Centcom: Civilians Likely Killed in Yemen Firefight

Feb. 2, 2017 , DOD News

A team designated by the operational task force commander has concluded that civilian noncombatants likely were killed in the midst of a firefight during a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen, and that casualties may include children, U.S. Central Command officials said last night.

In a statement, Centcom officials said the ongoing credibility assessment seeks to determine whether any still-undetected civilian casualties took place in the ferocious firefight that also claimed the life of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens and wounded three other U.S. service members.

The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist U.S. forces in contact against a determined enemy that included armed women firing from prepared fighting positions and U.S. special operations members receiving fire from all sides, including from houses and other buildings, officials said.

Assessment Continues

“This complex situation included small-arms fire, hand grenades and close air support fire,” the statement said. “Analysts are carefully assessing whether additional noncombatant civilians that were not visible to the assault force at the time were mixed in with combatants.”

The raid resulted in the seizure of materials and information that is yielding valuable intelligence to help partner nations deter and prevent future terror attacks in Yemen and across the world, officials said.

“Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula has a horrifying history of hiding women and children within militant operating areas and terrorist camps, and continuously shows a callous disregard for innocent lives,” Centcom spokesman Air Force Col. John J. Thomas said in the statement. “That’s what makes cases like these so especially tragic.”