Hakim Almasmari | CNN | July 15, 2011
Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) — A U.S. drone strike targeting militants in southern Yemen Thursday killed at least 50 people, two Yemeni security sources said.
This comes as the United States and the Yemeni government step up their efforts to target militants, including those Islamists who’ve taken over several cities in recent weeks.
The government claims that a U.S. drone was not involved in the attack and that its air forces conducted the raid. The interior ministry said on its website that nine fighters were killed, but dozens were injured and that the number of deaths is expected to rise.
There was no immediate comment from U.S. officials.
Both sources, a security official and a senior security source, didn’t want their names used because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
The airstrike occurred in al-Wathee district in Abyan province. One of the sources said more than a dozen people were injured.
The strike targeted a police station which had been taken over by suspected al Qaeda fighters, the sources said. U.S. drones have been seen flying over the area every day and more attacks are expected, the sources told CNN.
At least seven vehicles belonging to the fighters were destroyed in the attack as well as equipment.
“The casualty toll is high because fighters were gathered in that area with family members,” said the senior security source in Abyan.
Two eyewitnesses said that at least 30 civilians who were hiding from the continuous attacks were among the dead.
“No one knows who is dying in Abyan. We want to leave the province, but go to where? Leaving the province is a slow death for all of us,” said Yousra Bandar, a mother of three.
Two years ago, a U.S. drone attack in Abyan killed 62 people.
There has been instability in the province with an Islamist extremist group called Ansar Sharia fighting the government since May.