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US January airstrike killed 4 to 12 civilians in Yemen: Commander

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Army General Joseph Votel, the commander of the US Central Command, testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 9, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

A high-ranking US military commander says up to a dozen civilians lost their lives late last January, when special forces carried out an attack against a purported position of al-Qaeda militants in the central Yemeni province of Bayda.

US Central Command chief General Joseph Votel told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that "somewhere between four and 12 casualties" resulted from the raid.

“We have made a determination based on our best information available that we did cause casualties, somewhere between four and 12 casualties," which US forces "accept responsibility for,” he said.

“We lost a lot in this operation,” Votel told the Senate hearing, referring to Ryan Owens, the US Navy SEAL slain during the aerial attack, along with the civilians killed and the $75 million MV-22 Osprey aircraft that was destroyed.

The Central Command said in a statement on January 29 that 14 al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants were killed in the dawn assault near Yakla village in the Rada’a district of Bayda province, located about 210 kilometers southeast of the Yemeni capital Sana’a.

This file picture shows a Bell-Boeing CV/MV-22 Osprey aircraft.

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AQAP has taken advantage of the chaos and breakdown of security in Yemen to tighten its grip on the southern and southeastern parts of the Arab country.

The US carries out drone attacks in Yemen and several other countries, claiming to be targeting al-Qaeda elements, but local sources say civilians have been the main victims of the attacks.

The US military has conducted more than 40 similar airstrikes in Yemen in recent days. 

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