this week.
The strike occured near the city of Rada'a, in the central province of Baydah. A group of vehicles transporting members of a wedding party was targeted. It has been claimed by Yemeni officials that AQAP members may have been traveling with the convoy. Fifteen were killed and five wounded. Initial press accounts indicate that all dead were civilians.
On Sept. 2, 2012, 13 civilians died in a strike in Rada'a, according to Yemeni tribesmen.
Rada'a was an AQAP stronghold in early 2012. A senior AQAP leader, Tariq al Dhahab, took control of the town, raised al Qaeda's flag, and swore allegiance to al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri. Tariq was later killed by a brother opposed to al Qaeda.
December 26 - North Waziristan. Four "militants" killed in a strike in North Waziristan. The strike is the first in Pakistan in a month.
A pair of missiles were fired at a compound in the village of Qutab Khel near Miramshah in North Waziristan just after midnight. Several UAVs were seen hovering over the compound, before and after.
The target was not revealed, and no senior Taliban, al Qaeda, or allied jihadist commanders were reported killed at this time.
Today's strike is the first recorded in Pakistani this month. In November 2013, there were three strikes in North Waziristan, killing two jihadist leaders, Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and killed Maulvi Ahmed Jan, a top leader in the Haqqani Network.
December 27 - Yemen. Two suspected AQAP fighters killed.
Missiles were fired at a truck as it traveled near the town of Shibam in the eastern province of Hadramout. The vehicle was destroyed. The bodies of those killed have not been identified. No senior AQAP leaders or operatives are reported to have been killed at this time. AQAP does not comment on each strike that is carried out in Yemen.
Hadramout is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden's family.The province is considered an AQAP heartland.