Were US missile and cluster munitions used in a fatal attack in Yemen?

The 17 December 2009 attack on the community of al-Ma’jalah in the Abyan area in the south of Yemen killed 55 people including 14 alleged members of al-Qa’ida.

Amnesty International has today released images of a US-manufactured cruise missile that carried cluster munitions, apparently taken following an attack on an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp in Yemen that killed 41 local residents, including 14 women and 21 children.

Yemen munitions

Unexploded BLU 97 cluster bomblet - the Tomahawk BGM-109D cruise missile would have carried 166 of these.

The fact that so many of the victims were actually women and children indicates that the attack was in fact grossly irresponsible, particularly given the likely use of cluster munitions.

The Yemeni government has said its forces alone carried out the attack on al-Ma’jalah, the site of an alleged al-Qa’ida training camp in al-Mahfad district, Abyan Governorate. But shortly after the attack some US media reported alleged statements by unnamed US government sources who said that US cruise missiles launched on presidential orders had been fired at two alleged al-Qa’ida sites in Yemen.

“Based on the evidence provided by these photographs, the US government must disclose what role it played in the al-Ma’jalah attack, and all governments involved must show what steps they took to prevent unnecessary deaths and injuries,” said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.