Thu Feb 2, 2017 2:2AM
the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense (file photo)
the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense (file photo)

A recent US attack on al-Qaeda terrorists in impoverished Yemen “likely” left civilians dead, says the United States Central Command.

In a statement on Wednesday, CENTCOM added that the January 29 raid casualties also included children.

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

US officials maintain that their commandos killed 14 members of the al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the civilian deaths occurred when US aircraft were called for help.

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

CENTCOM spokesman Colonel John Thomas suggested that the civilian casualties could have been caused by the Takfiris’ use of civilians as shields.

"Al-Qaeda 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," he said. "That's what makes cases like these so especially tragic."

According to White House spokesman Sean Spicer, the raid snagged "an unbelievable amount of intelligence that will prevent the potential deaths or attacks on American soil.”

The attack also took the life of US Navy SEAL Team Chief Special Warfare Operator William "Ryan" Owens and left three other American troops wounded.

“You never want to call something a success 100 percent when someone's hurt or killed," Spicer told reporters.

The al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has taken advantage of the chaos and the breakdown of security in Yemen to tighten its grip on the southeast parts of the impoverished crisis-stricken country.

The majority of the Yemeni population is in dire need of food, water and other humanitarian aid as a Saudi military campaign continues against the Arab world’s poorest country.