As al-Awlaki Family Mourns Abdulrahman, 16, US Develops “Kamikaze Drones” Targeting Single Humans

A portion of a photo of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki from his Facebook memorial page.

On Saturday, I wrote about a series of Friday drone attacks in southern Yemen.  The most prominent of these attacks killed Ibrahim al-Bana, who is described as the media chief for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.  This same attack, however, also killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the son of Anwar al-Awlaki, the American cleric targeted and killed last month in Yemen in another US drone attack.

Yesterday, the al-Awlaki family spoke out for the first time since the deaths, granting interviews with the Washington Post.  Notably, it turns out that Adbulrahman was only 16 years old, despite many media reports (including the AP report as carried in the Post that I quoted Saturday) that he was 21.  Here is how Abdulrahman’s grandfather (Anwar’s father) described the killing:

“To kill a teenager is just unbelievable, really, and they claim that he is an al-Qaeda militant. It’s nonsense,” said Nasser al-Awlaki, a former Yemeni agriculture minister who was Anwar al-Awlaki’s father and the boy’s grandfather, speaking in a phone interview from Sanaa on Monday. “They want to justify his killing, that’s all.”

And Abdulrahman wasn’t the only teenager killed in this attack.  His 17 year old Yemeni cousin also died.  In fact, the family claims the attack took place at a nighttime barbecue and several teenagers were killed:

In a separate statement Monday, the Awlaki family said that Abdulrahman “along with some of his tribe’s youth have gone barbecuing under the moonlight. A drone missile hit their congregation killing Abdulrahman and several other teenagers.”

The Post article also has a link to a Facebook page memorializing Abdulrahman.

The family disputes the description the US put out after his death that Anwar al-Awlaki was the head of al-Qaeda external operations:

The family, in its statement, said, “Anwar was never a ‘militant’ ” nor was he “the head of Al Qaeda external operations.”

Abdulrahman became the second American citizen killed in Yemen as “collateral damage” in an attack targeted at someone else, as al Qaeda propagandist Samir Khan was killed in the attack on Anwar al-Awlaki.  However, since virtually all attacks carried out by the US, including the two discussed here,  are initially characterized by US spokespeople as only killing “militants”, a big question becomes whether the intent all along was to kill the two additional Americans, even though there is no indication that either of them had been put on Obama’s “hit list”.

There are several key questions in the case of Abdulrahman.  Did the US know he was only 16?  Did the US know there were additional teenagers at the cookout?  Was there a conscious decision to kill Abdulrahman under the belief that he was a militant?

New technology that is in development has the potential to reduce the number of collateral damage deaths, if there is indeed a desire to reduce them.  AFP reported yesterday on the development of “kamikaze drones”:

A miniature “kamikaze” drone designed to quietly hover in the sky before dive-bombing and slamming into a human target will soon be part of the US Army’s arsenal, officials say.

The article notes the issues that have developed in Pakistan with the killing of innocent civilians in drone strikes that employ the larger Hellfire missiles and points out how the new drones are intended to improve that situation:

The Switchblade, however, is touted as a way to avoid killing bystanders.

“Flying quietly at high speed the Switchblade delivers its onboard explosive payload with precision while minimizing collateral damage,” the company said.

The US has a $4.9 million contract with the developer, AeroVironment, to supply the new drones “as soon as possible”.  It will be interesting to see just how popular the new drones become with their CIA and JSOC operators.  Will there be an effort to hit individuals with Switchblades when they are isolated and perhaps even in the open, or will the lure of killing a larger number of “militants” at one time (with attendant collateral damage likely) maintain the current status quo of most drone attacks hitting small gatherings?

Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Reddit0Share on Facebook0Google+0Email to someone

25 Responses to As al-Awlaki Family Mourns Abdulrahman, 16, US Develops “Kamikaze Drones” Targeting Single Humans

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19
  • 20
  • 21
  • 22
  • 23
  • 24
  • 25
Emptywheel Twitterverse
emptywheel .@joshgerstein wants to know why in 4 mos, House GOP hasn't walked 10 minutes to file their ObamaCare lawsuit. http://t.co/YSNRBHknNb Good Q
27mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Two years ago I asked, "Will SCOTUS Invent a “Database-and-Mining” Exception to the Fourth Amendment?" https://t.co/IbRFSTzGZ6 Holds up well
32mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @daveweigel You saw me brainstorming what kind of Majority Leader Cornyn would be?
59mreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel RT @flexlibris: Former FBI agent Mike German is talking about how CVE masquerades as "community outreach" when in fact it's an intelligence…
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @mattapuzzo Well, see? They have to finished something.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @mattapuzzo Tho I trust the Ferguson GJ is more real than that DOJ review of NYPD's civil rights violations.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @mattapuzzo Also that DOJ review of NYPD's civil rights violations...
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @mattapuzzo Given that no one has been nominated and GOP has promised to stall AND prolly will have a majority after that, not saying much.
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Isn't spending $1.8M of your own money to win election against someone who has been disqualified itself disqualifying? This is so confusing
1hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel Why is Mitch McConnell lending his $1.8M when Secretary of State Chuck Todd has DQed McConnell's opponent?
1hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @RiosJose559: We can't understand shootings in the #USA unless they "converted to Islam"
2hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @astepanovich Particularly given that Microsoft warrant challenge for a server in Ireland.
2hreplyretweetfavorite
October 2011
S M T W T F S
« Sep   Nov »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031