A US cruise missile armed with cluster ammunition was used in an attack in Yemen in December which resulted in the deaths of 52 people, more than half of them women and children, according to a human rights watchdog.
The Yemeni government insisted their forces alone carried out the strike on an al-Qa’ida training camp in the Abyan region. US authorities backed the claim that insurgents had been attacked but officially denied direct involvement in the attack.
However, Amnesty International has now released photographs of missile parts from the attack which appear to show that it was a BGM-109D Tomahawk cruise missile designed to be launched from a warship or submarine. Further images reveal BLU 97 A/B cluster munitions which spray steel fragments for 150 meters along with burning zirconium for igniting buildings. The Yemeni government does not possess cruise missiles, which are part of the arsenal of US Navy vessels patrolling off the Horn of Africa and in the Arabian Sea.
The Convention on Cluster Munitions has been signed by 106 states and ratified by 35. However, neither the US or Yemen are signatories. Weapons analysts point out that bomblets have maimed and killed civilians who have found them.
Yemen has become a battleground between the international jihad and the West. Special forces and intelligence officials from several Nato countries, including the UK and US, have beent in the country. The Americans are hunting, in particular, Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric who is said to have been a mentor to the “underpants bomber”, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a transatlantic airliner and Major Nidal Malik Hasan, of the US Army who shot dead 13 people at Fort Hood in Texas.
A Yemeni parliamentary committee investigating the raid at al-Ma’jalah concluded that 41 of the dead were civilians, 21 of them children and 14 women. Survivors denied any links with insurgents. The parliamentary committee asked the Yemeni government to open a judicial inquiry into the killings. Six months on, there is no sign of that happening although the authorities in Sanaa declared that at least 14 of the dead were members of al-Qa’ida plotting to carry out terrorist attacks.