SANAA (Reuters) - Ten civilians including a 10-year-old girl were killed in a Yemeni government air strike that had apparently missed its intended target, a car carrying Islamist militants, tribal officials and residents there said on Monday.
The missile attack in a mountainous area in the centre of the country on Sunday prompted angry protests by relatives of the victims, residents told Reuters.
The impoverished Arabian Peninsula state has become a key battleground for the United States in its war against al Qaeda militancy.
The country has been in turmoil since an uprising against veteran ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh began in January last year. Saleh stepped down in February but militants managed to strengthen their foothold in remote regions during the unrest.
Officials initially said a U.S. drone had killed five people in the attack on Sunday evening.
But residents said on Monday a Yemeni warplane had hit a car, killing 10 people, including a 40-year-old woman and her 10-year-old daughter.
“It seems Yemeni warplanes missed the vehicle carrying the suspected militants and instead hit one carrying civilians, who were killed while four were injured,” an official from a clan in the mountainous Radaa region told Reuters.
“The car that carried the al Qaeda militants happened to pass in the same place where the civilian car was,” he added.
Families of the victims marched on Sunday evening in protest against the deaths, a witness told Reuters. The incident could fuel already growing resentment over a U.S.-Yemeni campaign against militants that has often claimed civilian lives.
“There will be a meeting today with the heads of the tribes and government official. People are angry and want this to stop,” another tribal official said.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is based in Yemen. It has mounted operations in neighboring Saudi Arabia and tried to launch attacks against the United States.
Washington, which fears the spread of Islamist militancy in Yemen, has stepped up drone attacks this year in response.
Reporting by Mohamed Ghobari; Writing by Amena Bakr; Editing by Andrew Hammond and Andrew Heavens