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US confirms Yemen raid 'likely killed' civilians

The US military has confirmed the reports of civilian casualties in the Yemen raid. The news comes the same day President Donald Trump paid tribute to a soldier killed in the operation.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) on Wednesday confirmed that a raid carried out in Yemen earlier this week "likely killed" civilians, including possibly children.

"A team designated by the operational task force commander has concluded regrettably that civilian non-combattants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during a raid in Yemen January 29. Casualties may include children," said a statement from CENTCOM.

In what was the first confirmed military raid under President Trump, commandos targeted three tribal chiefs with links to al Qaeda in the central province of Bayda. The US military said 14 militants were killed in the operation, although locals put the death toll higher, saying around 30 people were killed.

Immediately following the raid, there were media reports that provincial officials were claiming  special forces had also targeted civilian-populated areas, including a school, a mosque and a medical facility. One al Qaeda member described the operation as a "massacre," saying women and children were killed.

More civilian casualties?

"The operation began at dawn when a drone bombed the home of Abdulraoof al-Dhahab and then helicopters flew up and unloaded paratroopers at his house and killed everyone inside," a local told Reuters news agency. The same person said that a subsequent shootout between US special forces and unknown gunmen, leading to high casualties.

Reports emerged that one of the civilians killed was the 8-year-old daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical cleric and US citizen who was targeted and killed by one of Obama's drone Strikes.

US military officials said they were conducting a "credibility assessment" to determine if there had been additional civilian casualties. One NAVY Seal was killed in the operation.

Trump on Wednesday paid a surprise visit to the family of the soldier, Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens, 36, from Illinois.  Afterwards, Trump described the visit as "something very sad, very beautiful."

blc/jm (AFP, Reuters)

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