Families of Yemeni drone strike victims sue Obama

Families of Yemeni drone strike victims sue Obama

The families of two Yemeni men killed in a 2012 drone strike have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Obama administration.

The August 2012 strike “violated the laws of war and norms of customary international law” and “provide[s] a case study of the failures of the drone war,” the families claimed in a 41-page complaint filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Sunday.


Salem bin Ali Jaber, 43, and 26-year-old Waleed bin Ali Jaber “were wrongfully killed by United States personnel who performed their lethal acts in the United States,” they added.

“Having exhausted all alternatives, the estates of Salem and Waleed seek justice from this court, including a determination that the strike that killed Salem and Waleed was unlawful, and any other relief that the interests of justice require.”

The families are not seeking monetary damages for the deaths, but seem primarily interested in getting the administration to admit that the attack was wrong.

“When U.S. officials choose not to correct mistakes — or as here even to acknowledge them — they are responsible not only for innocent deaths, but also for undermining rather than protecting U.S. national security,” the families said in the suit, which names President Obama as well as former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former CIA Director David Petraeus.

Salem was an imam who preached against al Qaeda and other violent extremist groups. Waleed was his cousin and a local traffic police officer.

Days after Salem gave a sermon criticizing al Qaeda, the two were allegedly killed in a “signature strike” that appeared to be targeting three unknown men with whom they were meeting in the rural town of Khashamir. All five men were killed in the strike.

“Within hours of the strike, it became clear to the bereaved family that government officials knew they had made a mistake,” the families said in their suit.

Both Yemeni and Americans officials have offered “personal condolences” behind closed doors, they added, but would not do so in public. However, Yemeni officials have given the men’s families money adding up to $155,000.

In the suit, the families noted that Obama just recently discussed the recent accidental death of one American and one Italian citizen, who were killed in a Pakistani drone strike while being held by al Qaeda.

“There is a simple question at the heart of this claim. The president has now admitted to killing innocent Americans and Italians with drones; why are the bereaved families of innocent Yemenis less entitled to the truth?” the families declared.

The lawsuit was first reported by the New York Times.