A convoy of Yemeni civilians headed to a wedding Thursday looked, to military button pushers, like a convoy of al-Qaida fighters. So a button was pushed, and a drone attack killed up to 15 civilians and wounded five others, according to reports out of Yemen.

With the American media fixated on a handshake and a presidential selfie, the drone-strike-gone-wrong was lightly noted here, but The Guardian has the scant details available from local Yemeni security forces and Reuters:

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

“An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, 10 people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital,” one security official said.

Five more people were injured, the officials said.

The United States has stepped up drone strikes as part of a campaign against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), regarded by Washington as the most active wing of the militant network.

Yemen, AQAP’s main stronghold, is among a handful of countries where the United States acknowledges using drones, although it does not comment on the practice.

Another airstrike Monday killed three unidentified people in a car, making it a particularly deadly week to be driving roads in Yemen. And the attacks come on the heels of recent reports by human rights groups calling for more openness and accountability by the United States in its drone program, including dropping its veil of silence over the attacks. The issue has also drawn the attention of the United Nations. The Guardian again:

United Nations special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, Christof Heyns, vowed an inquiry into the incident, building on a year in which the UN has taken a far more active interest than ever in civilian deaths linked to drone strikes.

“If proven to be correct, this is very serious,” Heyns said in a statement.

“I have to verify the facts before I can give further comments, and need to engage with the governments of the USA and Yemen to get their explanation of what appears to be a terrible event. But you can be sure I am following it very closely.”

To be sure, Yemen has been the scene of terrorist attacks, including attacks on military facilities that killed at least 52 people. Outrage over those attacks will fade in the light of the fresh drone killings, Yemeni activist Farea al-Muslimi told The Guardian. “The strike today literally saved AQAP’s image and shorted by months the PR work would have needed to do,” al-Muslimi said. “Nothing could have made Yemenis forget the horrible images of the attack in Sanaa more than the images of this current drone strike that targeted a wedding party.”

If the U.S. continues to use drones to kill civilians, without public accountability, to ostensibly keep terrorists from killing civilians, we veer uncomfortably close to the old Vietnam War line about killing a village to save it.

And military policies scripted by George Orwell and Joseph Heller.

—Posted by Scott Martelle.

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